SPECIAL GENDER SENSITIVE AND WOMEN FOCUSED ELECTION OBSERVATION PROJECT IN THE CONTEXT OF GHANA’S ELECTION 2016
August – December, 2016
Developing countries have increasingly embraced the principle of democracy as the best form of government and a critical means of conflict prevention, management and resolution as well as peace consolidation. In many of these countries the tenets of multiparty politics, citizens’ right to vote and be voted for are all guaranteed in the national constitutions. Periodic elections as the mainstay of the democratic process have become fairly ‘routine’ with many countries, including those emerging from violent conflict preferring the ballot box as the more acceptable means for facilitating representation, participation and alternation of power. The prospects of democracy in Africa also look increasingly promising as more countries resort to multiparty elections as the means of choice for soliciting and conferring power rather than the use of the gun. The importance ascribed to elections in the democratic process is based in part on its potential to facilitate opportunities for all segments in society to be represented. Elections are a means by which to guarantee men, women, minorities, majorities, the affluent and the dispossessed are represented in governance and other public institutions.
Elections are also considered as providing one of the best opportunities for women to be heard and their interests and concerns addressed. Women’s greater access, representation and participation in the politics and governance will ensure that their potentials and perspectives are brought to bear the democratic process and thereby maximising the benefits thereof.
WOMEN IN POLITICS
Women’s participation in politics can lead to tangible gains for democracy, particularly in terms of greater responsiveness to citizen needs, increased cooperation that transcends partisanship and ethnicity. Having more women in politics will help to advance gender equality and ensure greater accountability the interests and concerns of all sections of society. Evidence shows that women’s election to office often leads to increase in “policy making that emphasises quality of life and reflects the priorities of families, women, and ethnic and racial minorities. Women’s political participation has profound positive and democratic impacts on communities, legislatures, political parties and citizen’s lives...” Facilitating opportunities for more women to contest for and be elected into office is essentially creating a platform for democracy to effectively deliver.
Women’s empowerment has the potential of positively impacting the standard of living and sustainability of the development process itself. Their presence ensures greater accountability to women’s concerns and those of other disadvantaged groups in policy and action. Women tend to embody democratic values in their leadership and conflict resolution styles and exhibit deep commitment to peacebuilding, particularly in post conflict situations. Government to women lawmakers is a means for ensuring that underrepresented and disadvantaged groups’ interests are attended to and this may account for the perception of women legislators’ sensitivity to community concerns and the needs of their constituencies.
Even with the overwhelming evidence of the benefit of women’s greater access, representation and participation in politics and governance, with the exception of the Nordic countries and others like Rwanda, women are still a negligible minority in these spheres. They are underrepresented in virtually all national legislative bodies. Various analyses indicate that women represent less than 20% of legislators, a proportion that falls far less than the 30 percent stipulated by the United Nations Development as the minimum representation required for women as a group in order to meaningfully impact legislation.
WOMEN’S PARTICIPATION IN POLITICS AND ELECTIONS IN GHANA
As one of the countries that ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Ghana has over the last few decades put in place structures to help ensure that women have equal advantage, relative to men in the country. There is in principle equal access for females and males in terms of education, employment and commerce. Women in Ghana over the years have risen to top level positions, including those of Supreme Court justices, Attorney General, university professors & vice chancellors, ministers of state, and more recently as permanent representative to the UN and a chair of the Electoral Commission among others. Ghana is one of several countries in Africa to have acted on the UNSCR 1325 and formulated an action plan – GHANAP 1325 to facilitate mechanisms for women’s greater access and participation in governance and peace processes. Ghana also boasts of having had her first female Speaker of Parliament, elected in January 2009.
This seemingly progressive pattern of women’s participation however belies the persistent systemic and structural factors that continue to inhibit women’s advancement and gender equity in Ghana. In fact, viewed from the perspective of women’s participation in politics and access to elective office, women appear to be losing rather than gaining grounds. Some analyses of women’s representation in parliament since independence show that the percentage of women parliamentarians is lower in the 4th republic than in the first. For example, whereas in the first republic women accounted for an estimated 20% of the parliamentary seats, they make up only 9% in the current parliament, reflecting a further drop from 11% in the previous parliament. The reasons for the low level of female representation may be partly due to the patriarchal social structures that insist on assigning women to the private and domestic sphere while the political and public sphere remain the preserve of men. The leadership of one the main political parties – the New Patriotic Party (NPP) attempted an overture to women sometime in 2015 by announcing automatic candidacy for incumbent female parliamentarians. This overture was very short lived because of opposition from within the party itself. As a result, some current female MPs have lost the opportunity to stand in the 2016 elections as the party’s parliamentary candidates. This development can have implications for women’s prospects in the forthcoming elections in particular and for their participation in politics in general.
