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The Role of Women in Ghana's Democratic Governance: a Case of the 2012 General Elections

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Submitted By sammo33
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The role of women in politics and public affairs is one of the current governance issues because of the perceived and acknowledged potential and contribution of women to governance processes. Participating effectively and meaningfully in order to have an impact is a process of empowerment that enhances self-worth of individuals and groups at the political level. There is no disputing the fact the number of women is seeing a steady growth from local government level in particular especially in the number of contestants and actual elected women.
At the national level, particularly in the legislature, the picture has not seen much significant change since 1996. This reflects strongly in the composition of the membership of standing committees and selected committees of parliament where real debate on legislative issues takes place. Certainly, this affects the contribution of women to the policy making process.
At the political party level , although all the parties selected for the study which are the National Democratic Congress (NDC), the New Patriotic Party (NPP), the People’s National Convention (PNC), the Convention People’s Party (CPP) except for the Great Consolidated People’s Party (GCPP), make claims in their manifestoes to their commitment to gender issues in general and women’s concerns in particular, it is not very evident even in their party leadership structure and in their own internal organization. Some party leaders corroborated this by stating that positions are contested for and not given on the basis of one’s gender. Furthermore, it was apparent that women in politics encounter similar challenges irrespective of the party they subscribe to. Here, the common denominator is their gender.

Thus, a common thread of subtle discrimination positioned in the context of competitive politics runs through all political parties. This has resulted in very negligible number of women in the main party leadership positions and beyond the usual women wings, which is almost at the outskirts of the party. In other words, there is more rhetoric to the question, issues and concerns of women by political parties, which have a unique opportunity (whether in government or opposition) to change the current situation of women’s weak composition and contribution than any realism towards addressing the challenges
The historical antecedents are very crucial since they relay an understanding of the past, a consideration of the present and a focus on the future, which together completes the cycle of analysis. This is because concern about women’s role in politics and public offices dates as far back as the pre-colonial period when women were not allowed to acquire any formal education like their men counterparts because of the traditional roles largely assigned to them.
O’Barr and Firmin-Sellers reiterate that in indigenous African societies, women’s political position varied extensively across the continent with some wielding extensive authority than others (O’ Barr and Firmin-Sellers, 1995: 189). This condition further deteriorated with the advent of colonialism, a situation that persisted for several decades. For O’ Barr and Firmin-Sellers, “European administrators imposed a legal and cultural apparatus that undermined women’s traditional bases of power; women became politically and economically subordinated and marginalized”.
In the Ghanaian setting, one significant area of governance was the prelude to limited constitutional government from the colonial period to the immediate pre-independence period. In the case of constitution making, for instance, women were hardly visible. Constitution making could be considered as a process of constructing a political consensus around constitutionalism. Constitutionalism, on the other hand, is viewed as the art of providing a system of effective restraints on the existence of governmental power, whilst others have identified the term with rule of law and defined it as correct procedures, which are to be followed (Allah-Mensah 2004: 5).
In all these efforts towards constitutions and constitutionalism, women played very negligible roles. For instance, from the first major efforts at constitution making in the country, from 1916, there is hardly any evidence of women’s active participation until in the 1969 Constituent Commission and Assembly where there were one and eleven women representatives respectively (Austin and Luckam, 1975). This is not suggestive that representation of other social groups was not enhanced over the years. Indeed, from 1916, the twenty-one member legislative council had three paramount chiefs and three educated Ghanaians at the time. These qualifications for representation of Ghanaians throughout the colonial period persisted, meaning that women were systematically and formally excluded because of the gendered educational system and the patriarchal traditional ruling system.
The political history of the country after independence obviously did not also provide that decorum and ambience for “ordinary men to be politically active”, more so women. Right from the various coup d’états, human rights abuses were rampant as the military junta’s were ruthless in their dealings, as such no room was given to any form of democracy or constitutionalism. With this in mind, this paper seeks to look at the progress women have made by way of representation in the governance of this country after the shift from the era of the men on horseback and the culture of silence to constitutional rule.
More specifically, the paper would take a look at women representation and participation in national governance with a focus on the 2014 general elections, then take a peek at the situations from onwards and draw conclusions on the way forward. It is worth mentioning that data for this paper would be solely based on secondary sources.
Political participation is good for democracy, but all democracies are plagued by systematic inequalities in participation (Lijphart 1997; Galston 2001). One of the most persistent has been according to gender, such that women are found to participate less than men, and suggesting that half the population’s interests are less well represented (Andersen 1975; Schlozman et al. 1994).
International community agreed upon a set of basic principles of women’s rights. Yet many governments in developing countries continue to disregard its fundamental importance by neglecting their commitment and duty to women’s rights made by signing and ratifying treaties. High levels of mistreatment of women persist in these regions. The promotion of women’s rights is not only an indicator of the understanding of any society’s wellbeing but also fundamental to accomplishing United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals and Beijing Platform for Action. The participation of women in decision-making process and in politics is one of the fundamental sections presented in the Beijing Platform for Action in 1995, and the same notion was confirmed in 2000 through Millennium Development Goals specifically in the third goal relating to “Promoting Gender Equality and Empowering Women.” According to the UN Women and Inter-Parliamentary Union’s 2014 Women in Politics Map, only 5.9 percent of women are heads of state and 7.8 percent are heads of government. This means that around 86 percent of the leadership positions in politics are held by men.
