ABANTU for Development’s work on Gender and Governance seeks to ensure women and men’s equal participation in politics and decision making at all levels. This mandate is facilitated by the strategies below:
PROMOTION OF GENDER EQUALITY
Article 7 of the CEDAW document, lays emphasis on states and Parties to take appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the political and public life of the country and, in particular to ensure that women are treated equally as men. The African Union Protocol also provides a legal framework committing African leaders to the principle of gender equality and sets out key protection mechanisms for African women. It is time African leaders are held responsible for their actions and made to ensure gender equality in politics.
Experiences both in Africa and elsewhere have shown that the use of quotas varies according to a country’s electoral system. Studies have further shown that quotas work best in the proportional representation system. South Africa is a good example of proportional representation. The system, together with a 30 per cent quota for women candidates on the African National Congress (ANC) party list ensures the significant entry of women into the legislature. Since most African countries practice the majority electoral process, it is imperative that these African countries adopt the proportional representation form of electoral practice for any affirmative action measure to work. Voters should be educated on to vote properly. Governments should also define areas of uses of quota whether it will be implemented at the national, regional and/ or local levels.
POLICY ADVOCACY FOR AFFIRMATIVE ACTION
Some countries have adopted the quota system. Rwanda is one of the few that has achieved 56 per cent of women’s representation in government. Rwanda’s achievement is the result of its 30 per cent reservation for women in local government. Additionally, in South Africa, the African National Congress (ANC) has adopted a 30 per cent quota for women candidates and in the case of Tanzania, each party has a right to appoint a number of women in proportion to the votes received. These are types of quotas that can be enforced by law to ensure women’s representation in the decision making process.
Women’s group in Ghana can also lobby government to adopt a policy that binds all political parties to field a certain percentage of women in safe seats which will help increase the number of women in politics. Currently however, an affirmative action directive exists for district assembly appointees, which indicates that 50 per cent of appointed members should be women. However since this is not backed by law, governments are not obliged to comply. It is for this reason that ABANTU for DEVELOPMENT has worked with several agencies such as the European Union (EU), Canadian Development Agency (CIDA), the Olof Palme International Foundation and Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES) to produce a number of papers on affirmative action to guide its advocacy work. Women in Law and Development in Africa (WILDAF), a member of the Women’s Manifesto Coalition (WMC) which is also hosted by ABANTU for Development have also developed a draft policy for affirmative action for Ghana.
STRENGHTENING WOMEN’S GROUPS
There is the need for African women’s groups to work together in coalitions and networks and to think carefully about their own goals, strategies and tactics. This is critical in urging governments to act on their concerns. The pressure that was mounted after Beijing Conference of Women in 1995, led to some governments making amendments to introduce some form of Affirmative Action to create space for women to participate in politics. If women’s groups continue to mount more pressure on the political parties and government, actions will be taken to increase women’s participation in decisions that affect their lives. In Ghana, the network for Women’s Rights (NETRIGHT), the Domestic Violence Coalition (DVC) and the Women’s Manifesto Coalition (WMC) all coalitions of women’s groups/ organising activities and undertaking research that will enhance the livelihoods of women.
PROVIDE TRAINING TO STRENGTHENING WOMEN’S CAPACITY IN POLITICS
Women in parliament especially need to remain empowered to ensure that issues raised by the women are taken into account in debates especially when it comes to Affirmative Action. ABANTU for Development works to build the capacities of women in political parties through workshops and seminars and also educates them on current issues. Training is also provided for district assembly women for them to strengthen their interest in representing their communities and helping to secure significant improvements in the living and working conditions of other women. Strengthening women’s capacity would enable them to deal with prevailing negative cultural norms and practices, overcome poverty and the human rights issues that affect them. The training and capacity building provided will help build their confidence and increase their skills in knowledge of issues and their relationships with the media and the public. This requires that women who attain powerful positions are equipped with the needed knowledge and skills to enhance their impact and commitment to the promotion of women’s rights and gender equality.
CONTINUOUS GENDER SENSITISATION
There is the need to provide continuous support to women and girls as well as the organization of gender sensitisation programmes to reinforce the fact that men and women are partners in development and must be encouraged to work together to overcome inequalities and discriminatory practices. There should be more learning and sharing of strategies between and among women’s groups across the continent to ensure that women in Africa increasingly occupy politics. Leadership capacity building for young women is necessary because it encourages them to aspire to become public decision-makers. Political apprenticeship must be encouraged amongst younger women to be eligible when called upon later age. The media should be educated to document and publicise the good practices of women in politics to encourage the electorate to vote for women.
PRESSURE FROM WOMEN IN POLITICAL PARTIES
The women’s groups of political parties should be strengthened to push the agenda of quota in the country with the support from civil societies and other agencies. National Affirmative alliances and movements should be built and strengthened to pursue affirmative action initiative and eventually have to act to support the idea. Women should be encouraged to work beyond party lines to implement quotas to advance women’s political representation. Women of Ghana went on a demonstration to demand the fulfilment of promise of 40 per cent representation of women in government made by the NDC government and yet has not been fulfilled. If women should stay focused to work on a common agenda by pushing their demand, governments in African countries will be forced to hold to themselves accountable to them.
In recent times, participation as an approach has become pivotal to most development initiatives and has been expected to result in the inclusion in political power-sharing and control of resources of the marginalised, especially women. Time has come to actually facilitate the realisation and acquisition of equal power, right and political remuneration by integrating a critical mass of women and the marginalised as participants and as beneficiaries.
All citizens – men and women from different backgrounds and situations, must be effectively guaranteed equal right within the national political processes and must be enable to do so if they face challenges that reduce the advance of social justice. Affirmative action measures such as the quota system must introduce to enable women and marginalised to be effective in bringing equity and equality and to improve the nature of governance and decision-making in all sectors for qualitative change and transformation of social justice.