African Caribbean Pacific (ACP) nations have been challenged to ensure women's equal participation in governance to enhance sustainable development.
Dr Esther Ofei-Aboagye, Director, Institute of Local Government Studies, told a forum on "Women in governance" in Accra on Thursday that there was a subtle discrimination in many public services, spheres and institutions of governance, saying, the commitment of leaderships to gender equality was not encouraging.
"Leaders of ACP countries should not expect women's advancement to happen by chance, that would be too slow. The relevant awareness of the importance of gender equality to national development needs to be created," she said at the forum attended by over 100 high-profile women from the ACP countries. They included High Commissioners, Members of Parliament and Directors of various Ministries.
Among the issues discussed were the involvement of women in the decision-making process, politics, human rights and leadership.
Dr Ofei-Aboagye mentioned challenges facing women such as the perception that politics was not for women or that women should not lead in public life as well as low levels of women's education which limits their confidence.
Others are access to formal sector jobs, opportunities and economic and social empowerment.
She said women's groups and associations were not sufficiently prepared for engagement in governance because their capacities were limited by their inabilities to access and analyse information, advocate pre-occupation with traditional pursuits.
"The increasingly expensive nature of political campaigns and the relatively low economic resources at women's disposal are also a hindrance," she added.
Dr Ofei-Aboagye noted that women were still a novelty as heads of state even in 2008.
She said women as citizens and stakeholders in national development had a responsibility alongside men to contribute to the growth of the economy and the quality of life.
The Minister of Trade and Industry of the Republic of Rwanda, Monique Nsanzabaganwa, said gender equality had been placed at a level where it was not just an issue of women but of national development and human rights.
She said the political will to promote women's equal participation was critical and must be translated into appropriate legal frameworks while deliberate measures were developed to follow up the whole process.