Good Governance Definition
Before I define the term ‘good governance’, let’s first define the term ‘governance’. Governance is, as stated by Fukuyama (2013), “government’s ability to make and enforce rules, and to deliver services, regardless of whether that government is democratic or not” (p. 350). Existing academic and policy literature revealed that there were multiple definitions for the term ‘good governance’ For example, Rothstein and Teorell (2008) showed how good governance was conceptualized by researchers as either ‘good for’ developing the economy, democratizing governments, or compacting corruption. In other words, scholars slightly differed in what they believed to be a good process or outcome as they perceived good governance to be ‘good’ for specific set of outcome(s). For the purpose of this paper, I shall use the United Nations comprehensive definition of good governance which is “participatory, transparent and accountable. It is also effective and equitable. And it promotes the rule of law. Good governance ensures that political, social and economic priorities are based on broad consensus in society and that the voices of the poorest and the most vulnerable are heard in decision-making over the allocation of development resources.”
Researchers at World Bank (1999) identified six components of good governance: (1) accountability and voice; (2) political stability; (3) effectiveness of government; (4) regulatory quality; (5) rule of law; and (6) corruption control. Similarly, UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific developed eight dimensions of good governance: (1) accountability: holding governmental and non-governmental institutions liable for their actions; (2) transparency: providing accessible and available information to those who will be affected by the decisions; (3) responsiveness: serving the public within a reasonable time; (4) impartiality: being inclusive of all members of society particularly the most vulnerable groups; (5) effectiveness and efficiency: making the best use of resources in a sustainable manner; (6) rule of law: having fair and independent judiciary; (7) participation: ensuring direct or indirect participation of both men and women in the decision-making process; and (8) consensus-oriented decisions: reaching to a broad-based consensus among different groups and members of the society.
Good Governance & Women’s Rights
Connecting good governance to women’s rights, scholars of women and governance studies showed how enhancement of gender equity in the areas of governance leads to the promotion of good governance. In order to be effective, governments must understand the differing needs of its citizens, both females and males, and permit females to exercise their right to participate in matters that affect their lives. Governments should also be involved in constructing “citizens’ voice”. For example, Mukhopadhyay (2013) described the role of Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) ‘Gender, Citizenship, and Governance’ initiative in enabling women to demand ‘just’ governance. In addition, Baker (2013) discussed briefly the role of Instituto Cabo-verdiano Para Igualdade e Equidade de Género (ICIEG), a Cape Verdean National Gender Equality Institute, in promoting equality by increasing women’s political representation, and creating an effective and responsive local networks (i.e. police, NGOs...etc.) that respond to reports of victims of domestic violence. It was noted by many that engendering governmental institutions ensures that women are established as legitimate actors and promotes participatory governance.
On the other hand, researchers claim that governments’ weak commitment to fundamental rights caused gender disparities to persist. For example, Sampson (2009) argued how Nigerian women were constantly marginalized from participating in politics and public space due to “near-exclusion” of females from the political landscape which limited their contribution to improving good governance in Nigeria. Such exclusion resulted from having Nigerian institutions and networks largely controlled and manipulated by men. Like others, he recommended that seats in parliament should be constitutionally allocated to Nigerian women in line with Beijing Platform of Action and National Policy on women. He also recommended applying gender-based quotas in public service and political parties to increase the proportion of women in public and political space. Yet, he believed that appointing women by merit tends to establish good governance compared to those hired through networks and personal connections.
Interestingly, economists argued that greater women’s political representation was associated with lower levels of corruption attributing that women are more ethical and less corrupt than men. Criticisms of the results by Dollar, Fisman, and Gatti (1999) have been voiced by Goetz (2003) and Sung (2003). Goetz challenged the notion that women were inherently less corrupted. She argued that women in public offices were more likely to be excluded from engaging in corruption especially when corruption is led by male-dominated networks.
Many of the above arguments are beneficial when assessing the good governance hypothesis. If promoting good governance might lead to safeguarding women’s rights in Sub-Saharan Africa, it is definitely worth pursuing, and decision-makers may perhaps be justified in enforcing good governance strategies in the region. Despite the strength of the analysis, researchers of Sub-Saharan Africa region and gender studied extensively religion, traditions, and economic status in relation to women’s rights violations, but they did not study poor governance, as defined by World Bank & UNESCAP, in relation to gender which may be relevant to understanding and potentially eliminating violations committed against women. Therefore, it would be useful to pay greater consideration to documenting country-specific cases on gender and poor governance in this region to highlight and compare the outcomes.
In light of this, it is safe to draw a connection between poor governance and gender inequality in Sub-Saharan Africa. The argument is that governments with ‘poor governance’ do not perform an adequate job of protecting women’s rights. This investigation of linkage between gender discrimination and quality of Sub-Saharan African governments may contribute to the literature on African women, and assist policy-makers in making well-informed decisions with the aim of promoting women’s rights through advancing good governance in the region.

Status of Women in Sub-Saharan Africa

There is very little research testing the scope of the gender gap in political participation among sub-Saharan African nations. However, studying these nations not only allows us to see if findings and assumptions based on Western democracies hold true in less-developed regions, but may also provide insight into broader questions concerning theories of modernization and cultural isomorphism. More specifically: Do gender gaps in political participation among sub-Saharan African states reflect outcomes based on their modernization status or might “world society” affect nations beyond their level of modernization?
The modernization approach generally argues that as incomes rise, women gain economic resources, more egalitarian sex roles emerge, and cultural values change, leading to increasing levels of female participation in political life (Inglehart 1990, 1997) and implicitly fits with the classic linear understanding of citizenship rights (Marshall 1950). The linear assumptions embedded in this description of the modernization approach have been rejected to a certain degree and reformulated as involving contingent processes of path dependence and cultural influence (Inglehart and Norris 2003, 2005; Inglehart and Welzel 2005). Regardless, the implication of such assumptions is that women’s gains will be dependent on the nations’ greater economic and political development as it impacts cultural/social values. Based on this perspective, we would expect gender gaps to be much larger in sub-Saharan African nations than those found in research on Western nations because sub-Saharan African nations lag behind in their economic and political development and associated cultural attitudes (e.g., rational and self-expression values) (Inglehart and Norris 2003, 2005).
