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Volvo Case Study - Using Affirmative Action to Promote Women's Empowerment in Ghana

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Social Development, by definition, aims at promoting the welfare or well-being content and outcomes of development policy and practice, in ways that at the same time, advance the instrumentality or empowerment of individuals and groups. Social development does not only advocate for an improvement in well-being, but also that policies and programmes should advance a greater ability to effect change. Social Development must therefore be nested in social justice and equity at both individual and institutional levels.

The empowerment of persons who are vulnerable and excluded, promotion of social justice and equity are the main concerns of social policies, and this should transcend all aspects of society, including participation in governance and decision making. Inspite of the pivotal role women in Ghana play within the family, they are invisibly represented in governance and decision making sector of the economy. This is because there is no concrete policy measures in place to ensure that the structural inequality between men and women are taken into account in promoting participation in policy decision. Efforts are being made at various levels to address the marginalization of women in Ghana's politics and other spheres of life, but this still remains an area of concern. In a country where women constitute about 51 percent, their involvement in development issues and political leadership should be of grave concern, and given due consideration. Affirmative action Policy is therefore viewed as the appropriate instrument to enhance women's participation in governance and decision making in Ghana. This paper will therefore review women's participation/empowerment in Ghana; outline various commitments seeking to enhance women's participation in Ghana; the Affirmative Action Policy and finally look at expected outcomes of the Affirmative Action Policy and how it will enhance women's participation in Ghana.


Although there is no law in Ghana that prevents women from participating in politics or in areas of Ghana's economic or social life, women are generally under-represented in politics and in public life. There seems to be no long term strategic framework put in place to address this failure. This has been attributed to a lack of political will and a deficient commitment to gender equality among political parties. Gender advocates have asked that government and its agencies, political parties and relevant public and private institutions should take actions that ensure and assure their active commitment to improving the current situation of women's low representation in politics and public appointive positions at all levels. From 1993 until 2008, there have been some achievements through the strong mobilization and advocacy role by women or gender-based civil society organizations. However, the outcome of the 2008 general elections regarding women's representation is a strong signal that more work with a different strategy is needed.

Below are statistics of women in Parliament;

* First republic (1960) - 10

* Second Republic (1969) - 2

* Third Republic (1979) - 5

* First Parliament of the Fourth Republic (1992) - 16

* Second Parliament of the Fourth Republic (1996) - 19

* Third Parliament of the Fourth Republic (2000) - 19 women, 181 men

* Fourth Parliament of the Fourth Republic (2004) - 25 women, 205 men

Analyzing data collected on women in parliament from the First Republic (1960) to the Fourth Republic (2004), activists reacted by bringing out a non-partisan document, "The Women's Manifesto for Ghana". It outlined broad issues of national concern to women that need to be addressed by government and other relevant agencies within set time frames. Seeking to address these challenges in 2004 parliamentary elections, activists relied on government affirmative action policy of 40% representation of women in decision making structures. This did not however yield the desired results.

The introduction in 1988 of district assemblies as part of a strategy to decentralize governance however provided an opportunity for women to become more involved in politics. Two entry points into the district assemblies were available as part of the 70% elected members into the assemblies or as part of the 30% appointed by the government. Government policy on the latter was to ensure that at least half of the government appointees would be women. Since this was a non-partisan system, any woman ready to serve the district could contest. Figures available however indicated that the Affirmative Action Policy did not work as men were 95% and women 5%.

Ghana in 1975 established the National Council on Women and Development (NCWD), which was the women's machinery for empowerment. This was later replaced by the Ministry of Women and Children's Affairs (MOWAC). Since the establishment of MOWAC in 2003, government appointees in District Assemblies in 2007 was 1956, 1401 men and 555 women, indicating 28%. Total number of ministerial and deputy ministerial appointments in 2009 is 75; 60 men (80%) and 15 women (20%). Only 11 women out of 166 were appointed as metropolitan, municipal and district chief executives. Out of the 25 membership of the Council of State, only 3 (12%) were women and 22 (88%) men. There is one woman regional minister out of 10, and none on the government Economic Advisory Council with a total membership of 10, wondering if there is no woman economist in Ghana.

Some factors militating against women's participation and empowerment have been identified. One excuse proffered is that, there are not enough qualified women to occupy the available political position. Secondly, socio-cultural discrimination also account for the low participation of women in Ghana.


The Convention of the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW) was adopted in 1979 and entered into force in 1981. CEDAW represents the first comprehensive, legally binding international instrument prohibiting discrimination against women and obliging governments to take affirmative action to advance gender inequality. The Third Ordinary Session of the Assembly



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