By Samuel Darko Appiah
The Mills/Mahama administration’s failure to pass into law two key bills designed to empower women dominated an all-female political debate held over the weekend.
Although government has repeatedly said it remained committed to the passage of the Property Rights of Spouses Bill and the Affirmative Action bill, representatives of the various political leaders said almost eight years in power, betrays such commitment.
The Property Rights of Spouses bill is designed to regulate property rights of spouses in accordance with article 22 of the 1992 constitution. The article provides that parliament shall enact a legislation to grant spouses access to property acquired jointly and an equitable distribution of such property.
The affirmative action bill also seeks to rectify discrimination on the basis of sex or gender. It provides for a 40 per cent representation and participation of women in governance, public positions of power and decision making.
The debate, which was organized by the African height foundation in collaboration with the Debate Society and Students’ Representative Council (SRC) of the KNUST, was the third in a row sponsored by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA).
Women political leaders were drawn from the New Patriotic Party (NPP), governing National Democratic Congress (NDC), Peoples National Convention (PNC) , Convention Peoples Party (CPP), and the Progressive Peoples Party (PPP).
The NPP’s parliamentary candidate for the Evalue Gwira constituency, Catherine Afeku said the best gift voter can give women was to vote out the ruling NDC.
“We still have not been able to pass affirmative action in eight years under the NDC. That’s because it is not a priority for this government. When we come to power, in two months, we will make sure affirmative action is a law. Women will be given equal footing in politics, in business, on boards. We are over 50% in this nation and we have a lot of competent women capable of leading”.
The governing NDC’ Debora Dugbartey was heckled by the audience throughout the debate. But the strong-willed Deborah dusted it off any time. She contended that the John Dramani Mahama Administration was committed to rolling out a progressive approach towards more women inclusion in governance.
“My party is encouraging women, giving them the resources and strengthening them. It’s a progressive policy where in the first term; we are increasing women participation in governance by fifteen per cent and then probably the next two years twenty per cent. It’s a gradual process and not something that can happen at once.”
The National Women’s Organiser of the CPP, Hajia Aisha Futa, however, proposed a rather aggressive approach to getting the affirmative action bill passed.
“Irrespective of the political colouring, we are all women so let’s come out and fight together for our rights. We can come together and say if the affirmative action is not passed, women are not going to vote in Ghana again,” Hajia charged.
The PNC which was represented by its national women’s organiser Janet Nabla gave assurances her party would pass the two bills within six months in office. She, however, said the Corporate World must also accept part of the blame for what she described as discriminatory approach towards employment.
The PPP’s National Women’s Coordinator Mrs. Vivian Kakie Tetteh drew attention to the number of women with disabilities whose equal right to governance and employment have been curtailed with little attention brought to it.
The participants also decried the state of unemployment among the youth. However, NDC’s Deborah expressed disagreement with the suggestion of mass youth unemployment. She said the Mahama administration has created enough jobs. It was rather that many of those complaining about lack of jobs lack the right qualifications.
The debaters also discussed the quality of education and the need to pay attention to technical and vocational training. Each party promised a better deal for women and the youth when voted or retained in power.