This is a man’s world
Ghana is on the path of becoming a model of democracy in Africa. Ghana has conducted elections and they have been judged as free and fair, free of violence as compared to some African countries.
But if one compares men and women participation as a key principle of measuring democracy, one cannot say that there is good representation of men and women in Ghana’s democracy. It is rather a “man’s, man’s world.”
Ghana’s democracy is lost in the wilderness. Ghana is lost in bitterness and Ghana is lost, lost somewhere without the active involvement of women in taking up responsible leadership positions and making specific decisions regarding issues affecting the total development of women and children.
In Ghana women constitute more than 50 per cent of the population and in the rural areas, constitute more than 80 per cent of the workforce. Considering Ghana as agriculture based economy, one can say that women are the generators of the wealth of Ghana yet they are the poorest.
Less than 25 per cent of women in Ghana are in the decision making at all levels. But they are often ruled by the few men, deciding positions for them.
For instance, in the entire 11municipal and district assemblies in the Upper West Region, women elected as assembly members and government appointees in the assemblies are only 54.
The women fear contesting local government elections because of insults and the use of money in national elections. Demands for money by the electorate and insults from community members have prevented many potential women from coming into the limelight to contest for elections.
It means issues or problems that are specific to women and children may not be properly addressed due to the absence of women to tell their own stories.
In February next year, local government election would begin and Foundation for Security and Development in Africa (FASDA) in collaboration with the Media Foundation in West Africa with support from Ibis, a Danish non-governmental organisation, organised a workshop for women aspirants in the local level election to provide them with skills and encourage them to participate in the forthcoming elections.
The local level election is the beginning of women’s emancipation to addressing issues of women at the grassroots level and taking up leadership positions and actively participating in decision-making process.
FASDA is aware that Ghanaian women are faced with a lot of challenges, some of which are cultural, social, political and financial which are excluding them from participating in the local level election.
But among these challenges, communication has been identified as a major obstacle to many Ghanaian women who for no fault of theirs are unable to communicate appropriately because culturally they have been taught not to speak or talk in public.
FASDA’s workshop for 60 women aspirants was therefore to support the aspirants in the Upper West, Upper East and Northern regions to campaign effectively by using the media in the forthcoming district assemblies’ election.
In Ghana, one can find teachers, journalists, nurses, doctors, engineers, politicians and lawyers among women, but when it comes to leadership positions, few can be counted.
Madam Afi Yakubu, Executive Director of FASDA, said conflicts which used to destabilize West Africa Sub-Region had reduced. In place of civil wars, West African governments are now competing in democracy.
She said women are more than men in Ghana but when it comes to decision making, women are lagging behind. Women and children are not heard because they have not been participating in leadership positions.
There are more invisible challenges that affect women development. Culturally, Ghanaian women are cowed not to talk in public and also, their income levels are low and this, affects their zeal to come out to contest leadership positions especially in political elections.
The women said a major challenge facing them in the northern part of Ghana has been finance. Travelling to and fro also has the potential of breaking marriages, especially when one is married to a jealous man. Leaving the children and the man is also a difficult task for many women.
Clothes to wear are a hindrance. One needs nice clothes to wear and appear decent to campaign. The women said funerals are barriers, because while the men are campaigning, women are at home managing funeral affairs, cooking and taking care of strangers. Rivalry among women is also undermining women’s chances of participating in local level election.
Woman are found telling lies about other women aspiring for leadership positions. Text messages from women to husbands of women aspirants that accuse them of flirting with other men have been a big task to overcome.
Some of the women said religion has been used to discriminate against women in their quest to take up leadership roles and be part of decision-making. “We are told as women, we are only to serve but not to lead.”
Conflict limits women to campaign in the communities and women attitudes in the communities are measured by community members and those found to have bad attitude (scorpion women) cannot aspire to leadership positions, especially local elections as their efforts are thwarted.
According to the women, their husbands have not been supporting them financially and spiritually and many of them are not interested in their wives taking up leadership positions for fear of losing them to some influential and financially sound men.
Demands from electorate especially at funerals, school fees, outdooring and naming ceremonies of children as well as marriage ceremonies discourage many rural women participating in district level elections, the women said.
The aspirants said many of them have inadequate skills and knowledge in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to research for information. Illiteracy is also affecting rural women ambitions to take up leadership positions. Many of them lack lobbying skills, which they identified a major factor killing women ambition to take up leadership positions.
Women aspirants who are also government workers are faced with challenges of asking their bosses for permissions to enable them to campaign. Frequent permissions make them nuisances to their bosses, sometimes resulting some negative demands and actions at workplaces.
Mr. Imoro Alhassan, a Media Consultant, urged the media to assist to give voice to women and suggested to the aspirants to learn to use radio stations to get their messages through to the people.
He urged the women aspirants to adopt the best campaign strategies and practices of some men to win the confidence of their electorate.
Women should also hold government and political parties accountable to fulfill their manifestoes and the pledges made about allocating 40 per cent to women in leadership positions.
Political parties should make sure women take the chairmanship positions of the parties at the constituencies.
Many women are still ignorant about their rights and as a result, have closed a chapter in their lives in taking up leadership positions. Empowering more women to know their rights, and engaging critical stakeholders to help them in their endeavours should be the concern of the media.
Men need to support their women rather than degrading them. Ghana’s forward march in development and democracy is stagnated because the larger entity of the Ghana’s population and quality contributors to national economy is left out from the decision making process.
By Bajin D. Pobia