Mr. President, Your Gender Report Card

Esther A. Armah

Regional Minister appointees, Ghana’s Affirmative Action Bill and our Domestic Violence law and regulation. These three items are staring into the face of a government as a nation scores the President and his government’s gender card.

Right now, when it comes to active legislation and regional appointments regarding gender, our President and his government gets an ‘F’.

‘F’ for failure, frustration, future-promiser, and father of gender inaction. Three years into his first term, and the jury is no longer out. It is all the way in. Anger, frustration, petition is being poured all over a President whose inauguration speech was greeted with enthusiasm and optimism due to his gender inclusion rhetoric. .

Let’s break this Gender Score Card down.

Inauguration speech – mentions the importance of and commitment to gender equity

African Union Gender Champion – named in 2017

Gender and Development Initiative for Africa (GADIA) launched in 2017

GADIA Advocates Gender Awardees – 8 men get awards on gender (hmmmm)

State of the Nation address apology –  for failure to pass Affirmative Action Bill

Political speeches acknowledging women’s importance – plenty, plenty, plenty

Legislative action in support of all the above – a big, fat zero.

 

But this is not school. These are women’s lives and a nation’s future.

Journeys to gender justice are marathons that stop and start. They gain momentum, they seem to be at a finish line only to be frustrated or negated. But a luta continua! It can. It must. It will.

We have been here before. On this page, on the airwaves, on the small screen and on the subject.

We are back again. And return we must in a marathon battle to require our government do what it claims to believe in and act according to the needs and interests of 51% of Ghana.

Gender advocacy gets exhausting.

Those who do this work know that. On an organizational level and on individual level there is a toll to consistently seeking to persuade those in power of women’s humanity, capacity and capability. There is a cost to finding infinite ways to request our inclusion in national issues. There is a rage to requiring those in power see 51% of this nation whose invisibility can be measured by the legislative inaction in both the Affirmative Action legislation and the most recent regional appointees.  And there is the sheer throw-your-hands-up-and-scream frustration to having to find new ways to engage the unengaged on policy passage.

Gender is one of the safest places to play the politics of waiting, silencing, rhetoric of hope, inaction and repeat.

For some of us advocates and activists, we are sometimes too patient, too concerned with being polite, too unwilling to enter the fray, too preoccupied with not antagonizing. You may protect your manners but lose your rights. We cannot avoid a reckoning, a rumbling and a rollicking with political power if gender rights, parity, equity is truly our mission.  Such battles are never pretty. Speaking out rarely gains you new fans. And staying silent guarantees absolutely nothing.

Our choice to stand for ourselves, our rights, our future and those of the ones we love, to raise our voices sometimes in eloquent rage and sometimes with incoherent fury must continue.

And there are those times where we must pause and breathe and reckon with our own exhaustion in order to re-emerge, energized, ready and willing to fight on.

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Our fights cannot be linear. Not when it comes to gender.

They cannot rely on a sector, an organization, a petition, an individual, an interview. So, like all movements that have moved nations to reluctant progress, there must be multiple ongoing strategies in pursuit of a particular, common goal.  Voices and activities from multiple sectors  – from media to activism to social media to policy to persuasion – such voices unified with arms and aims linked – must be included in this fight.

I too am tired. I, like so many, carry a load I would like to put down. But, that is asking us to abandon ourselves and our needs and continue to uphold systems that do not support, recognize, reward or respect us. We cannot do that either.

 

So, where do we go?

Mr. President, it appears that you and your government have sought to evade action by engaging rhetoric when it comes to gender. It appears that you and your government think they have soothed the agitators by placating them with a State of the Nation address apology after failing to pass the Affirmative Action Bill.

You think you can continue down this path. A cacophony of voices, a chorus of advocates, organizers, activists, individuals, young and old are telling you that you cannot.

Some may be exhausted and disappointed, some may need to pause, some may be inactive, some may be raging – but all will again stand up, fight back, speak out, demand and target you and your presidency to do as you said you would on this issue of gender parity.

The Petition below is signed by 51 groups, civil society organizations, and gender advocates. They are calling on you to bring gender parity to the ongoing Regional Minister selection and appointment. In this moment, I, Esther Armah, add my name to this petition.

 

STATEMENT FROM WOMEN’S GROUP IN GHANA ON THE NOMINATION OF MINISTERS FOR THE NEW REGIONS

We have learnt with shock and dismay the nomination by His Excellency, the President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, of 14 persons designated as Ministers and Deputy Ministers for the newly created Regions and some existing Regions in the country. We are dismayed because this list contains the names of thirteen (13) men and only one (1) woman.

