Participants reaffirming their pledge for parity
ABANTU for Development and Christian Aid Ghana have worked collaboratively on the project titled, “Women in Governance” (WIG) since 2012 following the completion of a research on “Accountability to Women’s Rights in Local Government”. The research was conducted in six districts namely Central Gonja, Gusheigu; Techiman, Asunafo North; West Akim and Suhum districts, representing the Northern, Middle and Southern zones respectively. The purpose of the research was to identify the underlying reasons for the low levels of women’s representation and participation in decision-making, particularly in the local government. The recommendations from the study led to the second phase of the collaboration under the Women in Governance (WIG) project in which activities were designed and implemented to operationalise the findings and recommendations of the research and to specifically help to increase women’s representation and participation in decision-making spaces at the local level. Although the interventions under the second phase were disrupted by the postponement of the District Assembly Elections from the scheduled December 2014 date, seventeen (17) out of the twenty-two (22) women aspirants directly supported under the project were either elected or appointed to various District Assemblies. It is however crucial that in ensuring the sustainability of the project, the assemblywomen are supported to effectively discharge their duties in order to efficiently contribute to making the assembly system gender responsive and to deepen local democracy.
Another critical finding from the “Local Governance Age Research” was that, though the women and children sub-committees in the district and municipal assemblies are chaired by women, there are no targeted programmes designed specifically for women and children. The research therefore recommended that the capacities of the few assembly women be built to ensure their effectiveness in the decision making spaces they find themselves in. An enhancement of their capacities will also ensure that they remain relevant and their participation in local governance is attractive to other women aspiring for various decision making spaces. In view of this, the third phase of the WIG Project aims at ensuring that the elected and appointed district assembly women of the WIG project are effective in their various assemblies while ensuring the promotion of gender mainstreaming in the operations and activities of the assemblies.
In line with achieving the aim of the third phase of the project, the partners organized a training workshop for the elected and appointed district assembly women from the project districts. The workshop which was the theme: “Enhancing Capacities of District Assembly Women” was held at the UDS Conference Hall, Accra on Tuesday March 8, 2016. The workshop was also used to commemorate this year’s International Women’s Day on the theme: “Pledge for Parity”.
The workshop was attended by twenty district assembly women from the Christian Aid/ABANTU focal districts as well as ten selected district assembly women from the Ashaiman municipal assembly. Partner organisations such as Crossroads International and Christian Aid as well as ABANTU’s focal persons in the project districts were also present.
The one-day training began at 9:30 am with an opening prayer by a participant. Mrs. Gertrude Owusu, a Programme Officer of ABANTU for Development welcomed participants to the workshop. She also expressed gratitude to them for taking time off their busy schedules to be at the meeting. She was especially grateful to those who had travelled from far to be at the meeting. She continued with some remarks from ABANTU.
2.0 Remarks from ABANTU
Giving the welcome remark on behalf of ABANTU, Mrs. Owusu pointed out that the Women in Governance project is an initiative by ABANTU and Christian Aid. This project began with a research. Due to financial restraints, the country was divided into three zones; Northern, Southern and Middle zones. Two districts were selected from each zone and these were the areas the project was implemented: Southern Gushegu, Asunafo North, Techiman, West Akyem, Suhum and Central Gonja. After the research, the recommendations made led to another phase of the project. Thus, Christian Aid and ABANTU collaborated to provide trainings to women to be able to participate in the district assembly elections. In addition, posters and some form of aid were given to women aspirants during the campaign periods of the district assembly elections. Unfortunately, the elections were rescheduled twice and this affected the women aspirants greatly. Some had exhausted funds for their campaigns and the drive that they had begun with had died down. In the same vein, the funds allocated for the district assembly elections were also exhausted. However, ABANTU and Christian Aid during the period of the suspension developed and disseminated write-ups in the media to encourage women aspirants and to call on government and the electoral commission to carry out the district assembly elections as this was vital to Ghana’s democracy. In spite of all these, some of the women who benefitted from the project still went on contest for the elections which were held in September and out of the twenty-two (22) women ABANTU and Christian Aid directly supported, seventeen (17) were elected and appointed and this is recommendable to us as advocates of women empowerment.
