More women for next Parliament? (October 28, 2016)
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At least 35-40 women contesting the election on the ticket of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) are likely to make it to the next Parliament to be inaugurated on January 7, 2017.
According to projections by the Department of Political Science of the University of Ghana, factors including contesting in the strongholds of the two major parties— Volta Region for the NDC and the Ashanti Region for the NPP, contesting long-term seats held by the two parties outside the two regions, swing seats where women are contesting on the tickets of the two parties/constituencies of potential upsets put the female candidates in a position to grab the seats.
The forecast represents a slight increase in the country’s number of female Members (MPs) from the current 31, but represents 11.3 per cent of the parliamentary seats for women and falls short of the 30 per cent activists at the Beijing Conference of 1995 deemed satisfactory.
The breakdown of the predictions presented by a Senior Lecturer of the Department of Political Science of the University of Ghana, Mr Alex K.D. Frempong, indicated that the Volta and Ashanti regions, which are strongholds of the two major parties, are likely to produce 10 female MPs and 19 seats could be won by women contesting long-term seats held by the two parties outside the Ashanti And Volta regions.
For swing seats where women are contesting on the tickets of the two parties/constituencies of potential upsets, while the NPP has eight potential female upsets spread across six regions—Brong Ahafo(1), Central(3), Eastern(1), Greater Accra(1), Northern (1) and Western (1), the NDC, on the other hand, has six potential candidates that can win seats in three regions—Central (1), Eastern (3) and Greater Accra (2).
He, however, fell short of mentioning specific constituencies.
The African example
At a roundtable on the 2016 general election organised by the department, Mr Frempong said the country had a lot to learn from other African countries, including Rwanda, Seychelles, Senegal, Namibia, Mozambique and Uganda, so far as women representation in Parliament was concerned.
Four of the countries with the highest proportion of female parliamentary representation are on the continent—Rwanda, Seychelles, Senegal and South Africa, and 12 African countries, including Namibia, Mozambique and Uganda, are said to have crossed the 30 per cent threshold with five of them more than 40 per cent.
Supported by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA), the conference brought together political scientists and students to present papers and discuss pertinent electoral issues; different political parties, presidential candidates and their political platforms, the 2016 election stake for Ghanaian youth and the role of gender in the 2016 general election.
According to experts, in Ghana, a number of factors, including tradition and culture, women’s low self-esteem and self-confidence, verbal and psychological attacks, women’s multiple roles, low socio-economic status, unfavourable electoral system and lack of affirmative action policies, are responsible for low female representation in the country’s legislative arm of government.
Curbing the trend
To curb the trend, Mr Frempong suggested that a quota or proportional representation systems could be done to increase the number of female MPs without necessarily increasing the number of seats in Parliament from the current 275.
“Advocacy for improved female representation should be persistent and all-year-round and not restricted to the election years”, he said.
While admitting to the Daily Graphic that increasing the number of females in Parliament may not necessarily increase advocacy on women issues, he added that, it was important to give the female population a chance to speak for themselves.
“The 30 per cent Beijing quota talks about the critical mass. If the women are to have any influence at all, it has to be a considerable number of them. If you have 10 or 20 out of 275 MPs, the voice is covered by those of the men, so we need the 30 per cent to at least give them some voice.”