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IRI Gender Assessment Reveals Shortcomings in Ghana’s Political Environment for Women

November 11, 2016

Accra, Ghana—This week IRI completed the first part of a two-phase examination of gender inclusion in Ghana’s electoral and political framework, in advance of Ghana’s general elections on December 7. The preliminary results of this assessment, conducted by a group of high-level African and North American stakeholders, indicate significant barriers in the political environment as it relates to women in Ghana.

“The delegation commends the Government of Ghana for appointing women in key executive positions and taking a step towards addressing women’s historical marginalization,” said IRI’s Regional Director for Africa John Tomaszewski. “However, our assessment of the pre-election environment indicates that women remain underrepresented in Ghanaian politics. We are encouraged by the civil society organizations that have supported and implemented programs to enhance women’s leadership opportunities, and we encourage politicians to take proactive steps along these lines to improve women’s political participation.”

Findings

  • While the government and civil society have taken steps towards improving the status of women in Ghana, women remain underrepresented in decision-making and political structures in the country.
  • In recent years, neither the number of women candidates nor parliamentarians has increased, and in some cases has trended downwards. Efforts to improve the quantity and capacities of women aspiring for office were undertaken very late in the current electoral cycle.
  • The media has played a role in shaping voter attitudes towards candidates throughout the pre-election period. The delegation notes with concern that some media content has denigrated women leaders, candidates, voters and issues of concern to women.
  • Neither men nor women in Ghana have fully appreciate the potential of women as leaders, and remain skeptical about their role in public life.   
  • There are numerous initiatives underway to use social media to report harassment, intimidation and incidents of violence during elections. However, the extent to which women have been able to access and utilize these platforms is unclear.
  • Political parties have taken some steps to encourage and support women candidates, but significant disparities in opportunities remain.
  • Political party manifestoes contain proposals to address women’s issues. The methods for developing manifestoes differ from party to party, but are not generally conducted through a consultative process. In addition, little effort has been made to educate the electorate about these policy proposals, which has undermined political accountability.

Recommendations

  • Political parties should ensure that the manifesto development process is consultative to enable the participation of different interest groups—including women— and encourage a process whereby issues of importance to these groups are addressed through policy proposals.
  • Following the December elections, Ghanaian civil society and political actors should commit to mentoring, training, supporting and encouraging women to join political parties to increase the number of women candidates, and ultimately parliamentarians.
  • Civil society organizations and development partners should invest in projects that increase the capacity of women candidates to run issue-based, competitive campaigns.
  • Politicians should support capacity-building programs to ensure women parliamentarians are able to fulfill their legislative responsibilities while serving as effective representatives and role models.
  • Media outlets should prioritize gender-sensitive training for both men and women journalists.

Delegates

Mooya Nyaundi: Staff Attorney for Sub-Saharan Africa, American Bar Association Center for Human Rights
Olufunke Baruwa: CEO, Nigerian Women’s Trust Fund
Dr. Jenny Okello: Commissioner, Electoral Commission, Uganda
Dr. Pindi Chana: Secretary Political and International Affairs, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), Tanzania
Robina Namusisi: Resident Program Director, IRI Tanzania
Hellen Muchunu: Program Manager, IRI Kenya
Jacob Price: Program Assistant, IRI Africa Division

Background

This assessment was undertaken as part of a pre-election assessment project supported by the National Endowment for Democracy. The project began in August with a joint Pre-Election Assessment Mission in partnership with the National Democratic Institute. IRI also partnered with 72 Africa to host a peace summit in Tamale to promote interfaith dialogue and support proactive measures to promote communal peace.

This gender assessment was initiated in response to findings from the pre-election assessment mission, where delegates expressed concern regarding several high-profile gender-based attacks on women’s political and electoral participation, and Ghanaian stakeholders shared fears that the election outcome would not be representative of the overall population. The methodological approach of the assessment focused on understanding cultural attitudes towards gender equality; coverage of women candidates in the media; and the impact of socio-economic factors and the legal and administrative framework on women’s participation in political processes.

As part of the second phase of the gender assessment, IRI will deploy observers on Election Day to collect data on women’s electoral participation. This will form the basis of a final report analyzing women’s participation throughout the process, and provide additional recommendations for increasing inclusiveness.

The delegation thanks the following stakeholders for sharing their views: the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection; women presidential and parliamentary candidates; political party leaders; civil society organizations; media representatives; religious and traditional leaders; and development organizations.

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