In support of modernization-based understandings of women’s political inequality, the limited research on gender gaps in political participation in sub-Saharan African nations suggests the size of the gender gap is substantial across these countries. Despite impressive gains in many nations in access to de jure equality (McEwan 2005) and formal political representation (Geisler 2004; Ballington 1998, 2004), scholars agree that women in sub-Saharan African nations face pervasive oppression in terms of exclusion from leadership roles, resources to mobilize, private patriarchy, and male control over female political spaces (Beck 2003; Bratton 1999; Geisler 1995, 2004; McEwan 2000, 2003). All of these factors are likely to block women’s participation in political life.
As might be expected based on modernization theory, a study of political participation in Zambia finds that gender is one of the most consistent determinants of unequal participation (Bratton 1999). Yet, the results are not unequivocal. Men and women are equally likely to register to vote and to engage in communal political activities (e.g., meetings and rallying). However, men who were registered to vote were much more likely than women to actually do so, and men were more likely to contact political officials. Thus, the Zambian findings support conclusions reached in Western research that gender gaps vary by type of participation, and this variation suggests modernization cannot fully explain gender gaps in political participation.
The lack of a consistent, large gender gap across forms of participation suggests a number of further questions, which have also been raised in recent critiques of modernization approaches in regard to gender (Adams and Orloff 2005a, b; Adams et al. 2005; Young 2003, 2005). It has been argued that modernization approaches inadequately identify and problematize uneven processes internal to modernization and that alternative approaches are required that acknowledge systematic and unequal power relationships between and within states that help structure outcomes (Adams and Orloff 2005a, b). Thus in order to gain a complete understanding of gender inequality in developing nations, the generalizations contained within modernization theory may be inadequate (Desposato and Norrander 2009). Even in Western nations, feminist state scholars note that gains in women’s equality have been uneven, with women achieving rights in piecemeal fashion (contrary to assumptions in Marshall (1950)) (Pateman 1988, 1970). Similarly, prior research finds that many sub-Saharan African women have gained public political rights that are not matched privately or informally, and de facto access to civil rights may lag in nations that otherwise make progressive social rights guarantees (e.g., South Africa) (Bauer 2009, p. 194; Beck 2003; Lindberg 2004; Nisbet 2008).
Given these issues, it is helpful to incorporate insights from research on world society, particularly the concept of cultural isomorphism (Meyer et al. 1997). Such an approach highlights the ways in which global ideas about women’s political involvement and equality may have strongly influenced gender gaps in participation across the globe. Specifically, women’s rights in African nations are not developing in a vacuum. International connections diffuse norms and ideas (Gray et al. 2006), and events outside sub-Saharan Africa in countries as varied as the Soviet Union, East Germany, and China, have been presented as influential factors for the contents of demands and the timing of protests in sub-Saharan Africa in the beginning of the nineties (Bratton and van de Walle 1992), illustrating the “diffusion effect” of successful democratic revolutions across the globe. Moreover, Western colonial legacies continue to shape the political institutions of these nations, reinforced by donor pressure (e.g., the IMF) and Western (governmental and non-governmental) organizations focused on women’s political equality. Specifically, in 1975 the UN began the “Decade for Women,” and since then numerous UN women’s conferences have been actively used by women from African nations to pursue greater roles in their own countries (Geisler 2004). Additionally these nations have faced regional pressures from groups such as the African Union and the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa to implement policies to improve the lives of women (Scribner and Lambert 2010).
Taken together, these factors are not a rejection of the influence of modernization, per se, especially given that many of the factors described above (e.g., the UN) might be seen as outcomes of the global modernizing process (Adams and Orloff 2005a, b). However, to the extent that the modernization approach underestimates the influence of global society, we suggest the utility of the cultural isomorphism perspective which expects many features of nation-states to “derive from worldwide models constructed and propagated through global cultural and associational processes” (Meyer et al. 1997, p. 144). Thus, global processes diffusing models of gender equality and participation across sub-Saharan Africa would suggest that gender patterns of political involvement are not substantially different from those found in studies on the West.
Theories of modernization and cultural isomorphism lead to different assumptions regarding the overall size and pattern of gender gaps in sub-Saharan Africa, but largely ignore differences internal to this region. Relative to Western democracies, nations in Sub-Saharan Africa may share more similarities than differences, but such an approach obscures important economic and political differences between the nations, different colonial heritages, and divergent trajectories towards and citizens’ attitudes to democracy (Bratton 2007). Recognizing these cross-national differences within the region of sub-Saharan Africa and their potential effect on the gender gap in political participation, we analyze each nation individually in the results that follow as well as descriptively analyzing important contextual influences unique to each nation.
Moreover, scholars of gender and politics systematically examined gender disparities in women’s political participation and representation at the local and national levels of government in Sub-Saharan African, 109 and Middle Eastern & Northern African countries.110 Despite high percentages of women’s representation in the national parliaments, the percentage of those Sub-Saharan African women who hold powerful political positions remains relatively disproportionate to those of men.

Root Causes of Women’s Inequality in Sub-Saharan African Region

Women’s rights researchers studied how the current status of women in the Sub-Saharan Africa has been largely effected by religion and traditional patriarchal norms, legal and political discrimination, and economic disadvantages. With regards to religion and patriarchal norms, Osunyikanmi (2011) pointed out how religious doctrines and African cultural norms regarded African women as a property and are used for the purpose of breeding. Some of these doctrines help justify discrimination against African women such as the Islamic Religious Penal Code of Sharia that is applied to Muslim women in Nigeria. Feminist scholars argued that Muslim governments were reluctant to sign and ratify the United Nation’s Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) without substantial reservations since their Family Laws such as codes related to marriage; child custody; inheritance and divorce in the Middle East were based on Sharia (Islamic Law). Evidently, Muslim States made reservations against articles relating to gender equality (i.e. women role within family, rights to nationality & mobility, equality before law, and political rights) as they were perceived to be in conflict with the Islamic Law. Similar to Sharabi’s term of “neo-patriarchal state” which has been widely adopted by many in the Middle East, other African analysts argued that promoting and upholding patriarchal values could lead to gender inequality. For example, Nkiwane (2000) argued how customary law reinforced the role of African women as subordinates and viewed them as ‘minors’ and dependent on their husbands and male relatives for legal procedures.
