Affirmative action means positive steps taken to eliminate discrimination, whether in employment, housing, or education and also to redress the effects of past discrimination. It is also meant to increase the representation of women and minorities in areas of employment, education, and business from which they have been historically excluded.
In 1972, affirmative action became an inflammatory public issue to promote the principle of equal opportunity, which holds that all persons have the right to equal access to self-development. In other words, persons with equal abilities should have equal opportunities. Historically, however, this has not been the case as those in power have kept opportunities for themselves and those similar to them, with the result that minorities and others not of the ruling class have experienced limited opportunities.
Affirmative action is thus the attempt to rectify this situation by mandating opportunities to be made available to those distinguished by their minority or under-represented status. Some groups who are targeted for affirmative action are characterised by gender, ethnicity, or disability status.
The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination Against Women stipulates (in Article 2.2) that affirmative action programmes may be required of states that have ratified the convention, in order to rectify systematic discrimination. It states, however, that such programmes "shall in no case entail as a consequence the maintenance of unequal or separate rights for different racial groups after the objectives for which they were taken have been achieved."
Ghana has began the process for the passage of the Affirmative Action Bill into law and civil society organisations (CSOs) have called on government to speed-up the process to encourage more women�s participation in the decision making process.
The CSOs made up of the Regional Inter-sectoral Gender Network (RISEGNET), ActionAid Ghana (AAG), Past and Present Assembly Women Association, queenmothers, and women heads of department, made the call in a communiqu� at the end of a public durbar held in Bolgatanga on Tuesday.
The durbar which was organised by RISEGNET and sponsored by AAG attracted about 150 participants. It was on the theme: �Advocacy for the Passage of the Affirmative Action Bill into Law.�
The CSOs argued that women�s participation and representation in decision-making was a right recognised under the charter on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Protocol of African Charter on Human Rights of which Ghana was a signatory.
The Chairman of RISEGNET, Mr Daud James Abang-Gos impressed upon government to take a cue from Rwanda where the authorities gave more quota to women, which led to more women parliamentarians and political appointees.
He stated that since independence no woman had ever headed the Upper Region now Upper East Region, spanning over seven successive governments.
He said no woman had also ever represented the region as a Council of State Member.
�As of now we have 23 elected assembly women as against 353 men elected in the region. Out of a total number of 153 government appointees to the various assemblies in the region 43 are women as against 110 male appointees.
�The region has a total of 529 assembly persons, only 66 are women both elected and appointed while the men are 463. All these negative practices are not only affecting the development of women but the entire national development as a whole�, the Chairman of RISEGNET stated.
The Programme Manager of AAG, Mr James Kusi Boama, mentioned marginalisation of women in leadership positions, violence against women and negative cultural practices such as widowhood rites and female genital mutilation as some of the factors that violate fundamental human rights of women.
He noted that it was only when the Affirmative Action Bill was passed into law that some of the challenges confronting women could be addressed.
He appealed to women to inculcate positive values in the girl-child so as to empower them to develop good potentials.
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