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Ghanians go to the polls on 7th December 2012 to vote in presidential and parliamentary elections. The Commonwealth and ECOWAS will be observing these elections and ensuring that they are carried out in a democratic manner. Ghana has long been considered a model country in Africa since the end of military rule in 1992. About 13 million Ghanians are registered to vote in the election, which for the first time will use a biometric system to confirm voters identities. [i]All Ghanians above 18 years are eligible to vote.

Presidential Elections:

The president is elected for a four year term using a two-round system. A run off will be held on 28 December if no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote

There are 8 candidates vying for the president's seat. John Dramani Mahama of the National Democratic congress(NDC) who took over as president after the death of president John Atta Mills in July, Dr. Henry Herbert Lartey of the Great Consolidated Peoples Party(GCCP), Nana Addo Denquah of New Patriotic Party(NPP), Dr.Papa kwesi Ndoum of the Progressive Peoples Party (PPP), Mr.Akwesi Addai Odike of the United Front Party(UFP), Dr. Michael Abu Sakera Forster, Convention People's Party(CPP), Hasan Ayaringa of the People's National Convention(PNC) and Jacob Isaac Osei-Yeboah, an independent candidate. [ii]

Women's Representation

Of the 8 presidential candidates, none is a woman, they are all male. However, its important to note that two women, former first lady Nana Konadou Agyemang Rawlings of the National Democratic Party (NDP) and Madam Akua Donkor of the Ghana Freedom Party(GFP) had fielded their candidature for president, although they were not successful in their bid to contest. This is the first time in the history of Ghana, that there has been a female leader of a political party vying for the presidency. These women are considered to have broken the glass ceiling. The National Program Coordinator of Women in Law and Development in Africa (WILDAF), Mrs Bernice Sam, stated that since independence, the president has always been a man and , “for these women to contest until they were unable to satisfy the EC requirements, they have broken the jinx around the presidency as “the preserve of men”.[iii]

This is a great indicator that Ghana is going in the right direction with regards to women participating in the highest levels of governance and public office.

Also, to note is that three parties have fielded female vice presidents; Convention People's Party(CPP)-Madam Cherita Sapong, PNC-Madam Helen Sanorita Dzatugbe Matrevi and the Patriotic People's Party(PPP)-Madam Eva Lokko[iv].

However, a lot stills needs to be done. None of the presidential candidates are women, and the two women who were vying for the presidency did not meet the electoral commission standards. However this has set a platform for women to contest for the highest political office in Ghana and hopefully in the next four years, the technicalities that prevented women from becoming presidential candidates will be done away with. Economic empowerment, availability of resources, man power to run effective campaign in a timely manner are some of the setbacks to female candidates that need to addressed. Politics are monetized in Ghana and the women are portrayed negatively especially in the media. Politics is seen as a men's realm culturally and thus women politicians find many obstacles in their paths.

Over the past 20 years progress has been made in the area of women in decision making in Ghana. Women occupy such key positions as Speaker of Parliament, Attorney General, ministers of states; this is raising awareness of gender equality and women's needs and the fact that women are able and can succeed in higher levels of decision making.

The Ghanian Constitution is against discrimination on the basis of gender and also provides for the need to ensure regional and gender balance in representation in public decision making positions.[v] This needs to be practically implemented.

Parliamentary Elections:

Ghana has a unicameral parliament. Members are elected by a simple majority in single seat constituencies. Currently, there are 19 female members of parliament out of the 230 members which puts female representation in parliament at 8.26 per cent.[vi] A very low number!

In the upcoming 2012 elections on December 7th, out of a total of 1332 parliamentary candidates for the 275 seats up for grabs, there are 133 female candidates, this is less than 10%. This number is a low reflection female representation even in these elections and so much more will still need to be done. There has been an increase in numbers however, from 103 in 2008 to 133 in 2012 but its still low overall.

On the whole however, Ghana, as a pillar of democracy in Africa is still lagging far behind in women's representation when compared with countries like Rwanda (with 56.25 per cent in its Chamber of Deputies)[vii], Uganda,(with 34.97 per cent women in parliament)[viii] which have spearheaded affirmative action and increased the numbers of women in political participation both at the lower levels and higher levels of government. Its against back drop that affirmative action would play a key role in increasing women's political participation in Ghana. The 2012 elections have exposed that glaring anomaly with regards to female political participation. Strategies and actions that other countries have taken to close this gender gap would be very welcome. Quotas, gender mainstreaming, gender budgeting and party-list systems which allow women to bid for seats in the legislature and executive and enhance their chances for representation need to be taken into consideration and embraced by the Ghanian people and government.

Ghana is a signatory to several international and regional frameworks that seek to increase and promote the role of women in governance. These include The Convention on the Discrimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women(CEDAW), The Beijing Platform For Action, The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the Commonwealth Plan of Action for Gender Equality, The African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights and its Protocol on the Rights of Women, and the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality. Ghana has ratified all these treaties without reservation and as such needs to achieve gender equality and eliminate discrimination against women. As Ghana continues on its path as a model for democracy in Africa, let it be reflected in women political participation. Let the numbers really show that Ghana has earned the title as one of Africa's model democracies, by closing the gender gap in governance and ensuring that women participate in all levels in decision making. This is not yet a reality for Ghanaian women!

 

 

Women's Political Participation; Recent Statistics[ix]

 

Political Participation

As of 2008

2012 Presidential and Legislative elections

Female presidential candidates

0

0/8

Female Members of Parliament

Unicameral

19/230

or

8.26%

Awaiting results

Female parliamentary candidates

103/959

134/1332

Female Ministers

4 out of 19

 

 

 
 
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