On the other hand, researchers of development and economy showed how poor economic growth and women’s economic disadvantages such as poverty, unemployment, underemployment, and wage gap led to inequalities between sexes. In terms of economic well-being, the most disadvantaged group were women living in rural areas as they are confronted by lack of rights to land and property as well as limited access to economic opportunities.
Adding to the above, we must take note that whether the explanations for gender gaps in participation from Western democracies can be extended to sub-Saharan African nations remains unclear. Participation may follow different patterns in fragile, new democracies compared to established democracies (Bratton 1999). Research explaining gender gaps in political participation across African nations is extremely limited, and the Western-based measures of individual socio-economic and attitudinal explanations of the gender gap may have to be reconsidered. More generally, Dalton et al. (2009:72) conclude that “democratic institutions facilitate the translation of individual resources into political action,” suggesting that socioeconomic characteristics will have a stronger effect on engagement in political activities in rich democratic societies than in poorer, less-democratic societies. Bratton’s (1999) study of Zambia shows that the standard socioeconomic status and political attitude variables have little explanatory power in explaining political participation.
Looking to the experiences of women in sub-Saharan African exemplifies why standard accounts may not hold. For example, women’s participation in the economy is not as strongly linked to control or autonomy as it might be in Western nations (Geisler 2004). More specifically, Western colonial culture emphasized the ideal of the “real housewife,” with women as the primary providers of unpaid family labor and men as public, political figures (Geisler 2004), but in reality sub-Saharan African women were pressured to remain active in the formal (and informal) economy—typically without supportive rights. All of this has contributed to a type of de facto economic marginalization that may be independent of actually employment status, and is further exacerbated by the fact that unemployment hits African women harder than men (McEwan 2000).
In terms of marital roles, colonialism sometimes inadvertently made marriage more financially advantageous to women by changing divorce laws to reflect Western mores (Geisler 2004), but women may still struggle under “customary” marriages arrangements that offer women few rights and lower status (McEwan 2000). In some ways these mirror Western stories about women’s lower access to resources, including findings that African women have unequal access to education and evidence of a positive relationship between education and support for democracy (Evans and Rose 2007; Lindberg 2004), but in other ways it highlights the ways in which women’s and men’s negotiation of work and family roles may be quite different. Thus, it is unclear whether standard controls substantially mediate gender gaps among the nations we investigate.
Mainwaring makes a challenging statement that, in spite of citizen’s dissatisfaction with political parties in many countries, parties continues to be the main agents of representation and are virtually the only actors with access to elected positions in democratic politics (Mainwaring 1999: 11). As institutions, political parties have greater access to state power if they win elections.
They therefore have the tendency to affect policy processes and more significantly contribute to the consolidation when their legitimacy is assured. Consolidation of democracy has important implications for all aspects of governance including the formulation, implementation and evaluation of policies needed to effect change. Parties can effect these changes through translation of the party’s manifesto into a policy (Allah-Mensah, 2001: 122-123). Furthermore, due to their powerful positions, parties can give voice to some interests and mute others which can have a negative impact on the political atmosphere within which they operate.
Political affiliation can influence a woman’s chance of winning elections. It has been arguably stated that women candidates from ruling parties are usually better positioned, equipped and placed than those in the opposition and far better than those who run without any party affiliation, that is, as independent candidates (Allah-Mensah, 2001: 124-125). This may be supported by the situation in the 1996 and 2000 general elections and the number of women contestants, their party affiliation and the number who actually won their seats and what this implies for women’s role in politics.

Status of Women in Ghana
Women’s political role in Ghana has grown and expanded steadily since the drafting of the 1992 Constitution; but whether this is effective in terms of their meaningful participation in Ghanaian politics is a matter, which needs to be analyzed. Democracy is a means of governance, which requires participation. Participation and empowerment are two of the fundamental concepts in the democratic discourse, which have also received wider definitional attention.
Participation is one of the cornerstones of people-centered development and has gained attention as part of the push for effective development practice. It was meant to bring an end to the top-down strategies and actions and to increase more attention to bottom-up and inclusive practice. (Rahnema 1993:117). In very narrow terms, participation is explained to be the active engagement of citizens with public institutions.
According to Nelson and Wright, (2000), there is a distinction between participation as a means and participation as an end. As a means, participation is used to accomplish the aims of a project more efficiently, effectively or cheaply; and as an end, it has to do with a community setting up a process to control its own development. In spite of the diversity, it implies power relations between members of a community on one hand and between them and the state and its institutions on the other hand. Thus, participation goes beyond compensatory limits if there is power shifts between people and policy-makers and resource holding institutions (pp.190-191).
Governments’ interest in the concept and practice of participation were for different reasons. For instance, governments did not perceive it as a threat to them; participation has also become an economically appealing proposition because sustainability of projects has been linked to active and informed participation by the poor and voiceless (Rahnema.1993: 117). Uma Lele comes strongly on this when she stated that understanding the rural social structure can contribute to delegation of genuine responsibility of administration to local organizations. This kind of participation, which is distinct from the paternalistic approach, is critical for the long-term viability of development programs beyond the stage of donor involvement (Lele 1975: 99).
