National Women’s Forum Held To Promote Women’s Rights

Mrs. Dorcas Coker-Appiah, Executive Director, Gender Centre

Mrs. Dorcas Coker-Appiah, Executive Director, Gender Centre

The Executive Director of the Gender Studies and Human Right Documentation Center, Mrs. Dorcas Coker-Appiah, has emphasized the need to tackle road blocks and obstacles which prevent women from assuming their rights at all levels of affairs in the country.

Mrs. Coker-Appiah was speaking at a National Women’s Forum held in Accra last week on the theme: Proactive Engagement To Ensure Women’s Participation in Decision Making at the Local Level, A Collective Responsibility of Government and CSOs.

There were over sixty (60) participants drawn from civil society organizations (CSOs), non-governmental organizations (NGOs), Women’s Groups and Assembly women selected from Ada in the Greater Accra Region and Wenchi in the Brong Ahafo Region.

Students from the University of Ghana, and National Service Personnel participated in the forum.

According Mrs. Coker-Appiah, the many calls on government and stakeholders by CSOs and NGOs to have women involved in decision making processes and their rights promoted had not yielded the expected results, and so it was necessary that the forum was held for the participants to share ideas and plan ways and means to ensure that women are given more space to operate at both the national and local levels.

She was hopeful that the learning and presentations at the forum would be applied by all groups and individual participants in order to advance the ‘women’s rights campaign’.

Giving the chairperson’s remarks, Mrs. Rose Mensah-Kutin, Director of Abantu for Development, a women’s group in Ghana, said the forum was necessary to disseminate information since the best way to ‘carry on the mantle of leadership’ was by sharing knowledge and experiences with younger people.

According to her, this was fundamental to ensure that young people would take over from the older folks to advance the campaign for women’s rights.

The guest speaker, Mrs. Bernice Sam, who is the Executive Director of WiLDAF Ghana, said women’s participation in decision making at all levels of affairs in Ghana had been low.

She decried, for instance, the number of men and women serving in ministerial positions and those serving as Members of Parliament; given the fact that currently, there are 75 male Ministers against 18 female Ministers; and 245 male Members of Parliament as against 30 female Members of Parliament.

According to Mrs. Sam, there are a lot of factors inhibiting women’s participation. These include: low numbers, low quotas, uncertainty of District Assembly elections, low civil education preceding District Assembly elections, and the absence of training institutions for female politicians.

Other factors include: apathy voters, negative portrayal of women in politics by the media, fear of corruption, financial difficulties (mostly funds for campaign, printing of flyers, posters, etc.), multiple burdens (at home and work), low literacy, stereotypes reflected in voting patterns, and reasons for entering politics not being clear for women.

Mrs. Sam also mentioned other factors as lack of support by spouses, no payoffs in politic, and women in political positions failing to champion women’s agenda as they rather begin to pursue their political party’s agenda.

According to her, proactive measures must be taken by governments and CSOs to tackle these problems to make sure that the women are supported to take up higher positions in running the affairs of the country.

She advocated funding, sponsorships, extensive education of the public on District Assembly elections, higher education, training for women leaders, visibility in political discourse and the re-engineering of women’s political movement – all as proactive measures to be taken by the government and stakeholders to give women the chance to be in leadership positions.

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