13.10.2012 Feature Article

Womens' Rights in Ghana now!!!!

Womens' Rights in Ghana now!!!!
13.10.2012 LISTEN

Womens' issues in Ghana are rarely discussed in the Ghanaian media, be it print, electronic or on-line and when they are they are not treated with the respect they deserve hence the fact that many people in Ghana today are ignorant of the key issues that affect women.

This one could say is a slur on a nation that claims to be a 'democratic'one and is symptomatic of the way womens' issues in Ghana are generally treated.

As such given this is an election year I have been compelled to write this article as a result of the position of Ghanaian women in society and the vile and despicable male chauvinism that exists in Ghana and the need to enact a bill/legislation to negate this.

For those men who do not know or refuse to believe, as any credible historian can reveal the facts are there for all to see that the Afrikan woman was the first human being put by God on the planet and their origin is not the false lies peddled about through this Adam and Eve nonsense.

In actual fact the fairy tale of Adam and Eve was only written about 2,000 years ago - however bones have been unearthed by Afrikan as well as European and American anthropologists using DNA and genetic analysis that revealed that the first human being was an Afrikan woman whose remains had been found in Ethiopia that dated more than 7.5 million years.

This was so groundbreaking that it was featured on the discovery channel in November 2009 under the heading “The Real Eve” and was repeated on the BBC's history channel.

However despite this historical fact, many women in Ghana are treated on the whole as second class citizens, this despite making the majority of the population.

In addition to this despite the fact that Ghana has its first female speaker of parliament, its first ever female chief justice, a handful of MP's, some top female TV presenters and some top female corporate executives, women still have a raw deal in this country and drastic steps must be taken to ensure that government institutions, the corporate sector and institutions generally have a fair representation of women, because at the moment women are under represented in a number of key institutions and corporate bodies up and down the country.

Before we get into the pros and cons of embarking on an affirmative action policy it is also important to note some interesting contradictions about women in Ghanaian society. Many Ghanaian men claim to love their mothers, wives, sisters, girlfriends etc. however some Ghanaian women are looked upon primarily as sexual objects - one only has too see some of the subtle advertising of products on the TV to attest to this and also the majority of hip-life and other music videos that depict Ghanaian women as sexual objects- in addition to this is the small but increasing cases of sexual harassment of women in the workplace by the same men who claim to love their mothers, sisters and so forth.

Secondly Ghanaian women as a whole are somewhat conditioned from birth to be mothers and wives and not necessarily be career-orientated women and contribute to national development.

There is also a disturbing trend that in the corporate world some young girls when going for jobs are inadvertedly told that either they engaged in sexual relations with some big wig or they don't get the job.

Again in Ghanaian society it is common to find in many places that boys are preferred over girls to get an education because it is believed that they will grow up to be the breadwinner whilst it is believed by many in Ghanaian society that the woman's place should be in the home looking after the children.

If only Ghanaians generally knew this quotation by Malcolm X that states “to educate a man is to educate an individual but to educate a woman is to educate a nation”

This quotation is why it is so important to empower our young girls/women because without this empowerment of women Ghana will never achieve the social and economic indices it hopes to achieve.

Whether Ghanaians and in particular Ghanaian men accept it or not the reality is that women in Ghana represent far less of the formal sector workforce than men, and make up the majority of the poor, the unemployed and the informal sector workforce. They do not always have access to the resources and education that would improve their skills and capabilities, and they are often overlooked by governmental policies that promote human development.

By empowering women with the skills and training that they need, policy makers would be both creating a stable and adept workforce to support their projects, as well as eradicating poverty and social disadvantages that accompany unemployment.

It is well documented that the empowerment of women leads to the economic, political and social development of developing countries, and Ghana must take advantage of this opportune moment to bring women into the workforce. It is not enough for Ghana's policy makers to simply “encourage” gender equity and this is why I advocate that Ghana's policy makers adopt an Affirmative Action policy to deal with this inequality that exists in Ghanaian society.

Affirmative Action
This is not as some think giving women preferential treatment, but it is an instrument that enables women to have a level playing field. At this moment in time, in Ghana the reality of the situation is that the playing field is not level as men are gaining the upper hand and women in general despite a few success stories seem to hit a glass ceiling.

Affirmative Action therefore should be seen as an instrument whereby women can enjoy the same opportunities as men without them being subject to harassment or intimidation.

Ironically those men who are against Affirmative Action for women oppose it because one, they do not recognize that men for so long have had preferential treatment that has elevated some of them to high positions simply because they were men and two, that if women get Affirmative Action some of these men will find it a threat because, as they see it, undermines their power and authority.

Affirmative Action - US case study.
Even though the US constitution declares that “All men are equal in the eyes of God” the reality since the American civil war ended that ushered in the United States as we know it today, is that for Afrikan-Americans whose ancestors built the United States, the access to equal opportunities that many now take for granted, especially with the advent of Barack Obama as US president, was not always a smooth one and was a journey that entailed the blood, sweat and tears of Afrikan-Americans.

Since the civil war Afrikan-Americans faced vile and serious violations of their human rights. Simply because of the colour of their skin Afrikan-Americans were denied access to the same health care, education, housing, social provision and employment opportunities as their white counter parts.

In addition to this Afrikan-Americans had to use separate churches, hospitals, diners, hotels, toilets and so forth and were in effect treated as second class citizens in a country their ancestors built.

This harsh treatment which sometimes involved death by a term that became known as lynching began to attract the attention of prominent Afrikan-Americans like Malcolm X and Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr. amongst others.