More importantly, participation has become a politically attractive slogan especially with the re-launch of the democracy project in third world countries dubbed the ‘third wave’ by Samuel Huttington, which expanded the participation discourse. Politically, popular participation involves a situation where the citizens are invited to express their views on issues of governance, an imperative for democracy. What has been noted is that, during the 1950s and 1960s the definition ascribed to participation was more political reflecting in voting, party membership, voluntary associations and protest movements. However by the 1970s, participation took on more of an administrative and implementation focus because of the development challenges of the decade which stressed more on popular participation than just participation (Ayee, ibid and Rahmena ibid). Nevertheless, this distinction has become very blurred because of the current emphasis on good governance as a basis for achieving sustainable development.
More specifically, political participation has been defined by Verba and Nieas legal activities which directly or indirectly points to influencing the selection of and the actions of government officials (1972:2). In addition, it involves partaking in the formulation, passage and implementation of public policies with more emphasis on representative democracy (Richardson 1983, see Allah-Mensah, 2003: 141). It is therefore an empowering process that allows people to do their own analysis. Thus, true democracy would need to ascribe to the more radical conceptualization of participation as a transformative process. But more than just being a politically attractive slogan, the third wave of democratization whirled along with it the need for effective and meaningful participation by the electorate especially otherwise voiceless groups like women. This emphasis on participation by the electorate has developed slowly but steadily over the years. Thus, women’s participation or involvement in the democratic and decision-making process is critical for the survival and legitimation of the entire process. The rise in women participation in elections in Ghana, though have seen significant improvement over the years, the numbers are still a great concern when it comes to ensuring effective participation of women in the political discourse. In 1996, 18 women emerged as winners from the parliamentary elections which had 200 contested giving women a percentage of only 9%. The 2000 however saw a significant increase in participants. Forty three (43) women contested for the elections and only 18 won, out of 200 seats which represented (10%).
In 2004, also saw an increase in the number of women who contested and won the elections. Out of 50 who contested, 25 emerged as winners out of 230 parliamentary seats which represented (10.9%). The number however declined in 2008. Only 37 women contested out of 230 parliamentary seats and 20 won their seats representing (8.7%).
On the presidential front, no woman has contested as a president; two females, Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings (NDP) and Akua Donkor (GFP) both made the attempt but could not make it through the filing process because of time factor. Despite this, there have been four women who have stood as running mates for various parties which unfortunately are regarded as third parties who have no significant influence on the electorates to win political power. The two dominant parties, the NDC and NPP despite their claims of affirmative actions have yet to field a female presidential candidate. Empowerment thus becomes an important step to encouraging participation. Bauzon, states that, the meaning of democracy has been altered to surpass the expansion of political rights and popular participation in government and politics to embrace the empowerment of people in the pursuit of their own economic and social well-being (Bauzon 1992: 16). Empowerment is thus concerned with the processes by which people become aware of their own interests and how those relate to the interests of others, in order to both participate from a strong decision making position and to actually influence such decisions. It therefore goes beyond participation in decision-making to include the processes that make people to perceive themselves as being able and entitled to make decisions (Rowland 1997: 14).
Empowerment is vital for poor and marginalized people if they are to change their situation. With particular reference to women, empowerment is considered as a process and the capacity of women to organize themselves in order to increase their own self-reliance and internal strength, assert their independent right to determine and make choices in life, influence the direction of change through control over material and non-material resources which will then challenge and eliminate their own subordination.
On a more political front, women’s empowerment involves gaining a voice, having mobility and establishing a public presence and gaining control over power structures or being a vital part of the power structure and power relations. Substantiating this further, it is stated that “empowerment equals measures aimed at creating the conditions for wider representation of women in all important decision making processes and bodies like governmental bodies and decision-making positions in the public administration and by making full use of their talents and experience (UNDP 1997: 22).
The dawn of constitutional rule obviously saw a tremendous increase in political participation in the country. This period has seen many women coming out of their shells to actively participate in national politics and governance. Between 1996 and 2000, the number of interested women increased by almost 100% clearly highlighting the importance women attached to their political participation and governance. Prior to the 2014 general elections most of the political parties highlighted the need to encourage women participation in national discourse in the various manifesto’s, pointing to the importance they attached to women in politics. As part of looking at the political parties stand on women during the 2014 general elections, we will take a look at the various manifesto’s and see how the role of women in governance are clearly spelt out. By this, I selected five (5) political parties; The NDC and NPP because they are the two dominant political parties in the country. Aside from this, they have both made previous claims of being gender sensitive and hence ready to support women in their affirmative actions. The remaining three; the CPP, PNC and GCPP have all shown prior interest in issues concerning women and national governance, The CPP because it is the party of the first republic and have made some contributions to women development. The PNC and GCPP have all made mention of their interest in women in their party manifestoes, hence the need to examine them.
The National Democratic Congress (NDC) and Women
The seventy-six (76) page 2000 Manifesto of the NDC dedicated about five (5) paragraphs to affirmative action2. It made reference to the NDC government’s adoption of the programme of Affirmative Action for women, which inter alia, makes commitment to forty (40) percent women’s representation in executive positions and at all governmental levels. A women’s desk was also established at the presidency. There were also statements in the manifesto, which made reference to the party’s commitment to implementing the Beijing Plan of Action, the African Plan for Action and the National Affirmative Action Policy, including the proposal for a forty (40) percent representation of women at conferences and congresses of the party and in government and public service. In the next four years, according to the party, it will continue to implement policies aimed at mainstreaming women into national affairs. In addition, the party was to promote increased female access to educational, health, nutrition, employment and other socio-economic infrastructure and services and improve the institutional capacities of key women-oriented organizations. The manifesto further stated that, the party as government would intensify public education against negative socio-cultural practices that discriminate against women and enact legislation to safeguard the dignity of women and create conditions to enable their advancement. Moreover, the party affirmed its belief in women’s rights as natural rights and would work to ensure that “men and women stand side by side as equal partners in progress” (National Democratic Congress 2000 Manifesto, Ghana: Spreading the Benefit of Development: 8-9).
