GNA feature by Albert Oppong Ansah
Accra, Aug. 15, GNA
- History was made in 2018 at the Ho Technical University when Ms Vera Fafali
Agbenyah, 25, triumphed over her male counterparts to become the first-ever
female President of the Student Representative Council (SRC) of the school.
Initially, she met
a stiff opposition when she declared her intention even to her female
colleagues because it had always been a turf for males. It was tears of joy and jubilations after the
electoral process that elected her came to an end.
“I am surprised, many
people thought I was kidding during the campaign, but that spurred me on to
prove them wrong,” she recalled.
According to Ms
Agbenyah, some of her close friends counseled her not to contest, but she had
already been fired up after participating in the sensitisation of principles of
the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG).
and the policy framework
One of the ACDEG
principles on governance, she explains urges governments to ensure gender
balance in governance and the development process.
“This dawn on me,
the issue of low participation of women in local elections especially student
politics so I took a decision to contest,” she said.
The ACDEG is a set
of principles that spell out norms, values and standards agreed by the African
States, including; universal values of democracy and respect for human rights;
rule of law premised on the supremacy of the constitution and the holding of
democratic and credible elections.
In Ghana, Action
Aid Ghana and Media Foundation for West Africa are working to popularize the
charter in the Bono, Ahafo, Oti, Volta, Upper East and Greater Accra Regions
under the ‘The Africa We Want Project”.
Across Africa, the
project is being implemented in eight countries by a 14-member consortium of
Civil Society Organisations with funding from the European Union.
Ms Agbenyah is one
of the over 3,450 youths who have benefited from the many sensitisation
programmes that have encouraged the youth to join hands in movements
(Activista) to demand the implementation of ACDEG.
The Project aimed
at increasing and strengthening the role of Civil Society Organisations to
ensure that all African Union (AU) member states are democratic and accountable
to their citizens, and aligned with the African Governance Architecture of the
At the end of the
project, it hopes to have many more Ms Agbenyah’s ready to contest and
participate in the governance of the country.
Despite being a
signatory to various regional, continental and international frameworks including;
ACDEG, the section that commands more than half of Ghana’s population
representing 51.2 per cent participation in political leadership in Ghana is
low compared to that of other African countries.
In practical terms,
Ghana has about 35 of its 275 parliamentarians as women with less than 30 per
cent being Ministers of State and District Chief Executives.
Data from the
Electoral Commission show that since 1994, there was a slow but steady
improvement in female representation in the district assemblies, except for the
percentage, which is less than 20 per cent.
Out of the 965
female contestants in the 2002 district assembly elections, 341 constituting
7.4 per cent were elected as against the 196 constituting 4.1 per cent elected
The percentage of
elected female members in the district assemblies declined from 11 per cent in
2008 to seven per cent in 2010.
Thus, the 2010
district assembly election results showed that out of a total number of 17, 315
contestants, 1, 376 were females, but only 412 constituting 7.95 per cent won
the elections, compared to the 5,681 that constituted 92.05 per cent won by
their male counterparts.
continued into the September 1, 2015 district assembly elections, which
recorded total contestants of 18, 938 with 1,155 female contestants as against
This resulted in
5,779 constituting 95.35 per cent elected males as against 282 constituting
4.65 per cent elected females. The results from the election presented a
decrease in the number of women in the District Assembly’s elections from 412
in 2010 to 282 in 2015.
The assumption is
that, subsequent elections should record an increase in the number of
contestants and elected representatives, however, the 2015 district assembly
elections witnessed a drop in progression.
In the view of Mrs
Margaret Brew-Ward, the Women’s Rights and Campaigns Manager at ActionAid, the
low representation of women could be attributed to the perception that
leadership roles are masculine and the unequal playing field created by
political parties disadvantage to women.
Majority of women,
she observes do not have the required resources for political campaigns and
electoral processes, adding that, there was a lack of understanding from a
section of the public about the contribution of women to development.
Saani, the Northern Regional Director of the National Commission for Civic
Education sharing findings of a study on the subject says culturally and
religiously, men were heads of families especially in the study area where
He recounts that in
Islam, women could not lead prayers, and that had been used to discourage some
women from participating in elections.
Socially, there have been testimonies that
some husbands threaten to divorce their wives if they contested elections while
some women lacked the political courage to compete with men for political
participation in the public discourse or decision-making process, it would be
difficult for Ghana to achieve sustainable development.
Madam Bernice Naah,
the Chief Executive of Africa Center for Human Rights and Sustainable
Development says women in governance have a stronger sense of fairness and
justice, and are less prone to corruption than men because women usually have a
greater role in raising their children in the moral values of society and hence
would try to be models of morality.
She contends that
women, being nurturers, favor the use of peaceful means over force for
resolving conflict and also will preserve human lives and the natural
environment for sustainability.
Dr Janet Boateng,
in her recent study, recommended that a Special development fund be set up by
the government to support Assemblywomen to perform their roles and
responsibilities within their communities regularly.
she suggested should mentor other women; as the potential female politicians
avail themselves, saying the mentors may support them build the confidence
required to engage in local politics and aspire higher positions in the
admiration of some cultural beliefs and practices that makes it difficult for
many females to engage in politics, support the idea of quota systems, hence
the need for the Affirmative Action Bill to be passed into law and seats to be
reserved for women to participate in government and other decision-making
In the opinion of
Mr Patrick Awuah, President of the Ashesi University, in order to advance
gender issues in Ghana, the country needs to begin celebrating its progress
made in that area to encourage young girls.
“There is a
positive message about gender progress and we need to talk about it to boost
the confidence of young girls,” he noted.
young girls take little steps to lead their class and are mentored to take up
prefectship role, they would be bold to contest the SRCs just like Fafali
Agbenyah and then move on to local assemblies, parliamentary and finally go for
the presidential slot.