Yesterday the Ghana branch of ‘Women in Law and Development in Africa’ held ‘The 2nd Women’s Dialogue with Political Parties’. I listened to the programme at 10.30am via radio en route to interview ‘Virtuous Women and Children International’, an AWDF grantee. I was disappointed I wasn’t there in person. A typo in the event advertised via a popular Ghanaian daily had stated the time for the dialogue as 2.00pm. I felt grateful that the organisers WILDAF had partnered with Joy Fm who aired the programme live on radio.
The women’s dialogue was aimed at the presidential candidates (or their vices) of the political parties namely the Convention Peoples Party (CPP), National Democratic Congress (NDC), New Patriotic Party (NPP), People’s National Convention (PNC) and Progressive Peoples Party (PPP). The NDC and the NPP, the two dominant parties in Ghana, were not represented by their flag bearers or vices. I found this extremely disappointing and indicative of a lack of commitment to dialoguing with women. WILDAF had gone to every effort to accommodate the schedules of all the political parties and for the flag bearers (or their vices) of the two main parties not to show up speaks volumes and what I hear is “We are not truly committed to a rigorous political debate with women. We can talk the language of gender but beyond rhetoric there is no action”.
The aim of the dialogue was to provide “… a platform for political parties contesting the 2012 elections to present their vision and intended policies to women who form 51.4% of the population”. Dr Abu Sakara of the CPP, Mr Hassan Ayariga of the PNC and Dr Paa Kwesi Nduom of the PPP were quizzed in an informal panel discussion by Matilda Asante with a broad range of questions focusing on the lack of a woman presidential candidate, and each party’s policies to increase women’s representation in the party political system. As a listener none of the politicians impressed me. There were a lot of the typical sentiments about women’s important roles as mothers and the support that each politician said they got from their wives. “Typical” I thought. “Ghanaian politicans only value women as wives and mothers”. The only politician on the platform who seemed to have thought seriously about gender was Dr Paa Kwesi Nduom. He is also the only presidential candidate whose vice is a woman, Ms. Eva Naa Merley Lokko. Nduom also spoke about the affirmative action policy within his party to ensure that at least 20% of the executives are women. I couldn’t help but think, “It’s a shame that Nduom stands little to no chance of being the next President of Ghana”.
In spite of the absence of the NPP and NDC I felt that ‘The 2nd Women’s Dialogue with Political Parties’ had been extremely useful. The dialogue places issues of concern to women as central. The dialogue is an opportunity for women to hold our politicians responsible for the commitments they make to women when they seek our votes. The dialogue also gives us an opportunity to critically assess our politicians – can their rhetoric stand up to public scrutiny, can they really unpack what they mean when they claim to take gender issues seriously? Do they turn up when representatives of women’s rights organizations invite them to dialogue with women?
In a conversation with Bernice Sam, the National Programme Coordinator for WILDAF I asked her to share her thoughts on the dialogue and she stated:
“The Women’s Dialogue with Political Parties went very well. It provided an opportunity for the flagbearers of the political parties to share with women their visions for advancing women’s rights in Ghana. It equally provided an opportunity for women to assess the commitments of these parties to women’s concerns. Further, women will be able to hold the party that wins the elections to account for the statements made at the Dialogue.”
Holding parties responsible for their campaign promises is important. I commend WILDAF for holding this Dialogue, and all the media houses that supported with live transmissions. I hope that the 3rd Women’s Dialogue with Political Parties will be attended by ALL political parties.
By Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah
Communications Officer, AWDF