Mr Pieter Smidt Van Gelder, the Deputy Head of Mission of the European Union (EU) Delegation to Ghana, has lauded Ghanaian women for their continued sacrifices and efforts towards Ghana’s socio-economic development.
He said Ghana did not lack competent women, citing Mrs Joyce Adeline Bamford-Addo, first woman Justice of the Supreme Court of Ghana and the first woman Speaker of Parliament.
Others are Madam Sophia Akuffo, Chief Justice of Ghana (2017-2019) and Professor Jane Naana Opoku-Agyemang, an academic icon and first woman to hold the position of Vice-Chancellor in Ghana, before becoming a politician, and first Vice Presidential Candidate for one of the main political parties in Ghana.
He also mentioned the late Dr Esther Ocloo of Nkulenu Industries, an industrialist, a preservationist, an Association of Ghana Industries (AGI) Hall of Famer and a national legend who created employment for many people.
Mr Gelder gave the commendation in his address at the Institute of Democratic Governance (IDEG) – European Union (EU) seminar on the Affirmative Action Bill held in Accra.
“Hence, there is an obvious indication that Ghana has strong competent women. The question, therefore, is what exactly holds back progress? Why is stronger female representation in politics so difficult? What are the challenges that Ghanaian women face in rising to top political and governance positions and how can these be addressed?” he asked.
“We know that the issues start from structural and societal barriers blocking women from entering politics. They include; factors such as unequal access to resources such as time and money, unequal family responsibilities, male-dominated political cultures and prevailing gender roles and stereotypes, as well as abuse and harassment against women. We should also mention misogynistic comments…”
However, he said none of the themes were carved in stone or unchangeable; adding that so, these issues should be addressed.
Mr Gelder suggested the issues would be resolved by tackling the high cost and monetisation of politics, adopting the Affirmative Action Bill and fighting hate speech, women unfriendly discourse both online and offline.
“It will not be an easy task. It will require patience, perseverance and courage. But together, men and women working together, we will get there. Change is possible; when you put your mind to it,” he said.
“Women are change agents and I believe that Ghana would be even better if it gave women roles that are more prominent in politics. The solutions are not outside, they are right here with us. Where we find challenges, we also find the solutions.”
He noted that women were still significantly underrepresented in elected positions, stating that the statistics showed that 51.7 per cent of registered Ghanaian voters were women and that in Parliament, they were a mere 14.5 per cent – (40 out of 275).
He maintained that Ghana’s recent Parliamentary elections had slightly increased the number of female Members of Parliament (MPs) to 40, from 37, and described it as a modest improvement.
Mr Gelder said that, Ghana ranked 150th in the world in terms of women’s representation in Parliament and said that was far behind other African countries like Rwanda (61.3) and Ethiopia (58.8 per cent).
He said the EU Election Observer Mission report for the 2020 general election recommended that Ghana should enact and implement the Affirmative Action Bill with at least a 30 per cent quota of women in governance and decision-making positions, towards a progressive increase to parity of 50 per cent.
The report also urged political parties to adopt party quotas to promote women’s participation in politics.
He reiterated that equality started at party levels with the primary.
“And it is urgent. Because when we continue with this pace, one per cent improvement every electoral cycle, Ghana will hit gender parity by the year 2160, so, we cannot, and should not rely on social change alone.”
Mr Gelder, who noted that quota did work, said in Europe, women’s representation in parliaments had significantly improved in countries where such measures were in place.
He said France, which had recorded the largest increase in the EU in the share of women parliamentarians, had adopted legislation supporting gender parity in elected offices.