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08.03.2006 General News

Ghana is still under the 30 per cent benchmark


Accra, March 8, GNA - Hajia Alima Mahama, Minister of Women and Children's Affairs on Wednesday said Ghana had not reached the 30 per cent benchmark targeted by the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action for women participation in public decision-making. She said though the progress was slow it was heart warming that female heads had been appointed to steer affairs of strategic institutions in the country's national development agenda. Hajia Mahama was speaking at a seminar to mark International Women's Day under the theme: 'Women in Decision-Making: Meeting Challenges; Creating Change.'

The day set aside by the UN is for Member States to review the progress achieved in the implementation of the various conventions and treaties signed in respect of women's advancement.

Hajia Mahama said to give meaning to the theme, the MOWAC and the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development in collaboration with civil society and National Association of Local Authorities of Ghana would launch a women local government fund to encourage and assist women contesting in the district assembly elections with financial incentives and capacity building.

"Our initial target is four billion cedis and we hope to get 2,000 women and 2,000 men to contribute one million cedis each into the fund." The Minister said though male dominance was the order of the day in society women contributed significantly to the socio-economic progress of this world and were making enormous strides in different fields, adding that it was in recognition of their contribution that the day had been set aside by the UN.

She noted that the 50th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women recently reaffirmed the Beijing Declaration and PFA on women in decision-making, which emphasized that without active participation of women and the incorporation of women's perspective at all levels of decision-making the goals of equality, development and peace could not be achieved.

That women's equal participation was a necessary condition for women's interest to be taken into account and was needed to strengthen democracy and promote its proper functioning.

Hajia Mahama said in Ghana a number of policies and programmes had been initiated towards the advancement of women and gender equality yet there still existed gender inequalities.

These programmes have been hindered by lack of training and advocacy, human and financial resources, skewed public perception and appreciation of women in public life and certain societal norms and women's own misgivings about participation in public decision-making. Hajia Mahama said there were few women in decision-making structures and they were therefore faced with challenges but when they overcame the barriers and got to position of decision-making they initiated change.

The Minister, however, noted that Africa had shown the way at the continental level through the African Union Consultative Act, which had mandated a 50 per cent representation of women commissioners. The First President of African Parliament based in South Africa was a woman, Mrs Gertrude Mangella and First African Woman President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia.

She called for the creation of the necessary environment for both women and men to participate productively in society that meant attaining a basic quality of life and having the capacity to take advantage of opportunities in the system.

This meant the adopting of appropriate legislation and policies to protect women and girls, strengthening and enforcing existing laws and doing away with traditional practices and cultures that militated against women's progress in general.

She stressed that the low proportion of women among economic and political decision-makers at the local, regional, national and international levels was reflective of the structural and attitudinal barriers that needed to be addressed through positive measures.

Busumuru Kofi Annan, UN Secretary General, in a message read for him, said there were achievements to celebrate around the world citing for example, in January the proportion of women in national parliaments reached a new global high with 11 women Heads of State. Three countries namely, Chile, Spain, and Sweden now have gender parity in government.

"But we have far, far more to do. Let us remember that in individual countries the increase in the number of women in decision-making had not happened by it self, rather it was often the result of institutional and electoral initiatives such as the adoption of goals and quotas, political party commitments and sustained mobilization.

"It is also the result of targeted and concerted measures to improve the balance between life and work, those are the lessons every nation and the United Nations need to take very seriously."