A GNA feature by Fatima Anafu–Astanga
Bolgatanga, Aug. 31, GNA - The call for women to be equal partners in the democratic process of Ghana cannot be over-looked.
Women are noted to be effective in promoting honest government; committed to promoting national and local policies that address the socio-economic and political challenges facing, children and other disadvantaged groups.
When women join hands with men in building structures of democracy the benefits are overwhelming.
However, the involvement of women in making decisions that could promote the wellbeing of people around them is low, especially in governance.
Women globally find themselves in daunting social, economic and political challenges ranging from personal attacks for being a woman, and in some cases because they are unmarried.
In some communities cultural barriers give men more opportunities than women and stories of elders in communities insisting that a woman should step aside for a male contestant is not uncommon.
The forthcoming District Level Election (DLE) is a case in point where women have to be supported to be part of the District Assemblies.
It is crucial and the call for high participation of women culminates from the fact that women participation in local level governance is low despite voter education by institutions both local and international on need to elect women into the District Assembly elections.
In Ghana women participation in decision making at local government level remain low and this is a worrying factor as the district assembly elections and unit level elections approaches.
National gender statistics from the Electoral Commission (EC) puts women at an advantage as statistics indicate that women form 51.30 per cent representing 7,581,772 out of a total voter population of 14,779,471 nationwide but only a small number of these women are involved in local governance.
In the last five District Assembly elections held in Ghana- 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006 and 2010, women participation remained low. In the 2002’s DLE, out of 7,700 assembly members of 110 District Assemblies only five per cent were women.
Specifically in the 2010 DLE, from nine districts in the Upper East Region, 23 women out of a total of 396 contestants were voted to the assemblies.
For the impending elections, there are 6,156 electoral areas some with unit committees as against the previous 5,000 electoral areas in the last DLE and more than 30,000 people are expected to be elected for the unit committees (five each to a unit committee) nationwide and these numbers should provide a platform for more women to be voted into the assemblies.
In the Region for instance a total of 2,187 contestants have filed their nominations to contest in the forthcoming DLEs from the 353 electoral areas, out of which 199 are women.
The figure though low is a slight increase from the 1,932 recorded in the botched elections now rescheduled where women were 191.
However, 1,766 men and 421 females are also contesting in the Unit Committee Level Elections out of which 169 are contested units, 178 uncontested units with zero nominations totalling seven in the 353 electoral areas, according to the EC.
Meanwhile, the Regional gender breakdown indicates that out of a total of 594,765 voter population, 326,779 representing 54.94 per cent are women.
The nomination statistics indicate that out of 58 contestants in the Bawku East District, no female filed a nomination, while seven women out of 100 contestants would rob shoulders at the unit level elections in the DLE.
In the Pusiga District, two women were nominated to contest with 49 men at the DLE and only one at the unit level while in the Nabdam District, one female would contest with 32 men in the DLE.
In the Binduri District, two women will contest against 37 men, whilst four would contest against 97 in the unit level; and in Talensi, five women against 13 men District Assembly elections and in the unit level 13 women are standing against 54 men.
This situation may not be different in the other districts and the call to ensure increased empowerment for women to go to the assemblies and push the needed development to communities and nation is commendable.
Madam Fati Musah, an appointed Assemblywoman in the current Bawku Municipal Assembly, who is serving her second term, in an interview with the GNA said women’s role in the assemblies was vital not only because they served their communities but gave them opportunities to serve the nation.
On the low level of women participation in the area, she explained that the lack of interest, late notices, incumbents’ refusal to give opportunities to others to try, and especially male incumbents who rush to solicit for support and endorsement from the electorate before the women take any action as some of the challenges hindering female participation.
She said any effort by women to contest in areas where men are incumbent usually creates problems.
She called for increased sensitisation of the public to get more women into the District Assemblies saying “if you perform inadequately, you will fail to get the people’s nod another time”.
Madam Musah wished all contestants good luck and urged the voting public to vote massively for women.
Why Voting for women is critical this time
Voting for women is a wise decision to make since they are a force to reckon with. Women are strongly linked to positive developments in their communities and they should be encouraged and empowered to become strong politicians, assembly women, community leaders and activists.
Where rates of gender development and empowerment are higher, human rates of development and standards of living are also higher.
Over the years, voter turn-outs has been a source of worry since that plays an important role in determining a contestant’s performance at the elections.
Mr Amadu Sulley, Deputy Commissioner of the EC, in a recent meeting at Bolgatanga said turn-outs recorded in district assembly elections have been low, despite huge costs incurred in the preparation and sensitisation of the electorates.
“In order to place a woman of your choice at the Assembly, all citizens have to vote because it is in doing so that you put the contestant at an advantage”, he said.
According to the Deputy EC Chairman, before the inception of the 1992 Constitution, the country recorded less than 40 per cent, and in all five elections held after, the highest voter turnout was recorded in1998 with 41.6 per cent and 35.27 per cent in 2010.
Mr Sulley said this during a presentation on the legal framework of the EC, laying emphasis on Act 462 and 473 which was later amended in 2010 by Act 801 on the conduct of DLE and CI 89 that combined activities of District assembly elections and unit committee elections and modalities of DLEs and how candidates should contest at the election.
The CI 89 makes it clear how candidates should contest and therefore no registered political party should support a candidate or carry party colors and slogans on the Election Day or face sanctions when caught.