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Mr. Edward Doe Ajaho, First Deputy Speaker of Parliament, on Tuesday called for a constitutional amendment and public policy restructuring.

"Ghana and African countries must endeavour to bridge the gap currently existing between men and women in terms of representation in our body politics.

"This calls for constitutional amendments in Ghana but this price is not too high for the correction of social injustice," he said.
Mr. Ajaho was speaking at the opening of a two-day regional discussion by political parties from some African countries in Accra. The forum, organised by International Institute of Democratic and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), was on the theme: "The Role of Political Parties in Democracy Building: The Gender Challenge".

It is being attended by about 70 participants, comprising mainly Chairpersons, General Secretaries and Women Organisers of political parties.

The forum is expected to produce benchmarks for intra-party democracy and develop an information kit on how political parties could achieve gender equality.

Available statistics showed that women constituted about 51 per cent of Ghana's population and yet, out of 279 top political positions in the country, only 49 are occupied by women.

Mr. Ajaho noted that in Ghana, the discourse on gender equity was in danger of becoming reductionist, formal and elitist, saying that there seemed to be a drift towards a quota system as a means for increased representation for women in political positions.

"Advocates of gender equality are habitually calling for increased representation of women in Parliament and sub-regional representative bodies as well as appointments by government into public office," he said.

Recently, political party leaders agreed to a quota system of representation and appointments to public office.

Mr. Ajaho said even though those initiatives could be significant landmarks, if achieved, they were based on 'flawed assumptions' that increased representation in elective and appointive positions that solved the gender question.

"This position misunderstands the gender question, which is about equality and justice - to solve this problem of equality and justice for women requires a complete reconfiguration of public policy structure and process in a manner that will reflect the rights aspirations of women equally with those of men," he said.

Mr. Ajaho called on the political parties to transcend the narrow view of the gender question, reconstruct gender relations to ensure a new structure and corresponding processes that upheld the principles of equality and justice.

He said such a move would ensure checks and balance, wider representation of society in political parties and also that decision-making rules assigned equal weight to the whole instead of to just part of the party.

Ms. Akua Sena Dansua, Minister of Women and Children's Affairs, said only 20 out of 230 Members of Ghana's Parliament were women; eight out of 37 Ministers of State; three out of 23 Members of the Council of State; 12 out of 164 Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executive and six out of 25 Chief Directors.

She noted that given that women constituted 51 per cent of the Ghanaian population and said there was the need to implement the 1998 Affirmative Action Policy, which granted that women be given 40 per cent representation on all government and public boards, commissions, councils, committees, and official bodies, including Cabinet and the Council of State.

Ms. Dansua insisted that the quota system was necessary to enhance women's inclusion in democratic governance, saying that allocation of safe parliamentary seat to women, provision of financial and logistical support for political campaign for female candidates were also crucial.

She called for a database of women with leadership potential, from which women leaders would be selected and supported, grooming of female students at tertiary level into leadership, and the encouragement of women to contest political positions at district and national levels.

Mr. Theophilus Dowetin, Programme Manager of IDEA noted that the quota system was necessary to create a level playing field ahead of the equality and justice.

He said invitations and several reminders were sent to all political parties in Ghana, "but it seems they have sent all their leaders to Chereponi for the by-elections."

Mr. Dowetin told GNA that out of the expected 70 top position holders in political parties, only a woman held the position of a General Secretary of a political party in a Central African country. None of the top political party leaders, except Mr. T.N. Ward Brew of the Democratic People's Party, was at the forum.
Source: GNA

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