Source: Government of Ghana
On September 2, 2004, a document known as ‘The Women’s Manifesto for Ghana’ came into being.

That document was initiated by ABANTU for Development, a registered Non-Governmental Organization comprising a network of people who believe that gender disparity is an injustice which contributes to poverty and, thereby, hinders development. The Manifesto is a direct result of concern about inadequate attention to vital issues that affect women including under-representation in political, policy and decision-making levels, and in public life in general.

It is a political non-partisan document which sets out important issues of concern to women in Ghana and makes demands for addressing them. In other words, the Women’s Manifesto provides a platform of a common set of demands for the achievement of gender equality and equity and sustainable development.

The Manifesto addresses ten themes, namely Women’s Economic Empowerment; Women and Land; Women, Social Policy and Development; Women, Politics, Decision-making and Public Life; and Women, Human Rights and the Law.

The others are Discriminatory Cultural Practices; Women and the Media; Women, Conflict and Peace; Women with Special Needs; and Institutions with a Mandate to Promote Women’s Rights.

Many may be asking what impact the document has made on the lives of women and in relation to the various themes and targets, over the years.

The response to this question has been provided by the Director, ABANTU for Development, Dr Rose Mensah-Kutin, who states “The Women’s Manifesto for Ghana has contributed immensely to the greater visibility and acceptability of gender issues within Ghana’s political landscape. Even though officials continue to pay lip service to the need to promote women’s well-being in the public space, it is evident that women have claimed some space for themselves and if the pressure continues, there may be opportunities to make some significant gains.”

Dr  Mensah-Kutin continues “Among the specific demands in the Manifesto that have been addressed are the passage of the Domestic Violence Bill, enactment of the Human Trafficking and Disability Acts, establishment of the Local Governance Fund to support women and the introduction of the Free Maternal Health Care.”

On the regional level, according to Dr. Mensah Kutin, the Women’s Manifesto has been used as a point of reference to engage with African women through regional conferences on women in politics while copies of the Manifesto have also been disseminated and shared on international platforms such as the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) and the Association of Women in Development (AWID) to promote the ideas contained in the document.

Again, Dr. Mensah-Kutin states that Development Partners like the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) Foundation have demonstrated their commitment to the issues of the Manifesto by consistently supporting its development and implementation.

Reviewing the impact of the Manifesto at a news conference in Accra on September 11, 2012, Dr Esther Ofei-Aboagye, Director of the Institute of Local Government Studies (ILGS), noted that even though some work had been done in providing women with opportunities to improve  their livelihoods, more remained to be done including strengthening agricultural policies relating to food crop production while paid maternity leave as provided for in the Labour Act needed enforcement, particularly in the informal sector.

The Manifesto also demands that community-level guidance and counseling units should provide career guidance and social services to young people.

This, Dr Ofei-Aboagye says, must be given attention by political parties.

According to Dr. Ofei-Aboagye, some progress appears to have been made in relation to efforts to develop a gender policy under the Land Administration Project (LAP) and that the commitments should be continued under LAP 2 and that the joint registration of conjugal family lands which were expected to be in place by 2006 to enhance women’s security of tenure should be carried forward.

On Women, Social Policy and Social Development, Dr Ofei-Aboagye notes that efforts have been made to harmonize and strengthen various social policies into a National Social Policy, especially under the Ghana Social Opportunities Project (GSOP), but that what remains to be done is the formulation and collaborative implementation of the previous policy.

She observes that concerns with water privatization have also still not been addressed to ensure the universal access of women to safe water while action is also required on the reproductive rights of women.

According to Dr Ofei-Aboagye, there are also unmet demands regarding increasing funding for health to, at least, 15 per cent of the national budget by 2015, strengthening the free maternal health care policy and ensuring that 95 per cent of pregnant women are reached with comprehensive Preventive Mother-To-Child Transmission (PMTCT) in line with the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health and the initiative launched by the United Nations in September 2010.

In addition, she says, efforts for improving the security for family planning commodities; increasing the proportion of fully-immunized children to 81 per cent and increasing the proportion of children under-five and pregnant women sleeping under Insecticide Treated Nets to about 85 per cent are yet to come to fruition.