Mrs. Owusu highlighted that the workshop was the third phase of the project and seeks to support elected and appointed women as they work in the assembly. The research also revealed that though there are women and children sub-committees in the districts usually with assembly women in these committees, targeted programmes do not directly benefit women and children. In view of this, the training targets that aspect of the research to identify ways of lobbying proceedings in the district assemblies to be able to advocate for women and children’s issues during the district assembly planning and implementation sessions.
Mrs. Owusu informed participants that the meeting was in two segments: a training session on lobbying skills and a media segment on election experiences with panelists from the various districts represented.
Mrs. Owusu then led participants to introduce themselves and give a brief overview of how they fared during the elections.
Remarks from Participants
Participants generally went through one hurdle or the other to win the elections. They described the processes that led to their victories. For majority of them, they contested with three to five men in the assembly which was rather difficult to win but with the help of family members, friends as well as ABANTU who helped with the campaigns, they emerged victorious. For others, after helping their friends during and after elections, they realized they had the potential to do same and thus contested in later elections. Others had also contested twice or thrice, had lost the first times but had persisted and had finally been elected. Few of them had been elected for the second and third consecutive times.
Participants were also grateful to ABANTU and Christian Aid particularly for the posters. Some mentioned that had it not been for the posters and the campaign platforms the two partners provided, they would not have been able to win the elections. Some participants also explained that they could not participate in the district assembly elections either due to low education compared to their male counterparts, an ill health of a family member or themselves or some financial challenges. One of the assembly women also mentioned that she could not contest due to her enstoolment as a queen mother.
In conclusion, participants expressed concern at how only a few women had shown interest in women’s representation in decision making. They called on all present to serve as ambassadors in recruiting especially young women to join in the movement so they can pass on the good work when they no longer have the strength.
Mrs. Owusu formally welcomed all participants on behalf of the Executive Director and staff of ABANTU. She congratulated participants for their resilience in their work towards the enhancement of women’s representation at the district level and also took the opportunity to wish all women a happy International Women’s Day and encouraged them to continue to work towards parity in all policy spaces. After the introductions, Mrs. Owusu introduced the facilitator for the day: Dr. Margaret Mary Sackey, a renowned expert in local governance with over twenty years’ experience in training and advocacy for women and children’s rights in Ghana and the sub-region, the Head of Department of the Institute of Local Government Studies (ILGS), Accra who is also currently managing the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) and ILGS’ collaborative pilot project in six districts in Ghana. Her areas of focus of work include local government leadership and functional education for poverty reduction and development.
Dr. Margaret Sackey gave a brief introduction on Women in Governance. She highlighted that women are especially seen both in private enterprises and in the home. Women take charge of all house activities; they monitor and evaluate what they do in the home. These she stated, are all forms of governance. The public sector represents the society, one’s locality and assembly. There is only a little difference between the private and public sectors, Dr. Sackey acknowledged. If women can do so well in the private enterprise, there is therefore no doubt they can do same in the public sector. She remarked that the training was intended to create the link between the two and how women can bring their expertise in the private sector on board in the public sector. The training would also reveal certain methodologies to be used in the lobbying process.
She then called on Mrs. Magdalene Kannae, the head of the gender and social development centre of the Institute of Local Government Studies (ILGS) to make her presentation.
5.0 Presentation: Lobbying For Sustainable Development in Local Government
Mrs. Kannae in her introduction highlighted that her passion had always been related to building the capacities of women. To her, it was not only about winning elections but what mattered most was what elected officials did after the elections have been won. She urged women to work hard and not to be seen only as dressing flamboyantly but with nothing to show in relation to performance in governance which was their core mandate. We need to be determined and work harder in order not to make waste the contributions of ABANTU and Christian Aid towards enhancing women’s participation in decision making.
Mrs. Kannae gave a brief background on the inception of the district assemblies. She remarked that this would enable participants understand their mandate as well as the power they wield.
In 1998, an act of Parliament, Act 462 was passed charging Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies with the overall responsibility of developing their districts. This was a way of decentralizing governance and charging District Assemblies with the responsibility of governing their own districts. As a result, power and resources were allocated to the District Assemblies to develop their districts.
