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03.08.2018 Opinion

Discrimination And Affrimative Action In Ghana

By Joseph Atchulo
Discrimination And Affrimative Action In Ghana
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The term discrimination describes a large number of wrongful acts in employment, housing, education, medical care, and other important areas of public life. Although discrimination in each of these areas takes different forms, what they have in common is that a person is deprived of some benefit or opportunity because of membership in some group toward which there is substantial prejudice.

Discrimination in employment, generally arises from the decisions employers make about hiring, promotion, pay, fringe benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment that directly affect the economic interests of employee.

First, discrimination involves decisions that directly affect the employment status of individuals or the terms and conditions of their employment. There are several forms of discrimination, some of which may include:

  • Discriminations on the bases of sex: Sex Discrimination is discrimination based on the fact that a person is male or female and not on sex related matters such as sexual orientation or marital status. Sexual harassment has been ruled by courts to constitute a form of sex discrimination.
  • Religious discrimination: Refers to instances where employers refuse to hire or promote an individual simply because of prejudice against members of certain religious group.
  • National Origin Discrimination: Refers to the type of discrimination that has to do with a person race, color and to some extent religion.
  • Age Discrimination: Results largely from benefits that employers perceive in Shunting older employees aside to make room for younger employees who often have more up to date skills and innovative ideas, and since younger employees are also less expensive to employers, because older employees generally have higher salaries and make more extensive use of fringe benefits.
  • Discrimination against the handicap : Employing the handicap often requires that they be treated differently in order to compensate for their impairment, it may be argued that employers ought to be willing to make reasonable accommodations for the impairment or disabilities of handicap just as they are obligated to make reasonable accommodations for the religious believes.

Discrimination produces immense effects in the psychological, social, political, and economic domains. Whether intended or not, the effects are compounded by the loss of self-worth, a sense of alienation from the wider society, political disempowerment, and economic inequalities. Other associated effects of discrimination includes:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Fear of rejection

Affirmative action is a set of measures adopted by governments, public and private institutions such as political parties, educational establishments, corporations and companies to address a history of systemic discrimination and exclusion of particular social groups or to encourage the efforts of particular social groups in the interests of certain development goals.

The affirmative action was first used in the United States in 1925, signed by President John F Kennedy on 6th March 1961, which included a provision that government contractors take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed and employees are treated during employment without regard to their race, creed, colour or national identification

There are two generations of affirmative actions in Ghana, the first generation affirmative action in Ghana are those implemented in the first republic to the end of the 70s ,whiles second generation of affirmative was implemented in the 80s.

The first Generation efforts mostly focused on regional differences and rural urban differences. Although there were some policies addressing gender inequalities in Politics. Whiles second generation affirmative action has mostly focused on Gender and rural urban differentials

The first generation affirmative action in Ghana included policies such as:

  • Reservation of seats for women (10 women in parliament)
  • Measures to promote participation of women in certain professions
  • Scholarships Schemes (Northern Ghana Scholarships),Cocoa marketing Board Scholarships
  • Free Education, Free text books and Uniforms
  • Targeted investment in infrastructure, education and health in some regions

The second generation affirmative action in Ghana included policies such as:

  • Girl Child policies
  • Lower cut-off points for girls in tertiary Education
  • Reserved places for students in deprived districts
  • Science clinics for Girls
  • Schools Meals in Certain Districts
  • Measures to ensure that 50% of appointed district assembly members are women

Ghana is a signatory to several international and regional frameworks that seek to increase the role of women in governance at all levels. Examples include the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), Beijing Platform for Action (BpfA), the Millennium Development Goals, and the Common Wealth Plan for Action and the Solemn Declaration of Gender Equality. As a demonstration of goodwill , Ghana has ratified these treaties without any reservations meaning it will employ all necessary means to achieve gender equality and eliminate discrimination against women ( Interrogating Affirmative Action as a strategy for increasing women’s participation in politics: The Rhetoric’s and the reality, Bernice Sam).

Despite measures to implement some affirmative action plans in Ghana, its implementation has often faced fierce criticisms. For example the New Patriotic Party was forced to reverse its decision to implement some parts of its bill, which sought to reserve some parliamentary seats for women following fierce resistance by its supporters (4th May 2015,

In 2015 a Muslim Nurse working at the Maamobi General Polyclinic was reportedly asked to go home for wearing her Hijab to work. In his annual State of the Nations Address, President John Dramani Mahama reiterated his commitment to Article 21 of the constitution which guarantees citizens the freedom of religion and freedom to express their religious belief. “It is wrong under our constitution for Muslim student to be compelled to attend church services or for Christian students to be compelled to attend Muslim congregational prayers”. He added that “it is also wrong to prevent Muslim women from wearing the hijab or Catholic Nuns from wearing their habits to work or school” (wed 4th March 2015,

A country such as Ghana and Africa at large needs stronger affirmative action plans to protect the rights of the vulnerable in our society especially women. This will go a long way to ensure that women who most often than not constitute the less marginalized in our society get a voice to contribute their quota to the economic development of our country and our continent at large. If Africa must develop the concept of affirmative action has to be taken seriously in order for this continent to eradicate the dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty.

Joseph Atchulo
[email protected]

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