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Regional News Sat, 10 Mar 2012

Cultural beliefs hinders women from participating in active politics - Lawyer Minka

Madam Sheila Minka Premo, a Lawyer and Gender Advocate, has observed that some Ghanaian cultural beliefs and practices, hindered women from participating actively in politics.

She said “there are some negative socio-cultural practices and beliefs which constitutes barriers that militate against women aspiring to enter into politics. The patriarchal nature of Ghanaian societies relegates women into the background of community life.”

Lawyer Minka made this observation at a round table discussion dubbed “Affirmative Action and Women Participation in Politics” in Accra.

She said the perceptions that women should not seek higher positions, had also been reinforced by local sayings such as “a woman must be seen but not be heard” which implied that when a man was present, a woman should not speak publicly and “if a woman owns a gun it lays in a man’s room”, are all sayings which limited the extent to which a woman could go.

Lawyer Minka said although women constituted about 52 per cent of the population of Ghana, research had revealed that they were underrepresented in governance, decision making positions and other significant areas of the economy in Ghana.

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“Women do not fully participate in the formulation of government policies because there are few women in decision making positions and in government, to make any real impact. This situation is not good for the development of our nation, therefore, there is the need to find strategies to increase their numbers in party politics,” she added.

Lawyer Minka noted that the call for women participation in politics, connoted women inclusion in the whole string of the electoral processes stressing that, women should also be allowed to hold office within the legislature, and mobilised to go independent in situations where elections were rigged.

She said the gendered division of labour in the home over burdened women and left little room for the active participation in politics adding “restriction from husbands and partners, influence by family members and inequality at home” were challenges women faced in their quest to aspire for higher positions.

Lawyer Minka said discrimination against women in society especially at the office which demoralised women, lowered their self esteem and made them reluctant to aspire for leadership positions in politics adding that it was unfortunate that women who aspired for positions were given names.

“The nature of party politics in Ghana is too rough for a woman brought up to be respectful and gentle, to actively participate. Education on gender issues must be organised for men, women, youth, opinion leaders, and religious authorities,” she said.

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She said the fight for gender equality, should not be seen as a reversal of gender roles between men and women but as development for the positive and beneficial advancement of both groups adding that gender values should be part of the curriculum from kindergarten and basic level education, so that girls and boys would be influenced in their formative years.

Ms Hilary Gbedemah, Rector of the Law Institute, proposed the institution of an independent Commission to deal with obstacles associated with the fight for affirmative action in Ghana.

Ms Kathleen Addy, Outreach Coordinator for the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD), said current and past governments, had not delivered on their promise to appoint 40 per cent of women in governance, adding that women should not be contended with the position of Women’s Organiser in the various political parties.

Source: GNA