The act of decentralization is a way of achieving efficient and effective development. It is also a means of ensuring fairness and responding to the needs of the different kinds of people in our society. Sustainable development is not a one day affair but a continuous process. There is the need to plan and implement effective policies considering the various needs of boys, girls, the old, the young, the literate and the illiterate. The duty of an assembly woman therefore is to realize that you are to serve the different people and see how we cater for the different people within the community. For example, a toilet facility set up within an assembly should be able to serve every individual within the community. As an assembly woman you should know the needs of the different people to factor into the construction of the facility. The dimensions of diversity she said comprised age, sex, language, culture, religion, mental and physical ability, class, economic background and education.
In view of this, it is imperative that assembly women acquire the requisite knowledge and skills in gender sensitive advocacy and lobbying to effectively interface with duty bearers and service providers in a more responsive manner. They must have the capacity to advocate and lobby development planners and service providers to create opportunities for the diversified citizens, to communicate their interest and concerns during program design and implementation. Development partners must equally be identified based on ideas and plans.
Mrs. Kannae then outlined the internal composition of the district assembly in a hierarchical order, after which she stated some external stakeholders as comprising traditional authorities, civil society organizations, community based organizations, faith based organizations, professional associations, the media, development partners operating in the assembly area and central government agencies in the district. She used the opportunity to encourage assembly women to network with the media as they would publicize their works which would increase their publicity and ensure their re-election into office.
Mrs. Magdalene Kannae making a presentation
Speaking on advocacy and how district assembly women could use that an effective working tool, the resource person highlighted that this involves influencing a decision, a policy or behavior that will favour you and other groups that may benefit. It is also about seeking to influence a decision that will favour your course. For example, if meetings are held at 4 pm in the community and therefore women are not able to attend, one has to advocate for a favourable meeting time when women can actively participate.
Advocacy is a process and not a one-off effort. It involves collaboration between stakeholders and the use of reliable, evidence-based data to persuade people who have the power to change things. The steps in advocacy include: identifying the issue of advocacy, collecting relevant data, identifying like minds to form an advocacy team/group, preparing and implementing an advocacy plan and monitoring and evaluating the success of the advocacy activities. Mrs. Kannae urged participants to work in collaboration with others as this yielded more results especially in advocacy related issues.
Mrs. Kannae explained that lobbying is the act of influencing a person, who takes decisions on legislations or implements policies to help achieve desired change. She further stated that lobbying included tactics used to ensure that policies and programmes are not discriminatory against a person or group usually targeting influential people in the community. In order to be effective at lobbying, there is the need to build networks and alliances and to identify the approach that is likely to work with such a person. Time is equally crucial in lobbying. Mrs. Kannae compared this requirement to those at home. She highlighted that women knew exactly when to ask for what in order to get what they want. In the same light, women should know when to ask for what and know exactly what to say; back arguments with concrete facts.
The process of lobbying covers a wide range of actions which usually begins with networking and building relationships. Lobbying also entails preparation. The one who is going to lobby must prepare your position clearly; establish the problem, its dimensions, effects and how long it has been. After this, make an appointment with decision makers based on their proposed time and venue. It is always better to lobby with others; including an affected person is a plus. It is equally key to be brief and concise about the issue. In addition, be prepared to compromise; do not assume to get all you have asked for.
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A cross-section of participants attentively listening to the presentation
The presentation ended with things to consider when planning for community meetings. These included time, location, facilitation, focus groups, mixed meetings and minute takings. She finally urged participants to identify the gender dimensions of issues affecting their communities and address them with a gender lens.
The presentation was followed by a period of discussion which included comments, questions and answers. The discussions included the following:
Some participants were of the view that sometimes women envy each other and this causes them to backbite, thus, pulling women down when they want to undertake any venture. The facilitator explained that women were not thier own enemies and that assertion was untrue. She emphasized that men equally fight against each other during elections but these are not highlighted as much as those of women. She used the platform to thus encourage the district assembly women to help each other during elections and not to speak against one another even if they were contesting with another woman.
Others called on women to use their money to support their children in school. They urged women present to eschew excessive spending on items that were not urgent and support their husbands financially in raising their children.
Some district assembly women shared their initiatives in their districts where a participant mentioned she had set up a committee called “Anointed Women Plan Ghana” that contributes GHc 400 to four (4) needy people every month.
Participants called on women to engage as many diverse groups of people in their work in their assembly as possible as this enhanced the quality and quantity of their work. One participant mentioned how her seven-year old grandchild for example, had taught her how to use the internet and how she was now able to watsapp and send emails which are useful and economical media for communication.
