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Affirmative Action Bill Coalition engages Parliament after Speaker declares Bill will not be passed under certificate of urgency

Affirmative Action Bill

By Doreen Ampofo

The Affirmative Action Bill Coalition has begun engaging parliament after Speaker Alban Bagbin publicly declared that the Affirmative Action Bill will not be passed under a certificate of urgency.

The Speaker had indicated pressure from the IMF to pass the Bill, insisting that the current state of the Bill requires broader consultation and until that is done, the Bill will not be passed.

Convenor of the Affirmative Action Bill Coalition, Sheila Minkah-Premo at a meeting of the Ghana Chapter of African Women Leaders Network admitted that the proposed legislation which is seeking to increase women’s participation in decision-making positions, indeed has challenges which need to be addressed. She was hopeful the Bill will be passed mid next year.

The Affirmative Action Bill is proposing among other things that at least 40 percent of public offices are reserved for women. The Bill which has already been to parliament three times and has since 2011 seen various versions but none has yet been passed by Parliament.

Members of the African Women Leaders Network believe the time is now to get the Bill passed to ensure gender parity. Briefing members on the status of the Bill, Convenor of the Affirmative Action Bill Coalition, Sheila Minkah-Premo, said following the Speaker’s pronouncements, some meetings have been held with parliament.

She said the coalition has started the process of engaging Parliament adding that they have already met the majority leader and are about securing an appointment with the Speaker, Alban Bagbin. Lawyer Sheila Minkah-Premo admitted that part of the bill does have problems, which need to be smoothened.

“Particularly the part to do with political parties and elections. Section 24 is very weak. It’s not imperative. It’s been said that political parties are voluntary organizations, so they should willingly ensure gender inclusion in their manifestoes,”she noted.

The convenor however said the sanctions for failing to adhere to this provision are laughable. According to her, “the sanctions are that if they comply and the state is giving resources to political parties, then they will benefit. And then secondly, they also benefit from state protocol services. Those are not strong enough incentive”. Madam Minkah-Premo said the Affirmative Action Bill Coalition will continue engaging with Parliament to ensure that the bill is processed and is passed. Hopefully, by the first quarter of next year.

A court of Appeal Judge, Justice Olivia Anku-Tsede called for implementation of laws that protect women. “We have a lot of laws derived from a lot conventions, proclamations that came out of a number of international conferences and workshops. So we have all the laws. We have a number of policies that a number of public institutions have also developed.

Even in the private sector, we have that and yet we still have challenges. So what really is the problem? Why do we have all the laws sitting on our shelves, sitting in the books.” The Appeals Court judge the problem is implementation, compliance and enforcement. She highlighted the need to ensure that laws are implemented and complied with and sanctions imposed when they are breached.

Chairperson, Interim Steering Committee, African Women Leadership Network, Ghana Chapter, Dr Charity Binka, asked women to speak up. She explained that most of the violence women experience happens in the home and community. However, the President, who is a gender champion does not live in homes or communities. He can only act and support women through state institutions and agencies mandated to do so.

She said “our president does not live with us in the home or communities or house to find out why your husband beat you last night or refused to provide money for the house. The problem with violence against women is that most time we are not able to name the experiences we are having. If you cannot define it or name it, how can you seek help”, Dr Binka noted.

African Women Leadership Network is a joint initiative of the African Union and the United Nations with the priority areas of ensuring women’s participation in Governance and Leadership, financial inclusion, young women’s leadership and women’s peace and security.

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