A monograph entitled: Serving the Community - Doing Politics in Poor and Deprived Communities in Ghana: A Dialogue with Selected District Assembly Women in Ghana has been launched in Accra.
The monograph represents the life histories and experiences of selected Assembly women from across Ghana as well as issues and gaps that need to addressed to make the decentralisation system of governance accessible and responsive to women while strengthening women's participation and effectiveness in those structures.
The book draws in-depth on the experiences of twenty-eight (28) women who participated in local governance, either elected to assemblies, were appointed or sought election but did not win their bids. Eighteen (18) of the 28 women were elected; four were appointed, having all run for office and not been elected; and six having offered themselves, but not elected.
The book also shares the experiences of women who had their unmarried status used against them, depicting how social status circumstances are used to constrain women's participation in public life or political office.
A clear thread running through the stories of the 28 women was that planning, time management and negotiation critical skills women gained in managing family and community matters had been deployed in their political careers.
The book considers the pivotal role that education plays in the experiences of women assembly members as current trends, with anecdotal evidence, portray women's changing attitudes to higher education, including going back to school to improve themselves even in middle age and efforts to maximize modest educational attainments.
The importance of volunteerism and its contribution to community recognition and exposure to community priorities―with some going to the extent of using their resources to support the community services― is another experience shared by the women.
The involvement of the assembly women in political parties raises the question of whether or not assemblies can be perceived as non-partisan. In other words, knowing the political persuasions of these women (and their male counterparts) based on their activism, makes it difficult to separate the partisan political identity from the assembly member functioning in a non-partisan governance entity.
The 80-page book was co-authored by Professor Emerita Takyiwa Manuh, a former Director of the Institute of African Studies (IAS), University of Ghana (UG), Legon and, currently, Director of the Social Development Division of the Economic Commission for Africa; Professor Akosua Darkwa, Head of Sociology, UG, Legon; Professor Dzodzi Tsikata, Director, IAS, UG, Legon; Professor Akosua Adomako-Ampofo, Professor of African and Gender Studies, IAS, UG, Legon; and Dr. Rose Mensah Kutin, Director, ABANTU for Development, a gender and policy advocacy Non-Governmental Organization (NGO).
The collaborative work was facilitated by the Centre for Gender Studies and Advocacy (CEGENSA) in partnership with the Institute for Development studies at the University of Sussex, Pathways of Women's Empowerment Research Programme Consortium (RPC) (West Africa Hub) and ABANTU for Development.
Reviewing the book, Dr. Esther Ofei-Aboagye, Chairperson, Star-Ghana Foundation, noted that the book intended to provide a grounded account of the influencing factors as well as spaces and opportunities for women's participation and political representation.
Dr Aboagye said it was clear that assembly membership and political activism could play a critical role in preparing the next generation of women for public office.
She described the book as a very valuable addition to the literature on Ghana, women, gender, decentralization and local governance, participation and pathways for growth and empowerment. "It does, indeed, augment the earlier literature and fills a critical gap. It has also provided insights into how creatively women have used the resources available to them including education," she added.
In his remarks, Prof Joseph R. A. Ayee, Professor and Independent Scholar, and Chairman for the occasion, stressed the need to devote more time to scholarship at the local level and described the book as a challenge for future research, the results of which could be factored in a second edition.
Prof. Ayee called for a national debate on how to deal with the low representation of women indecision-making processes and recommended proportional representation.
He said any amendment of the Local Governance Act, 2016 (Act 936) should consider increased women's representation in Local Government administration.
Source: G.D. Zaney, Esq.