SOURCE: allAfrica

Promoting inclusivity in all governance aspects is necessary to spur economic growth and reduce marginalization. However, making this a reality despite many efforts by various CSOs, women-led organizations and advocates for PWDs in the country seems difficult. The trend, if not properly addressed, could lead to a democratic deficit. 

Research has proven that different groups contribute significantly to making better decisions, therefore there is the need to as a matter of urgency ensure all persons, irrespective of their gender and physical appearance, receive the necessary support needed to pursue their ambitions of getting involved in local governance.

Data on the participation and election of PWDs in local governance is lacking, however, barely six percent of women in Ghana get elected in District-level elections. For this narrative to change, support is needed from the media landscape as well.

Women form about 50.7 percent of the country's population, so having six percent elected in district-level elections is not encouraging. According to data from the National Association of Local Authorities of Ghana (NALAG) and the Electoral Commission of Ghana, a total of 2,059 females have been elected during district-level elections, as against 34,460 males since 1994. This is undoubtedly discouraging.

In efforts to change this narrative, the Institute for Democratic Governance (IDEG) partnered with the University of Ghana School of Continuing and Distance Education (SCDE) on the 75th Annual New Year School and Conference on the theme Nurturing Resilience, Adopting Technology and Embracing Humanism for Sustainable Development.

IDEG during the programme called for the implementation of strong policies to address critical issues affecting Ghana's democratic systems.

The Policy Think Tank believes that the population of women in Ghana gives them the power to mobilize and vote to bring change on critical issues in the country and agrees that there is evidence to suggest that marginalization and exclusion of women in political representation harm governance and institutions, as it has been established that increasing women's representation in governance leads to improved provision of essential public necessities, such as education and health and increased spending on childcare, among others.

According to the Media and Fields Operations Manager, IDEG Ghana, Mr. Patrick Okine, the marginalisation of women has been a challenge in Ghana for decades. He is of the view that the Affirmative Action Bill (AAB) is the most important effort to address this gender inequality that has plagued the Ghanaian political and public space, with other obstacles hindering the passage of this bill.

The AAB seeks to increase women's participation in decision-making positions by proposing that at least 40 percent of public offices be reserved for women.

Mr Okine, who is a Development Communications Expert, explained that the presence of women in parliament and decision-making processes also helps to improve the quality of debates and policymaking.

Ghana can take valuable cues from Rwanda, which is the first country in the world with a female majority in parliament, with 61.3 percent in the Chamber of Deputies and 37.4 percent in the Senate.

Women count for roughly half of the world's population, yet they occupy less than a quarter of political seats. Rwanda is an outlier, with more women in power, proportionally than any other country. The Global Gender Gap Report 2020 ranked Rwanda among the top 10 countries in 2020 to have narrowed the gender gap.

If Rwanda can achieve such a remarkable feat in terms of gender equity and women empowerment, then Ghana can even do better.

Despite creating institutions and implementing certain programs to protect women in the country and remaining a signatory to global and regional frameworks such as the African Unions Agenda 2063 and ratifying the African Charter on Human and People's Rights (1986) and the Mapoto Protocol (2003), more still need to be done to further protect women and promote their empowerment.

Ghana is at the bottom with 25 per cent worldwide for the number of women in parliament is not encouraging.

Touching on the marginalization of PWDs, Mr Okine stated that such groups are largely affected by the exclusionary system of governance at the local level, therefore efforts must be made to remove all barriers to developing a fully liberal democratic and multiparty governance system in Ghana.

"The participation of citizens in politics, including PWDs, is crucial in mitigating marginalization, promoting local governance, political and social inclusion, and advancement of democracy in every nation around the world. The importance of PWDs participating in the political process of any country that has been acknowledged internationally because it enhances their dignity and promotes their fundamental human rights and political awareness."

"It is through such inclusion of everybody in the political process that democracy would be deepened," he added.

To tackle these critical issues, IDEG is proposing reforms, particularly the Mixed Member Proportional Representation System (MMPR), intended to specifically end the marginalization of women at the local level. In this system, women would be progressively given representation at the local level of governance commensurate with their population size. This means political parties will offer women candidates to stand for positions in the assemblies that have been reserved only for women. This would also ensure that women's participation at both the local and national levels could be increased with the MMPR and the passage of the AAB into law.

IDEG is also calling for the abolishment of government appointees and introduce MMPR, and also advocating for the party-based election of assembly members based on the MMPR system due to its advantages which include bridging the huge gap in the representation of men and women at the assembly level to a large extent and ensuring independent candidates still have the chance to contest elections and projecting their independent views in the assemblies without being encumbered by a requirement to be tied to the apron strings of any political party.

It is very necessary for the government and all members of the public who mean well to support every initiative geared towards ensuring women and PWDs get the encouragement and support needed to participate in local governance to promote inclusivity and diverse perspectives. Their involvement would help foster equitable decision-making and address unique needs within communities.

This form of inclusivity undoubtedly could strengthen democratic values, enhance representation, and contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of societal challenges, leading to effective sustainable solutions.

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