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25.10.2005 Politics

Women end workshop on reform of electoral system

By GNA
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Accra, Oct. 25, GNA - A workshop on electoral reform has ended with another call for a reform of the electoral system to ensure women's participation in politics.

A workshop on women in Accra heard that the representation of women in political activities, such as contesting local and national elections, being part of political parties leadership, representation on public boards and active involvement in the formulation of national policy, remained woefully inadequate.

The workshop organised by the Leadership and Advocacy for Women in Africa (LAWA), which was attended by 40 participants drawn from the Southern Sector of the country, including government departments, civil society and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

Leading the discussions, Madam Sheila Minkah-Premo, Executive Council Member of LAWA, said women faced acts of discrimination in several spheres of life including public life particularly in political leadership even though several international human rights instruments prohibited it.

She stressed that under international law, Ghana was required to eliminate discriminations against women in political life and to ensure that women had the basic human rights to formulate government policy and hold public office on equal terms with men.

Madam Minkah-Premo said although Ghana's current electoral system and laws did not seek to discriminate against women, they had the effect of shutting women out of political power.

She suggested that this principle required the State to take affirmative action in order to eliminate conditions that perpetuated discrimination.

She said it was important for these laws to be looked at critically taking into consideration Ghana's international obligations and to review them by removing the discriminatory provisions and practices. "Nationally, Article 17(4)(a) of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana, also calls on the government to take affirmative action in areas where there is gender discrimination."

Ms Gloria Ofori-Boadu, President of Women's Assistance and Business Association, said 48 years after independence, the representation of women in Parliament was 25 out of the 230 members. This is only 10.4 per cent as against nine per cent in the 1997 and 2001 Parliaments. Ms Ofori-Boadu said women's representation on public boards, commissions, councils, committees and official bodies, including Cabinet and the Council of State, continues to hover around the traditional average of two per cent.

According to her, in the leadership of district assemblies, women District Chief Executives (DCEs) appointed by the President this year were only six per cent of the total number.

She said that in Ashanti Region, none of the 20 DCEs who were sworn into office in August was a female.

Ms Ofori-Boadu said despite the fact that the country now had the highest number of women Deputy Ministers and Ministers in history; there were no female Regional Ministers.

She listed some of the reasons for the low representation of women in political structures as education, finances, attitude of family and society, socialisation of women, their domestic role and marital status.

Participants proposed that Ghana should develop and implement as soon as possible a reform of the electoral system to ensure women's equal access to elected office on the same terms with men in equal numbers.

"Ghana must also adopt special measures to ensure these rights in the short term and must do so immediately." They also proposed a system of reserved seats for women under which Ghana should immediately set aside 30 per cent of seats in all elected bodies to which only women candidates could compete.

"This system should be implemented in government elections at all levels".

The Reserved Seats for Women Act is already being implemented at the Local Government level.

The LAWA has the primary goal of using law and legal strategies to promote the human rights of women in Ghana and Africa. Its major activities include submission of a draft Domestic Violence Bill, preparation of a mini-constitution to be available to the public and seminars on eradicating domestic violence. 25 Oct. 05

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