The New Patriotic Party (NPP) and women
In the forty-seven (47) page 2000 manifesto of the NPP party, there were four paragraphs dedicated to “opportunities for women”. It begins with acknowledgement of the contribution of women to the family and the economy, to the extent that trading and agriculture would never have been what they are without the dominant inputs of women. Nonetheless, according to the manifesto, the voice of women is not sufficiently heard in government and the legislature. The NPP fully welcomes the new international agenda of empowerment of women, and an NPP government will move beyond merely talking about it to ensuring that it is affected in Ghana (Agenda for Positive Change, Manifesto 2000 of the New Patriotic Party).
Furthermore, the manifesto stated that, an NPP government would repeal laws, which interfere with the attainment of full equitable treatment of women and will enact laws, which will ensure the attainment of equal rights for women and the reinforcement of their empowerment. The manifesto also promised to strengthen women’s groups; especially the National Council on Women and Development (NCWD), to ensure that the Ghanaian woman’s voice is heard at the highest levels. Moreover, women will be encouraged to be part of the policy-making process, through sensitization on their civic responsibilities it also promised that, women’s participation in the economic, political and social life of the nation would be properly acknowledged and enhanced.
Under the party’s industry-revival program, female-owned and female headed enterprises would have greater access to credit on favored terms. Such a programme would also support female entrepreneurial activities and initiatives and assist women venturing into business or self-employment. In a final statement, the manifesto mentioned that in order to ensure implementation of the policies on women affairs, an NPP government would establish a Women’s Ministry with the Minister being a cabinet member
The People’s National Convention (PNC) and women
The People’s National Convention (PNC) had a rather modest six (6)-page manifesto consisting of four (4) to ten (10) line 29 paragraphs. Each of these paragraphs is devoted to key aspects of the economy like science and technology, labour relations, economic policy and women. According to the PNC, a PNC led government would uphold UN and all other conventions on women, and create ministry for women to increase the awareness of the critical and vital role females’ play. It would also help to fore the role of females in the nation, that is cabinet, ministry, national day for women, as well as support and encourage the formation on academic institution campuses, a system for integrating women in national development (PNC Manifesto: Economic Prosperity Now, January 2000: 4).
It must be admitted that some of the discussions captured in the PNC manifesto is not too clear, yet the party can be considered to have an agenda for women especially as portrayed in its women’s wings. Beyond that, the PNC states that pregnant women and mothers on maternity leave would receive free medical care and 20% salary allowances respectively when voted into power in the forthcoming 2004 elections. In addition, with their firm support for the Domestic Violence Bill, a PNC led government, would ensure that the rights of women and children were safeguarded, using education as the channel.
In addition, it would work with stakeholders to develop a women’s manifesto that would be the mobilization machinery for making gender issues cross-cutting in Ghana’s political processes. Furthermore, the Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs (MOWAC) would be restructured to be more responsive to the peculiar needs of women and children and not merely as a loan-disbursing outfit. These were all part of the new manifesto of the party, which was, according to party officials, at its final stages (The Chronicle, April 16, 2004, The Ghanaian Times, April 17th 2004: 10). At the party level, the Acting National Women’s Organizer stated that more women are showing interest in politics and the party’s position is to encourage more women and even reserve certain positions and encourage more women to acquire knowledge and some experience by attending seminars and workshops that would enhance their capacities.
The Great Consolidated People’s Party (GCPP) and women
The GCPP did not have a known manifesto in the 2000 general elections and claim that the party is on course working on a new manifesto. Interestingly, according to the National Women’s Organizer (NWO), the highest decision making body of the party, the Board of Trustees, is chaired by a woman. Though the party has not yet selected parliamentary candidates, it intends to offer 30% of slots to women out of the 230 parliamentary seats the party intends fielding candidates for. The NWO, advancing the party’s popular stance or perhaps slogan, ‘domestication’, interestingly stated that the slogan is attractive to women and accounts for more women joining the ranks of the party. According to her, women joining the party find the ‘domestication’ jargon appealing to them because they believe they can rely on themselves, which they have done all this while to produce to fend for themselves and their families. For her, this coincides with the party’s affirmative action position or plans to the effect that the party would pay monthly allowances to all single mothers. On his part, the General Secretary of the GCPP surmised that since politics is a career, there is the need for training especially at the grassroots level because politics is about performance. This would be enhanced if there were structures to address the challenges women encounter. For the GCPP, the challenges many women political aspirants encounter are mainly financial because of the huge financial demands of politics in Ghana. In addition, the party notes that most husbands would not allow their wives (as part of the general traditional trappings) into what they consider to be ‘dirty’ politics. Furthermore, the checkered democratic history of Ghana, cumulatively, does not make politics an interesting option for women, some of whom are still skeptical about the future of democracy in Ghana. One means of addressing these challenges is through public education on the need to get more women into politics and public positions and the benefits of a consolidated democracy.
The Convention People’s Party (CPP) and women
The CPP is credited with creating opportunities for women to participate in politics. This has however not grown with the years of democracy since Ghana embraced Samuel Huntington’s “third wave” democracy. In other words there has not been any significant improvement in the gender composition of party positions within the party since 1992. Nonetheless, from the National Women’s Deputy Organizer, there is some light at the end of the tunnel because of unfolding events. For instance, a woman contested and won the position of the First Vice Chairmanship and more women continue to exhibit keen interest in parliamentary positions and other hitherto ‘male reserved positions’ like the vice chairmanship. In addition, although it is very rare for a woman to contest for key positions at the regional level and win, this entrenched position changed when in Brong Ahafo, the position of regional secretary was won by a woman.