7.0 PANEL DISCUSSION: ENHANCING WOMEN’S REPRESENTATION AT THE DISTRICT LEVEL: THE ROLE OF ABANTU AND CHRISTIAN AID.
The second session for the day was a panel discussion with the assembly women and was captured by the media present. One representative from each district was selected to be on the panel. In all, four representatives were on the panel. The session was again facilitated by Mrs. Margaret Sackey. She urged representatives to be open and bring out the issues clearly.
7.1 Questions for panel discussion
The following questions guided the panel discussion:
How long have you been working in the district assembly? In what capacity have you worked in?
Tell us about your experience in the 2015 district Assembly elections
Preparations towards the elections
The electioneering period including the postponement of the elections and its effects on you; (psychologically, financially etc). your chances of winning, campaign and campaign support, resolution to contest again or rescind on your decision)
What are your current experiences as an Assembly woman (expectations from community members, challenges etc.)
What changes would you recommend should be made in the systems at the national, regional and local government levels?
What has been the contribution of ABANTU/Christian Aid in these processes?
How has your collaboration with ABANTU/Christian Aid helped you?
What in your opinion does the future for women’s participation in the district assembly look like?
From your experience in the 2015 district assembly elections, how can Ghana’s electoral system be improved? How can the local level governance system be made attractive to women?
Apart from monetary support, what other forms of support will you need to ensure your effectiveness at the district assembly?
Assembly women sharing experiences during the panel discussion
The panelists were given an opportunity to share their responses on the guiding questions. The following responses were given.
PANELIST 1 – Lucy Anim – Suhum
I chair the social services committee. This is my fifth year in the assembly. It is very difficult for a woman to contest within my district but I have always encouraged myself and stood firm in my decision to contest. I am also grateful to ABANTU and Christian Aid for their help; the trainings and the posters they made for me during the campaign. It tells me that I am not alone in the fight towards ensuring women’s representation. As assemblywomen we should find other girls or young women to train to take over from us when we are no longer there.
I was happy about the postponement because I had a problem with my leg during that period therefore, I go out to campaign but due to the postponement I leg got better during the elections and I was able to campaign massively which led to my being victorious during the elections.
I recommend ABANTU and Christian Aid to continue to support us especially financially.
PANELIST 2 – West Akyem
I have had a lot of experiences in the assembly. One major thing I have realized is that respect helps to gain the support of others; respect for the young, elderly and everyone. After my election, I have been able to organize a blood screening in my district. I have supported education in my district by lobbying for the construction of four classrooms for school children. Humility is also one tool that helped me lobby for these projects because other assembly tried but could not achieve anything during their tenure of office.
Thanks to ABANTU and Christian Aid’s initiative I have come this far. I stood against three men and won the election.
One thing that baffles me is why Members of Parliament are paid and Assemblywomen are not paid when we both campaign during elections and even work more in the districts than the Members of Parliament. In as much as I call on ABANTU and Christian Aid to continue to support us, I also urge the government to come in and support assembly women financially. We should be paid to meet up with the various expectations in our district.
PANELIST 3: Vida Pomaa – Techiman
This is my first time in the assembly. Before I contested, I went to people to seek for information about contesting. The change in the date really affected me because my mother of 75 years sold her plantation to support me during the campaign and there was a change in the date. I therefore could not find money for the campaign in the later date.
However, ABANTU and Christian Aid came in to help with the campaign. They gave me a car to go round the communities to campaign and there were times they even went with me to campaign. I equally want to say thank you to ABANTU for their support during my campaign.
She recommended that the government, ABANTU and Christian Aid continue to support them after the election in order to undertake projects within their districts as this will ensure their re-election.
PANELIST 4 – Ewurche Barichisu Mankir – Central Gonja
This is the second time I contested; I lost the first time due to some challenges. The second time I also had to take my daughter to Koforidua for some kind of treatment and I was also enstooled as a queen mother. I was seriously looking for another woman to take my place but I couldn’t get any. My uncle with the help of others convinced me to contest anyway. Unfortunately, I lost my uncle in the process but I still contested. I stood against 5 men and I won.
I recommend that a district that elects a woman should approve a project in the district as this serves as a motivation for other women to contest and be voted for. I sincerely appreciate ABANTU and Christian Aid for their posters and support during the campaign.
