Monday, 18 May 2009
40% women appointments: good cause but slowly
I know I am about to venture into a dangerous terrain with possibly dire consequences, but I also have a right to free speech just like others, and want to exercise it and very loudly.
I am tempted to say that the National Democratic Congress (NDC) brought this unto itself, but ‘how for do’ when you have crucial elections at stake and you are also committed to strengthening principles that as a political ideology you believe so much in. More so, when the wife of the party’s Founder led a cause, during her time as First lady, successfully making women empowerment and (positive) affirmative action household expressions.
One can therefore understand the commitment of the NDC to working towards enhancing the status of women at all levels when it takes over the reign of political governance. That commitment was expressly contained in the party’s manifesto with a well-laid out promise to commence a process aimed at ensuring that at least 40% of all public service engagements, political appointments and even attendance at the party’s congresses are women.
That commitment is a very brilliant step towards real women empowerment especially considering the fact that given the low number of women participation in politics it would be foolhardy for any group to think that it can pluck women from ‘Mars’ and achieve any meaningful improvement in women issues. While, thanks to the work of Mrs. Konadu Rawlings and co in the past, a lot more women got encouraged to come out, seek both high corporate and public service engagements, we still do not have a lot of them. And that is why some have been advocating that a quota system be developed even for our tertiary educational institutions, and for our parliament and other places.
That by itself should be an admission that there’s still lot to be done towards achieving a certain percentage of success that needs to be built on to attain some level of parity if there’s anything like that.
Interestingly, the NDC’s far reaching proposal, or call it manifesto promise, did not find any excitement in the various women’s groups in this country. If it did, why didn’t they, based on the NDC’s manifesto promise come out boldly to encourage both rural and urban women to vote for the NDC since it has the best policy for women? Yet, they are the ones shouting loud and hoarse that the NDC and President John Mills have not fulfilled their manifesto promise. Off course, I disagree with their interpretation of the NDC manifesto and I hold the view that they are raising what I consider pre-mature red flags without soberly reflecting on the more practical and proactive steps that need to be taken to improve the lot of women in decision making.
Upon a careful evaluation of the NDC’s promise and commitment to women in Ghana, WILDAF, Ursula Owusu, and the various women’s activists should have (in the run-up to the 2008 elections) championed the course of the NDC and made Ghanaians to know that the NDC has the best strategy towards the attainment of the expected women empowerment objectives.
They did not, yet they are expressing disappointment in the President and government for allegedly not fulfilling his promise. Don’t get me wrong. I am all for holding governments accountable at all times and I am not suggesting that once you did not vote for a particular candidate/party you should not lead a crusade to get them to be accountable. I am suggesting that our various groupings, if we are to take them serious and respect their supposed apolitical positions, must be able to scrutinise political party programs and manifestoes and let the public know those who have brilliant or acceptable policies on various sectors or issues.
Won’t that be great? In any case, the claim by some that President Mills has disappointed them cannot be true. Apart from the fact that these persons, in my view, are misinterpreting the NDC’s position as contained in the manifesto, they are also not being real. How on earth were they expecting the NDC to get women to fill up 40% of M/DCEs? Clearly, that is not possible because we do not have that many active women participation in politics across the country. Even in the current circumstances where hardworking party operatives and financiers were nominated, there were loud protests and opposition from many districts, and these were among party people who were accessing the contribution of nominees differently. Can you imagine selecting women who have either not been involved or even hardly visited the district as M/DCEs? There will be chaos and war.
So, those expressing disappointment should rather regroup, think through carefully the problem of low women participation in both national politics and social groupings and develop strategies to encourage more women to take up interest in leadership, management, politics and decision making generally.
They should think about strategies to engage government to achieve the objective of ensuring that many more women take part in both national and party political activities in furtherance of the promise to work towards a 40% women involvement. That’s my understanding of the NDC promise. That, noting the low level of women interest, we would take some steps and actions that would shore up the number of women who attend the party’s congresses, get actively involved in the party’s activities and other national activities. The appointment of a woman speaker and attorney general, increased ministerial and deputy ministerial appointments are for me part of the process. I am expecting the women groups to develop strategies around these persons aimed at encouraging more women participation in politics so that the NDC’s target of a 40% percent minimum involvement can be reached within the shortest possible time.
For the avoidance of doubt, this is what the NDC stated in its manifesto: “The NDC government shall introduce major gender policy and legislative reforms, aiming for a minimum of 40% representation of women at conferences and Congresses of the Party and in government and public service.”
This in my view does not mean government will appoint 40% women, but rather that measures will be taken with the target of reaching at least a 40%. The promise is the measures and reforms not the 40% and the women appointments so far made should be seen as part of these measures.
As a gender advocate I tend to hold the view, sadly, that a lot of the women’s groups have not helped the course, but that’s to be discussed another day.
President Mills has provided both women and the youth enough grounding to activate whatever plans or projects they have to encourage participation in politics, leadership and international programs. His appointments and recognition of women and also the youth should be great morale boosters and it behoves on us to grab the opportunities it brings for our collective good.
I hope that as a country, we would hold up our shoulders where necessary irrespective of which political party’s policy it is and let the world know that party A or B has a better policy for women and the youth, so we should vote for them, or that party B’s policy on education looks more practical and achievable so if education means a lot more to you, then vote for party B.
That way, the campaigners for the passage of the Right to Information bill which has been shelved over the last 7 or so years would have taken the NDC’s commitment and promise as contained in the manifesto as a clear basis to encourage all those who believe in the course to vote for the NDC.
Today, as the Mills administration continues to work towards the passage of the RoI in a manner that will make it workable, there is pressure from some groups as if it is/was the Mills and NDC that delayed it up till this point. I hope that the government would work fast on the Bill though and pass it as promised and in order to improve information availability.
By S. Xoese DOGBE
Managing Editor- dailyEXPRESS & JIVE