The likes of Dr. King began to agitate for racial equality and even used sections of the American constitution that stated that all men were created equal in the eyes of God to get their message across that inequality based on the colour of ones skin was totally unacceptable and that the discrimination that halted the progress of Afrikan-Americans should be outlawed.

This stance by Dr. King led to a series of protests and boycotts by Afrikan-Americans to demand their civil and human rights and an end to racial segregation and discrimination. After a long and hard struggle that often ended up with many lives lost, especially those of Afrikan-Americans, the civil rights bill was finally passed in 1964.

This bill gave Afrikan-Americans the right to vote and through the Affirmative Action protocol gave Afrikan-Americans the opportunity for the first time in American history to compete on an equal footing in all areas of American life including health, education and employment.

To cut a long story short the Affirmative Action bill gave Afrikan Americans the right to study at previously All white universities like Harvard of which a consequence of this was the likes of Condoleezza Rice, who became the first female secretary of state under the Bush administration, Colin Powell the first Afrikan American to be the head of the US army and after become the first Afrikan American to be Secretary of State again under the Bush administration and the big one that Barack Obama became US president.

Without affirmative Action the massive achievements of Afrikan-Americans including women would not have become possible and that the quality of life that some Afrikan Americans have would not have been realized.

Sex discrimination Act - UK Case study
In the UK women as a whole had been discrimination in nearly all spheres of British society. some of these indicators prove the point -

A “power gap” in parliament, where only 20% of MPs are women. At the current rate, it will take 195 years for this to close and 65 years to achieve a gender balance in the boardrooms of the top companies listed in the FTSE 100 index;

• A “pensions gap” that leaves retired women with 40% less income than male contemporaries; this gap could take 45 years to close;

• A “part-time pay gap” will take 25 years to close and the “full-time pay gap” 20 years, in a system that now pays women 38% less per hour than men for working part time and 17% for full-timers;

As a result of gender/sex discrimination and tireless lobbying by UK women who during the 1960's became empowered and asserted their rights, the UK government in 1975 after passing in bill in the UK houses of Commons and then Houses of Parliament made discrimination on the grounds of sex a legal offence.

The essence of the act is to render unlawful certain kinds of sex discrimination and discrimination on the ground of marriage, and establish a Commission with the function of working towards the elimination of such discrimination and promoting equality of opportunity between men and women generally; and for related purposes.

Since this bill was passed the quality of life for women in the UK has improved tremendously.

However there still remains huge disparities amongst the sexes in the UK and this is demonstrated by the lack of women in the higher echelons of British society especially in the UK boardrooms, the judiciary, the top military and police brass, the houses of parliament and so forth.

Affirmative Action - case study: South Afrika
After the enslavement of Afrikan people perhaps the most barbaric, vile and inhumane system ever created was apartheid. Apartheid is a Dutch word which means the separation of people using their skin colour as a basis.

Although it was the British who invented apartheid, it was the Dutch and their descendants the Boers that institutionised this barbaric system. After the end of the Anglo-Dutch/Boer war in the late 1890's and in the aftermath of the Berlin Congress of 1884/1885, Europeans sought to divide for themselves the richest and most fertile of Afrikan land.

Apart from the obvious places like Kenya and Zimbabwe, the most cruel and vicious land grab by Europeans was in South Afrika. Europeans took with impunity and with vicious brute force the land of Afrikans in South Afrika without no negotiation or compensation to the Afrikans.

As a result of this vicious land grab the Europeans led by the Dutch created a vicious system called Apartheid that denied the Afrikan population of South Afrika the right to vote, their right to healthcare, education, employment and basically were excluded from mainstream South Afrikan society.

Afrikan people in South Afrika began to fight for their rights and led by Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo and other elders in the Afrikan National Congress (ANC) the legal system of Apartheid was defeated in 1994 when the ANC came to power.

On assuming office the ANC were aware that the Afrikan population was severely under represented in many areas of South Afrikan life so they introduced a bill that would not only give Afrikans the opportunities that had been denied them for more than 300 years, but will also include them in the whole economic activity of mainstream South Afrika that they were deliberately excluded from.

Since the inception of Affirmative Action in South Afrika which has given Afrikans tremendous opportunities, there has emerged a strong and affluent Afrikan middle class, the boardrooms of corporate South Afrika that was mainly white and a no go area for Afrikans now has a fair share of Afrikans, the police and military that were once exclusively white are now representative of South Afrika and the quality of life for some Afrikan people has increased significantly.

Whilst there is still some way to go to address the sins of Apartheid, Affirmative Action has made it possible for Afrikan people in South Afrika to access opportunities that were once denied them.

What the above has indicated is that where there are situations where a section of people have been excluded from the mainstream, measures have been put in place and more importantly enforced and implemented to address these inequalities.

It is for the leadership of Ghana to recognize that there are serious issues with the under representation of women in all spheres of Ghanaian society and it is simply not good enough in the 21st century to exhibit fine words as fine words alone will not solve the problem of the under representation and inequality that Ghanaian women face in society.

Serious action to address the situation can only be taken when the leadership of this country recognizes that there are serious problems with the under representation of women in Ghanaian society.

This is why in my view given the above examples, Affirmative Action is the only way forward as government as well as corporate and civil institutions alike will be compelled to enact this policy which should also contain a legal instrument that implies that failure to enact the Affirmative Action policy could lead to severe penalties against the said institution.

If Ghana is serious about moving forward and genuine nation building and development then it cannot afford to deny equal opportunities to more then half of the population making the case for affirmative action bill legislation all the more compelling.