Ghanaians have been called upon to re-examine the political culture in the country to know what the political parties were actually doing at the various party level to project women who are interested in advancing their political career.
The political landscape should be devoid of insults, violence and the heckling that scare women away. Politics at the party level should include civic participation which would make it interesting and attractive to draw people especially women to their activities.
Professor Takyiwaah Manuh, former Director of the Institute of African Studies, said these at the third IEA/UN Gender and Development Dialogue series in Accra. It was under the theme Strategies for Enhancing Women's Political Participation: the Role of Political Parties.
She suggested political parties to put in place measures to punish their members who intimidate their female counterparts.
She noted that the activities of political parties should be attractive to women. This she said would encourage women to be interested in participating in their activities.
The former director also entreated the political parties to think through the issue of introducing the quota system and reserving safe seats for women. She said safe seats and the quota system were very important and could help improve the number of women in politics. She said other countries in Africa have used it and it had helped to increase women in governance. She stated that a research had shown that political parties were not doing enough to build the capacity of women for political positions and appointment.
She also noted that internal discussion of the political parties on the subject should transform the political landscape, remove all barriers that discriminate against women and among other things mobilise women and give them the necessary support, credibility, confidence, financial assistance and encouragement to participate in politics as well as compete for position at the high office of the parties and at a national level. Competing for political position is not a war; it should be a healthy one, which would encourage women to part-take in such competitions.
Prof. Manuh said the call was for Ghana to fulfill the numerous conventions, protocols and treaties that the country is signatory to. According to her, Ghana has fallen behind in terms of increasing its women in politics and decision-making.
Women's participation in politics in West Africa has been very abysmal, as compared to eastern and southern Africa which have increased its women's participation. Even in West Africa, Ghana is behind Togo and Burkina Faso in this regard, and unfortunately, Ghana is rather retrogressing,she said.
Prof Takyiwah Manuh stated that political parties which are mainly gatekeepers of democracy should find out what the obstacles were, examine their party structures and procedures and reduce barriers to women?s participation in politics. Such a process, she explained, would enhance a policy agenda which would be of benefit to women, including policies on reproductive rights, health and labour market.
She indicated that there was the need to re-examine the political culture to unravel the mystery around why women are no more interested in politics and the problem addressed.
Representatives of the four main political parties with seats in the current Parliament: People?s National Convention (PNC), National Democratic Congress (NDC), New Patriotic Party (NPP) and Convention People?s Party (CPP) all admitted that if the parties go by their laid down rules and regulations, it would be difficult to give opportunities to women unless deliberate efforts were made.
They agreed that the quota system could help increase the participation of women in politics, but giving the safe seats to women would be seen as imposition of people on those constituencies.
Mr Atik Mohammed, a policy analyst with the PNC, admitted that political parties have done little in terms of helping to increase women's participation in politics but was quick to add that there was the need to remove the barriers that hindered women's progress.
Enumerating some of the contributing factors to women shying away from politics, he mentioned the media as being a major culprit in contributing to women shying away from politics. The screaming headlines that are seen on newspapers scare them away, women cannot stand being humiliated in public,he said.
Lack of interest in politics on the part of women is also another hurdle women would have to overcome.
According to Mr Mohammed, the adoption of quota system for women who are interested and also reserving safe seats would help. He encouraged his colleagues in other parties to consider that option. He also suggested that if the 45 newly created constituencies would be reserved for women it could help improve the fortune of women in the political arena.
The NDC representative at the forum, Mr Seidu Paakuna Adamu entreated women to rise up to the challenge and fight for their inclusion in political arena. He said our customs and traditions do not favour women, and there was the need to revisit such laws and abolish certain laws that prevent women from ascending to high offices.
He noted that there was the need to create the necessary laws that would help increase women in politics. ?Women need to be empowered, they need to stand firm because the role women play is very important we need to mobilise them, involve them in our activities and encourage them to participate in politics, Mr Adamu said.
He said there was a need to enhance the role of women by involving them in the political programmes, and there should be a nonpartisan approach in the support for women who stand for elections at the national level.
Mr Kweku Kwarteng , the NPP representative suggested the establishment of the Women Support Fund by political parties to support women who may need financial assistance in their political activities. Also, internal laws should be enacted by political parties to encourage women's participation in politics.
Mrs Susan Adu-Amankwa, CPP First Vice Chairperson who represented CPP at the forum, noted that the lack of a strong sense of group consciousness on the part of the political parties is a major contributing factor to less women participating in politics.
Explaining, she said political parties may assist in doing this by increasing their interaction with the women movement.
The first vice chairperson submitted that one key challenge to women?s participation in politics was how society views women?s role in society.
She called on the various political parties to celebrate the effective roles of their women by writing articles about their achievements in the newspapers and other media. Also, women must show party loyalty and be encouraged to engage in party activities.
Mrs Adu Amankwa stated that there was the need for a reduced burden of child care, a change in stereotyping in the educational system, a boost in the confidence of women and encouragement to participate in political activities and contest election at the primary levels in the various parties.
She also noted that CPP supports the affirmative action law and also supports women to contest for election. They also support the quota system and reserving safe seats for women.
The First Vice Chairperson of CPP indicated that the party would stick to the political party of code of conduct to ensure a peaceful election.