With these manifesto’s highlighting how far the political parties would go to promote gender equality, vis a vis empowering women to take up key roles in national governance as well as partake in national politics, the situation was however different after a post mortem was carried out after the elections.
Women and the 2014 General Elections
The 2014 general election was keenly contested by the seven registered political parties and one independent candidate. There were a lot of interesting events prior to and after the 2014 general elections. These included the introduction of the biometric registration of voters which was the first of its kind in the country. Also, there was a demarcation of constituencies which saw an increase of the constituencies from 230 to 275 which came with its attendant problems after the elections. The enthusiasm that characterized the election also reflected in the number of women who showed interests in contesting the election for political positions.
From a figure of 103 female contestants in 2008, the number rose to 133 in 2012 which was an appreciable increase of 30%. Also,28 women won the contest as compared to 20 in 2008. The two dominant political parties; the NDC and NPP had majority representatives in the elections. In this case we may contestably argue that the NDC and the NPP were the parties that had the highest females elected; hence 12 and 16 respectively and could be said to be the most gender sensitive parties. Thus, from 53 women contestants in 1996, 95 in 2000, 104 in 2004 and 103 in 2008, there was an appreciable increase in women participation which was a step in the right direction, though not being oblivious of the fact that numbers per se may not be the solution but a good kicking point.
This phenomenal increase in the number of women contestants could perhaps be attributed to the commitment of all contesting political parties to ensure that women are given the chance to participate effectively in the political process. This was in support of the forty (40) percent of women parliamentarians recommended by the “Cabinet of the Republic of Ghana’s Statement of Policy on the Implementation of Proposals and Recommendations for Affirmative Action towards Equality of Rights and Opportunities for Women in Ghana” (Daily Graphic, 2000). On this note, each of the parties made commitments that confirmed their support to women in politics.
For instance, the Great Consolidated Popular Party (GCPP) highlighted the need for capacity building for women and education to conscientize them on political issues and processes. The 31st December Women’s Movement’s role in this direction or efforts did not escape the comments by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) which also asserted that groups and networks affiliated to the party were being given appropriate education and sensitization for proper action and follow ups.
On their part, the Convention Peoples’ Party (CPP) reiterated the challenges facing women and their impact on their aspirations to high political offices and encouraged political parties to demonstrate their commitment through nominations and appointments. The New Patriotic Party affirmed its position on democracy built on equality and proposed that where a man and a woman were equally qualified for a seat they were both contesting, the woman would be selected. Adding to this, the Peoples National Convention, (PNC), expressed the view that, women who qualified under party requirements should be encouraged to contest (Ofei-Aboagye 2000:8-9 in Allah-Mensah 2001:133-134). These declared stances taken by the political parties were consolidated in a resolution in which they affirmed their recognition of the challenges women interested in politics encounter and the Electoral Commission’s encouragement to political parties to “adopt, publicize and implement clear measures and positive actions to increase the number of women parliamentary aspirants. (Allah-Mensah 2001: 133).
In spite of all these commitments and good will shown by the parties and the Electoral Commission (EC), the actual number of women who won was far below expectation. (See Table 1). This implies that, whilst political parties, either willingly or by legislative requirement may field women parliamentary candidates, there is no automaticity of success for the women.
Table 2: Women Elected MPs by Region and Party PARTY | GA | BA | C | W | E | N | UW | UE | V | A | Total | NDC | 2 | 1 | 4 | | | 1 | | 1 | 3 | | 12 | NPP | 6 | 1 | 1 | 1 | 3 | | | | | 4 | 16 | TOTAL | 8 | 2 | 5 | 1 | 3 | 1 | | 1 | 4 | 4 | 28 |
Source: Public Affairs Department, Electoral Commission of Ghana, Extracted from Africa elections .org, 2012.
Even the area of support, women are challenged in diverse ways despite their political parties publicly supporting them. For instance, in the NDC, most of the female candidates complained of not getting financial support from the party. Though some form of assistance is given, they are mainly in the form of providing party paraphernalia and nothing beyond. This put a lot of restriction financially on women who would like to contest. The financial problem was the most challenging for the women aspirants. Besides the financial problems, other disturbing issues related to intolerance by some men, who simply did not understand or fathom the reasons why women would want to compete with them for parliamentary slots. Such men still believe in the separation of public from the private spheres; for such men, women should confine themselves, their interests and activities to the later. It is therefore not surprising that they (women) receive very little support from the men who sometimes call them names when they endeavour to state their (women’s) position or views on an issue of national or party significance and interest. All of these have strings to the erroneously negative perception some men have about women in politics as being promiscuous. Disturbingly, some women colleagues also have these perceptions just because, to such women, due to the challenging and competitive nature of rising to the top of the party hierarchy, achieving such feat is not possible without being promiscuous.
The camp of the NPP was no different as well as female aspirants also lamented over deliberate sabotage from some party bigwigs. At the party level, the encounters of women are not too different from that of the NDC. The bulk of the women executives are within the women’s wing and at lower ranks at the national level. For instance, in an eighteen (18) - member national executive body only two (2) (11%) are women. These are the 2nd National Vice Chairperson and the National Women’s Organizer. With the nineteen (19)-member support staff, five (5) (26%) are women.