We are extremely disappointed at this appointment as we believe that all state appointments must be undertaken within the overall commitment to gender equality of women and men in order to add value and make use of diversity of experiences in ways that are democratic and define genuine and equal citizenship. Article 35(6b) of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana stipulates that the country must: “achieve reasonable regional and gender balance in recruitment and appointment to public offices”. The gender ratio being represented in this list is a mere 6.25% for women nominated as against men. This cannot be said to be “reasonable” and does not represent a genuine act of gender responsiveness but rather reinforces the critical gender equality gaps and challenges. Again, this appointment does not reflect the President’s current position as an African Union Gender Champion. The African Union (AU) per its Gender Agenda calls on all member states to achieve parity and equal representation of both women and men in political and public offices. It is based on this parity principle that Ethiopia, Rwanda, Senegal and other sister African countries are making progress towards the 50/50 appointment of women and men to high level political offices.

This list of Minsters designated to manage these Regions does not also reflect the governing party’s (NPP’s) Manifesto provision promising to give a minimum of 30% appointment to women in participation and in representation in all levels of decision-making structures in Ghana. We do sincerely acknowledge the appreciable progress that has been made in placing individual women in very high-profile positions but we are still missing out on the full benefits of gender equality leadership teams. Gender equality is a precondition for meeting the challenges of reducing poverty, promoting peace and security and enhancing the quality of our human capital.

 

We therefore demand that:

 

  1. The list of designated Ministers and Deputy Ministers for the newly created Regions and some existing Regions be recalled and reconsidered to ensure gender equality
  2. The formulae of not less than 40% women and not more than 60% men or 40% men and 60% women be applied
  3. Any government appointment should reflect the 40-60 formulae or the African Union 50-50 Agenda.

We are using this opportunity to also call on the Speaker of Parliament and all Parliamentarians to ensure that gender equality and parity are at the heart of all appointments that come to Parliament for approval. Gender inequality and gender disparities contributed in very realistic and substantial ways to Ghana’s failure to secure comprehensive improved conditions for all citizens.

 

Signed

  1. Women’s Manifesto Coalition
  2. Women in Law and Development in Africa
  3. Abantu for Development
  4. International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), Ghana
  5. Women Media and Change (WOMEC)
  6. Free the Marginalised Women Advocates (FREMWA)
  7. Caritas Ghana
  8. Golden Star Foundation
  9. Voice of People with Disability, Ghana (Voice Ghana)
  10. Child Research and Resource Centre (CRRECENT)
  11. Community Development and Advocacy Centre (CODAC)
  12. Action for Sustainable Development (ASUDEV)
  13. SMAid International
  14. Penplusbytes
  15. Pronet North
  16. 4-H Ghana
  17. Association of Women for the Preservation of the Environment
  18. Youth Empowerment for Life (YefL)
  19. NORSAAC
  20. Ghana National Education Campaign Coalition (GNECC)
  21. Our Lady of Mercy Community (OLAMCS), Navrongo
  22. Penal Reform Ghana (PRG)
  23. African Centre for Parliamentary Affairs (ACEPA)
  24. Youth and Women Empowerment (WOYE)
  25. Lorlornyo FM
  26. Ghana Community Radio Network
  27. Radio Builsa
  28. Radio Ada
  29. Radio Justice
  30. Daasgift Quality Foundation
  31. CILTAD/Coastal TV
  32. Kekeli Foundation
  33. Volta Educational Renaissance Foundation (VEReF)
  34. Child Research and Resource Centre (CRESCENT)
  35. ABANTU for Development
  36. Amnesty International, Ghana
  37. Ghana Journalists Association (GJA)
  38. Association of Women in Media (ASWIM)
  39. Regional Advisory Information and Network Systems (RAINS)
  40. Ark Development Organisation
  41. Ghana Developing Communities Association (GDCA)
  42. Women Integrated Development Organization (WIDO)
  43. Central and Western Fishmongers Improvement Association (CEWEFIA)
  44. Women’s Hope Foundation
  45. Center for the Development of people (CEDEP)
  46. Peoples’ Dialogue on Human Settlement (PDHS),
  47. SMAid International
  48. Local Governance Network (LOGNET).
  49. Convention People’s Party (CPP)
  50. Odekro PMO
  51. Musician Union of Ghana (MUSIGA)

 

Mr President, change your score card. Pass the Affirmative Action Bill. Bring gender equity to these recent Regional Appointees.

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Be the leader you told women – and keep telling women –  you would be. The waiting is over.

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