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Opinions of Friday, 16 January 2015

Columnist: Blege, Alex

Women participation in local governance

Women participation in local governance: participatory approaches are crucial to its success

Alex Blege

No development agenda has ever been achieved through imposition; women participation in local governance is a development issue. Consequently, for the realisation of this agenda, communities must be made to participate fully in enhancing the success of this agenda.

In a draft decentralization policy framework of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development published in April 2010, it is stated that in 1988, the assembly system of governance was ushered in by PNDCL 207.

This brought in what we have today as metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies. Over the period this concept has tested the strength of bottom-up and participatory development.

The theme for the document was, “accelerating decentralisation and local governance for national development”. Over the period the role of women in the local assembly has been a matter of debate. There are efforts by all groups of people to encourage women to be part of the decentralization process.

March 3, 2015 is a day slated for the forthcoming district assembly elections and in the Wa Municipality, Upper West Region, there are thirty one electoral areas; over ninety candidates.

Among the entire candidates, is a woman standing unopposed for the Konta Electoral Area – Margaret Vera B. Saan, 56 a professionally trained midwife, works at the Upper West Regional Hospital, a wife and mother.

She narrated to me how she begun the journey of participating in the local assembly. It all started when she found out that the women in her area were unemployed and then she begun looking out for opportunities to help them. She narrated how she grouped the women into tens and took loans for them to begin one small business or the other.

Madame Margaret went on to say that when in 2010, people in the area were nominated for the district assembly elections, the women came to her and encouraged her to step out and go for the slot of the assembly member for their area. She contested with another man and won massively.

While I spoke to her, her husband sat by and listened. In one of questions I asked about any issue of discrimination while she went canvassing for votes, her husband came in and said that there were moments when her opponent consistently asked, “what can a woman offer to the community?

Her husband said he encouraged her to put her word across as best as she could. Madame Margaret acknowledged that usually, women are not able to get to such positions probably because they do not relate well with the residents in the electoral areas or are involved in one bad habit or the other.

She added that when a woman has not been able to put her home in order by according her husband the desired respect, it becomes difficult to gain the support of the husband.

Madame Margaret said she has been able to work among the men in the assembly because she knew how to relate with them, and she jokingly said “it is women who gave birth to men”.

Madame Margaret has come this far because of the strong support she has from her husband and some of her efforts such as lobbying for the construction of a mechanised borehole and for a proposed community health post in the area.

Madame Margaret’s position as the next assembly member for her area is a done deal, but, ‘how many women are as lucky as Madame Margaret?’ Women advocates for the participation of women in local governance must begin to get down into communities and engage all and sundry in pushing and encouraging women participation in local governance

One of the cardinal points in development communication strategy is to make the beneficiaries of any development agenda part of the identification and consequent solutions to a developmental challenge.

Women advocates should get into communities and take consideration of the views of how the people understand the issue of empowering women from their own indigenous ways.

Exploiting indigenous knowledge about the perceptions and views of beneficiaries is critical to the success of a development challenge. The call for women to participate in local governance is good, but it will get down well if communities are involved in the process.

This will enhance participation of supporting women at the grass root level and it will increase the number of women who participate in local governance of the decentralisation process.

Age long views and perceptions about pride, overconfidence and disrespect for men when they get to begin to work as assembly members can be changed with the involvement of community members.

Participatory development states, development shouldn’t be an imposition; it should be collaborative - beneficiaries and agents work together for success.

Writer’s email address and blog address: kw.ameblege@hotmail.com/www.gudzetsekomla.blogspot.com