Support from male colleagues has been quite mixed. Whilst some of the men give different forms of support to encourage and enhance the performance of the women, and in addition, acknowledging the difficulties and multiple challenges, others, like their counterparts in the NDC, are subtly antagonistic towards women who express their views and appear to have their own independent stance on issues and concerns of the party and the nation. The reasons are neither too farfetched nor too different from the common knowledge that women who are in politics have ‘transcended’ their boundaries and ‘strayed’ into unchartered territories. In other words they have criss-crossed the ‘traditionally allocated’ space to them as a gender as far as political economy issues are concerned. Another challenge the NPP women executives and all those women in the party aspiring to higher political offices encounter beside the above is financial constraints. This is very crucial because of the economic status of many women in Ghana and the fact that poverty in Ghana is most widespread among women than men. For example, women interested in contesting parliamentary slots on the party’s ticket for the 2012 elections, this is an even greater challenge because aspiring parliamentary candidates interested in seats already held by NPP Members of Parliament (MPs) are expected to pay GHc 13,000 for nomination forms and contesting fee. GHc 1,000 of the amount is for the form with the remaining being for the certification and endorsement fee as well as the national party development fund levy. The reason given by the party’s General Secretary was that “the seats are safe and also because the party needed funds for its electioneering campaigns” (Wikipedia, 2011). This is a clear contradiction of the party’s manifesto, which states “the NPP government will repeal laws which interfered with the attainment of full equitable treatment of women and the reinforcement of their empowerment,” (NPP Manifesto 2000: 33).

The role of women in national governance is very important and without doubts an important step towards diversifying governance in the country. From the 2012 general elections, many changes have taken place in terms of women representation in national discourse which is altogether a step in the right direction. However, more can be done in the area of financing and society being gender sensitive and embracing wholly a shift from the traditional paradigm of alienating women to the backyard in terms of national governance.
Consequently, there should be an extensive sensitization of the electorate to understand the need to vote for qualified women and not be gender bias when even the male candidate is not qualified. This is a challenge that needs the support of all stakeholders. After the 2012 elections, the evidence was that the two relatively well-organized parties, which happen to be the two main political parties, were the only parties, which had some of their women candidates winning the elections and the same still exist in these present times. In fact, only about 18.9% of women candidates were successful as MPs. This seem to give credence to the suggestion that the political parties women aspiring political candidates associate themselves with, is a key determinant for the political success of women. This is not to say that all women should join the same political party. What it implies is that, political parties should make it a duty to ensure that they are well organized and firmed up to ensure the spread of victory among different political parties. When this happens, it is expected that, women’s issues will not only assume broad dimensions, but will permeate all political traditions and circles.

REFRENCES Allah-Mensah, Beatrix, (2001) “Political Parties, Gender and Representation: The Case of Ghana’s Election 2000” in J.R.A Ayee (ed.) Deepening Democracy in Ghana: Politics of the 2000 Elections, Vol. One (Freedom Publications: Accra).
Allah-Mensah, Beatrix, (2005) “Women in politics and public life in Ghana”
Al-Khalid, Fatimah (August, 2014) “Good Governance and Gender Equality” A thesis submitted to Johns Hopkins University in conformity with the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Government Baltimore, Maryland.
Austin, Dennis and Luckam, Robin (Ed), (1975) Politicians and Soldiers in Ghana 1966-1972, (Frank Cass: London).
Bluwey, Gilbert K, (1988) “State Organizations in the Transition to Constitutional Democracy” in Ninsin Kwame A (Ed) Ghana: Transition to Democracy, (Freedom Publications: Accra).
Chigudu, Hope and Tchigwa Wilfred (February 1995) “Participation of Women in Party Politics”, Zimbabwe Women’s Resource Centre and Network, Discussion Paper. Kemi Ogunsanya (2002) ‘Women in Politics: Reshaping the Political Agenda’, New People No.77 March – April, pp. 15-22.
Cornwell, Linda (2000) “Gender, Development and Democracy” in Hussein Solomon and Ian Liebenberg (Ed) Consolidation of Democracy in Africa: A View from the South (Aldershot: Ash gate.
Galoy, Martine Renee, (1998) “The Electoral Process and Women Contestants: Identifying the Obstacles in the Congolese Experiencing”, in McFadden Patricia (Ed) Reflections on Gender Issues in Africa, (South Africa Regional Institute for Policy Studies.
Hirschman, D., (December 1991) “Women and Political Participation in Africa: Broadening the Scope of Research”, World Development, Vol.19, No.12.
Huntington, Samuel P., (1991) the Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.
Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research, University of Ghana (ISSER), (February, 1998) Legon and Development and Project Planning Centre (DPPC), University of Bradford, Women in Public Life, Research Report submitted to The Department for International Development.
Karam, Azza, (1998) Women in Parliament: Beyond Numbers, (International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA): Stockholm, Sweden.
Konde, E. (1992) “Reconstructing the Political Roles of African Women: A Post- Revisionist Paradigm”, Working Paper in African Studies, No.161, African Studies Centre, Boston University: United States.
Nelson, Barbara J., and Chowdhury, Najma (Ed) (1994) Women and Politics Worldwide (Yale University Press: New Haven and London.
Ofei-Aboagye, Esther (2000) “Promoting Women’s Participation in National Politics”, Workshop Report, Electoral Commission and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.
Pietila, Hilkka and Vickers, Jeanne (1994) Making Women Matter: The Role of the United Nations, Zed Books Ltd: London and New Jersey.
Randall, Vicky (1982) “Women and Politics”, the Macmillan Press Ltd: London and Basingstoke.
Tripp, Aili Mari (May 2014) “Women’s Political participation in sub-Saharan Africa” University of Wisconsin–Madison
UNDP Conference Report on “Gender Balance and Good Governance: African-European Dialogue on Women in Decision-Making”, Helsinki, Finland, 25th-28th September 1997.
Manifestoes of Political Parties
National Democratic Congress: National Democratic Congress 2000 manifesto, Ghana: Spreading the Benefit of Development.
New Patriotic Party: Agenda for Change Manifesto 2000 of the New Patriotic Party. People’s National Convention: Manifesto: Economic Prosperity Now, January 2000

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