GENDER SENSITIVE ELECTION OBSERVATION PROJECT
To help gain a better insight into the dynamics and factors that account for the relative absence of women from electoral politics and the low level of their representation in parliament, the KAIPTC, under the auspices of the Women, Peace and Security Institute (WPSI) will initiate a special election observation project to help track and observe how female parliamentary candidates in Ghana fare over the course of the 2016 electoral cycle.
The project will be executed in three phases. The Phase One will comprise a three-day election observation training workshop that will target grass root participants from selected constituencies in which the two main political parties – the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party are fielding women as parliamentary candidates. The project will be executed by the WPSI within the framework of the Women, Peace and Security Communication Network (WPS CommNet), an outreach platform of the Institute to promote support for women’s greater participation in leadership, governance and peace processes in contribution towards the full implementation of UNSCR 1325 and related resolutions on women’s empowerment. The training will lay a special emphasis on long-term gender sensitive; women focused election observation to help assess how female parliamentary candidates fare in the 2016 electoral cycle.
Phase Two, following the training, the pool of participants will be deployed as long-term domestic election observers, based on the special long-term domestic observation action plan to be formulated as part of the workshop. Participants will be deployed to their various constituencies of residence to observe the electioneering programs and activities of the female parliamentary candidates. The goal is for the second phase to run from mid August to the end of October. The third and Final Phase will be to observe the actual elections on Election Day and the period between the elections and the inauguration of the new parliament. The final phase will require accreditation from the Electoral Commission and there are plans to secure the necessary accreditation.
MEDIA CAMPAIGN IN SUPPORT OF FEMALE PARLIAMENTARY CANDIDATES
In order to help raise public interest and awareness of the importance of increased female representation in the country’s legislature, there will be a series of radio and television messages as well as newspaper publications/adverts urging the electorate to support women’s candidacy for parliament. This will be carried out within the framework of the WPS CommNet, with the media representatives in the Network providing support and expertise in the development and running of these messages.
The overall objective of the project is to facilitate support for women’s greater representation in the country’s legislative governance. The training and observation program will help to enhance understanding of the dynamics at play and the factors that have implications for women’s opportunities in electoral politics in Ghana. The aim is to build the capacity of grassroots women from the local communities and constituencies in which females are running for parliament and equip them with the skills necessary to effectively undertake a gender sensitive and women focused election observation. The outcome of the observation, both long (2-3 month) and short-term within the context of election 2016 will inform advocacy for policy and action aimed at promoting women’s greater access and representation in electoral politics in Ghana.s
The WPSI is an institutional platform established with the primary objective of supporting the full implementation of Resolution 1325 and related resolutions on women’s greater representation and participation within the African context. The institute functions as a mechanism for the expansion of technical capacity through training, research on women, peace and security at the national, regional and continental level. The proposed gender sensitive and women focused election observation project is part of the Institute’s initiatives at the national level to promote support for the women’s agenda. Facilitating a gender sensitive, women focused election observation project in the context of the 2016 elections in Ghana should contribute to ongoing efforts at boosting support for the women’s agenda at the national level. The project will also contribute to a better understanding of the factors and dynamics that affect women’s political participation while helping to identify the gaps and challenges that have implications for their success or otherwise in the political and public spheres.
The program will target members of the Women, Peace and Security Communication Network (WPS CommNet) and civil society organizations from the grass roots. Participant selection and identification will be such as to represent a number of the constituencies in which female candidates are running for parliament. Women will form the bulk of the participants with male members of CommNet also participating.
The training workshop is expected to help build the capacity of participants who will be constituted into a special election observation pool to observe and report on the electioneering efforts and achievements of female parliamentary candidates in the course of the 2016 electoral cycle. Both the long and short term observation missions will help to shed more light on the dynamics at play and the factors that affect female participation in electoral politics in Ghana. The insight gained from such a project should help to inform policy and action with respect to efforts at increasing women’s political participation. It can also inform advocacy initiatives aimed at supporting the women’s agenda, i.e. their increased participation in governance and decision making.