The facilitator expressed gratitude to the panelists for the work they were undertaking in their districts. She was particularly grateful that ABANTU and Christian Aid had shown so much interest in the local governance system. She stated that beginning with the district assemblies was a powerful way of encouraging women’s participation in decision making and democratic processes.
The session led to the final session for the day which was a group work. Participants were divided according to the project districts to undertake the group work.
8.0 Group Work
What are your experiences in the district assembly?
State some emerging issues in the district assembly that need redress.
Suggest recommendations for gender equity in the assembly.
A cross-section of participants sharing ideas during the group work
The responses from the group work are outlined below:
Negative Experiences in the district include:
Abuse of women in politics
Financial challenges especially among women
Low education on the part of women
Difficulty of government workers to enter into politics.
The training we receive from non-governmental organisations and other stakeholders builds our capacity and knowledge base.
We have gained popularity and respect in the district due to our contributions.
Time management during district assembly meetings
Early child marriage
More women should be encouraged to participate in decision making.
Women should be included in all committees
All forms of abuse against women who seek to contest elections must cease.
District assembly meetings should end on time so women can participate and still undertake their house duties.
A participant presenting her group’s work during plenary
Boldness of women to come out and contest
Women are financially weak and need to be supported.
Support for women aspirants from men and families are very rare.
Promises from organisations to help women are usually not honored.
Non-payment of assembly men and women.
Women are under treat for contesting eg. A plot to drown one contestant in the river during her campaign in the Northern Region.
Assemblies should appoint more women in spite of their political affiliation.
Assemblies should be sanctioned for less appointment of women.
Project priorities should be given to electoral areas that vote for women.
House to house campaigns help win elections
Support from ABANTU eg. Posters, car for campaigning also helped women win elections
Discussions on radio stations and information centres made more people aware of the women candidates.
Teenage pregnancy leading to school drop outs and girls sleeping in unsafe places such as pubs and drinking spots.
Poverty, leading to girls usually selling on the streets
Both the appointees and elected should be given financial support.
ABANTU and other organisations should provide financial support to women.
Motivation from government such as cars, motor bikes, etc.
Through trainings from ABANTU and Christian Aid, women in the district and municipal assembly are able to contribute to developmental issues in the district. We are most grateful to ABANTU and Christian Aid. We will be glad to have them provide such trainings every year.
Mostly the support for the project comes first to the elected. Mostly they do not accord the necessary recognition to the appointees.
There should be team work among the assembly women.
A representative from group 4 presenting their group work
The Way Forward
Participants further discussed possible ways to ensure that district assembly women brought women and children’s issues to the fore in district planning processes. Some suggestions included the following:
Most of the participants raised concerns regarding the alarming rise in early child marriages. Participants encouraged each other to provide sex education not only to their biological children but also to other young people in the district.
Participants expressed the need for an association for district assembly women to help network and help each other in undertaking projects in their communities and most importantly during elections.
Participants called on one another to evaluate their work after each year. They stated that in order to ensure that they are different from other politicians they should review their work from time to time and make corrections where necessary.
Ms. Nafisatu Yussif of ABANTU for Development led participants through a verbal evaluation of the workshop. Evaluation was done based on the aspects of the programme that went well and those that needed improvement. Generally, these were the comments from participants:
Facilitation was superb so we were able to grab whatever was said.
Interactions were enjoyable. Almost everyone contributed.
Different languages were spoken – combination of local and English languages enhanced participation and comprehension.
Venue and accommodation were excellent.
We should liaise with NALAG during subsequent meetings so programmes do not coincide.
Our views were clearly stated and acknowledged.
ABANTU and Christian Aid should include programs that de-stress assemblywomen such as excursions, etc.
Participants were grateful to Christian Aid and ABANTU for the support they had provided over the years. They suggested that more women would equally be supported to expand the scope of qualified women engaging in decision making. They were optimistic that they would use the knowledge acquired to lobby for gender sensitive projects in their districts. Assembly women who had not already set up women’s groups pledged to do so. Others also pledged to mentor other young women to take up the mantle. ABANTU also committed to setting up a “Whatsapp” platform for participants to further network.
The one day training and media segment came to a successful end with participants having received training on enhancing their work in their respective assemblies.
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