Dr Ofei-Aboagye also notes that the issue of finalizing, implementing and monitoring of affirmative action policies in Ghana  are yet to be addressed while steps are also yet to be taken to expand the range of apprenticeship opportunities open to women so as to reduce occupational segregation in artisanal professions, aware, however, of the pilot efforts made particularly under the Gender Responsive Skills and Community Development Project (GRSCDP) which is being implemented by the Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs (MOWAC).

Under this project, it is to be acknowledged, young women have been supported to undergo training in occupations such as plumbing and welding with support from the African Development Bank and in association with the National Board for Small Scale Industries (NBSSI), Department of Community Development and other relevant agencies in partnership with 59 District Assemblies.

The first-three demands on the theme ‘Women in Politics, Decision-making and Public Life are aimed at political Parties— and according to Dr Ofei-Aboagye, the expectation is that improved representation of women in party executive and decision-making structures while affirmative action should increase the number of women candidates for Parliamentary elections.

Regrettably, Dr Ofei-Aboagye asserts, “…the gestures of political parties have been largely ceremonial and not as progressive as expected.”

Dr Ofei-Aboagye, therefore, calls for innovative proposals on improving the capacity of MOWAC and other relevant parties to support women with the requisite resources (including financial support) to participate effectively in politics at all levels.

In the area of Women, Human Rights and the Law, the first demand of the Manifesto is a constitution review process, which was undertaken.

However, Dr Ofei-Aboagye  notes that the review of laws to ensure greater security and equity for women, particularly in the context of marriage, is yet to materialize while the reform of social security, pensions, insurance and taxation have not been given the required attention.

That the Domestic Violence and Victims Support Unit (DOVVSU) of the Police Service have been strengthened and law enforcement agencies sensitized on women’s rights and interest cannot pass unnoticed. Yet, according to Dr Ofei-Aboagye, there is an unfinished business of protecting the rights of women and girls in accordance with the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

On Discriminatory Cultural Practices, the passage of the Domestic Violence Act provided a tool to end such practices, but the Local Government Institute Director insists that more work is required on the operationalization and application of the sanctions regime against offenders.

Furthermore, she says, action is required against compulsory widowhood rites, wife inheritance, potentially incestuous practices, female genital mutilation, forced marriages, banishment of women to witches camps, ritual servitude, inimical child fostering practices and food taboos while strenuous efforts are needed to reform intestate succession and the strengthening of laws on defilement.

In the area of Women and the Media, the indication is that extensive work is required towards a comprehensive communication and information policy and measures that address media representation content and access to information for women and pornography issues.

In relation to the theme ‘Women with Special Needs’ the passage of the Disability Act has been lauded as a positive intervention; yet its operationalization, Dr Ofei-Aboagye notes, remains largely inefficient.

This thus calls for support for the Department of Social Welfare which has a key role to play in promoting the rights of the aged, widowed and single mothers and the provision of community-level services including community-based rehabilitation centres.

The primary institution whose role is critical in the implementation of the demands of women’s Manifesto is MOWAC.

Regrettably MOWAC has been operating with limited resources. Yet within the constraints of limited resources, it is important to note, MOWAS has been able to meet some of the demands of the Manifesto including the on-going review of the National Gender policy.

There have also been efforts by the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) to provide gender-mainstreaming guidelines and instruments to Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) as well as the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs).

There are also on-going provisions to incorporate the Department of Women into the new decentralized structures, especially at the district level administration while job descriptions for gender desk officers/focal persons in MDAs have been reviewed and harmonized.

Furthermore, there has been extensive gender capacity-building for public servants and personal service delivery organizations—and Dr Ofei-Aboagye recommends the vigorous continuation of these efforts as well as a strong involvement of civil society organizations in these undertakings.

In a nutshell, therefore, the 8 years of the Women’s Manifesto has been impressive although a lot more remains to be addressed to effect the expected social change of gender justice.

The benefits of meeting the demands of the Manifesto will not only serve the interest of women but will also meet national aspirations in terms of meeting Millennium Development Goals  3, 4 and 5 of ensuring gender equity and women’s empowerment, reducing child mortality and improving maternal health.

For without meeting MDG 3, the indications are that MDG 4 and 5 will also not be met as the achievement of the three goals are inextricably linked.

Go to top