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Gender Advocates raise alarm over prolonged delay in passage of Affirmative Action Bill

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Gender advocate Ms. Tangoba Abayage has expressed concern about the continuous delay in the passage of the Affirmative Action Bill. Ms. Abayage, who also served as the former Upper East Regional Minister, surmises that the delay in passing the Bill may be due to the threat some feel when new measures are introduced. She questions, “How will it affect us men? Would we still be able to be men? We are a machismo kind of society where men rule it all. That could be the reason.”

Speaking to this website, Ms. Abayage explained that the delay means there is no law mandating governments and political parties to ensure women’s representation in decision-making spaces. According to Ms. Abayage, the Bill must be given top priority because “It is a wide and varied bill that is lying there, and the importance of that bill cannot be overstated.”

While the country grapples with the passage of the Affirmative Action Bill, Ms. Tangoba Abayage called for strong family and social support for women participating in elections at the district, regional, or national levels.

“The basic word we should consider is encourage. Many women are afraid because they have seen other women being attacked. Most families would not allow women to venture into politics because they have seen what other women have gone through. First of all, we must try as a society to stop the behavior we have, right from the basic level. Also, we must support women financially when they decide to contest for these positions.”

Ms. Abayage is not alone in her frustrations over the passage of the Affirmative Action Bill. Raymond Ayinne, another Gender Advocate and External Affairs Manager of Afrikids, said, “the only reason this is taking too long could be due to the fact that this does not affect men as much as it does women. It’s also a fact that men have the largest representation in parliament and potentially feel the bill will disrupt male dominance in the near future. Another reason is the lack of concerted pressure from women groups to have the bill passed into law, as they stand to gain from its passage. They need to be more proactive.”

It would be recalled that Speaker of Parliament, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, stated that Parliament will not pass the Affirmative Action (Gender Equality) Bill under a certificate of urgency. He noted that the Affirmative Action Bill was a critical one, which required input from all stakeholders to enable the House to come out with a good law for the country.

Speaker Bagbin made the remarks in his address at the Speaker’s Breakfast Forum in Accra, on the theme “Thirty Years of Parliamentary Democracy under the Fourth Republic: Reflections on Citizens’ Engagement and the Way Forward.”

The Forum, organized by Parliament and the Office of the Speaker in collaboration with STAR Ghana, seeks to consolidate the relationship between Parliament and civil society organizations (CSOs) and to explore new ways of working together for accountable governance.

The Speaker indicated that in the 2024 Budget Statement and Economic Policy of the Government, which was presented to the House on November 15, one could see the arms of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in many decisions in the budget.

“And a critical Bill like the Affirmative Action (Gender Equality) Bill has come to Parliament under the certificate of urgency; please, it won’t happen. We won’t pass it under a certificate of urgency,” he stated.

“There are critical stakeholders we must consult and make sure we go together; we will not be dictated to by the IMF. That one, you can be sure, not this Bill.”

He said the Bill was a critical Bill, which the IMF itself should know that Parliament needed the inputs of stakeholders to be able to implement it.

“The IMF should know that the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) has fixed 2040 for all Parliaments in the world to reach gender parity. The IPU calls for embedding gender parity in constitutions and legal frameworks and setting out in the legal framework a 50 per cent women’s representation in parliament and government as an objective to be attained by member States.

But Mr. Ayinne, Gender Advocate, is convinced that the Speaker’s comments, while true, could also suggest that Parliament is particularly comfortable with male domination.

“Speaker’s insistence is based on his reaction to what is perceived as the IMF’s ploy that is seeking to make critical landmark changes through insisting that certain things happen before they can bail us out. He thinks the bill to be passed under a certificate of urgency will mean that it will not receive proper scrutiny and broad consultation before it’s passed. All of these are right; however, it appears that the male majority-led state apparatus has hijacked the state and wants to continue to dominate it.”

The Affirmative Action Bill in Ghana is a proposed temporary measure aimed at addressing historical gender imbalances by promoting women’s participation and representation in decision-making spaces. Despite Ghana’s independence since 1957, women’s representation in ministerial, parliamentary, and other sectors has remained low, ranging from 5% to 18%. The bill is grounded in international conventions and constitutional provisions, such as Article 17(4) (a) of the 1992 Constitution, allowing Parliament to enact legislation for gender equality.

The process began with nationwide public consultations in 2011, leading to the formation of a National Technical Committee and subsequent drafting of the bill. While the bill received Cabinet approval in 2016, it wasn’t tabled in Parliament before the end of the 6th Parliament of the Fourth Republic. Subsequent efforts involved engagements, reviews, and submissions, with civil society organizations actively advocating for its passage. The bill aims to ensure equitable gender representation in the public service, ministerial positions, constitutional bodies, state institutions, security services, and political parties.

The passing of the Affirmative Action Bill is seen as crucial for promoting democracy, inclusion, and good governance in Ghana, aligning with successful strategies implemented in other African countries. The bill is expected to address social and economic imbalances and requires the government to ensure gender representation at all levels. ABANTU and its coalition partners are actively involved in advocacy efforts to raise awareness, educate the public, and garner support for the bill, emphasizing its importance as a social justice vehicle for fairness and equality, rather than preferential treatment. The initiative involves tracking and monitoring progress toward the bill’s passage into law.

The posturing of the Speaker, particularly, could have some dire consequences, particularly as Ghana needs the second tranche of the money from the IMF to stimulate proper economic growth.

Dominic Anarigide analyzed the economic consequences and explained that any actions that affect Ghana’s ability to access funds from the IMF could mean further depreciation in the cedi.

Additionally, if Ghana is unable to meet certain conditions demanded by the Fund, which would include the passage of some bills into law, as is expected of the Affirmative Action Bill, the country could be sanctioned.

“First, the delay in the release of the second tranche could present exchange rate challenges for the Ghanaian economy. Given the level of importation that usually occurs during the festive season (Christmas and New Year), coupled with the poor investor climate and the blacklisting of Ghana from the capital market, the delay could lead to further depreciation of the cedi. The release of the second tranche could have made available some dollars to cushion the cedi and prevent its sharp depreciation. However, the cedi is expected to depreciate further if the delay in the release of the fund continues to persist.”

“Second, the delay could mean that Ghana’s credibility is at stake as it’s unable to finalise agreement with its external creditors, which was a condition prior to the release of the second tranche. It also raises credibility issues with the IMF because Ghana might have something wrong, which is why the IMF has refused to release the funds by the November deadline. The delay in this tranche could also delay the release of the other subsequent tranches in 2024.”

“Third, the country could be sanctioned by the IMF if the delay is due to some conditions the country is unable to meet or falsification of data on the part of Ghana. If this happens, it could have serious repercussions for the economy going forward.”

Source: A1Radioonline.com|101.1MHz|Mark Kwasi Ahumah Smith|Ghana

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