Are there no women in Appiatse? 
As a country, Ghana is plagued by many of the ills of developing countries such as open gutters, open defecation and open urination. Since we fail to tell our own story and we sit down for others to set the tone for what our story is, or should be, it is the pungent stories that hold sway.

Introduction

As a country, Ghana is plagued by many of the ills of developing countries such as open gutters, open defecation and open urination. Since we fail to tell our own story and  we sit down for others to set the tone for what our story is, or should be, it is the pungent stories that hold sway. Sometimes, we see these stories on international media platforms and we begin to feel that such stories represent our divine destiny. So, what do we do? We pick our cameras and look for similar stories to show on our own local stations to feed and validate outsiders’ jaundiced and prejudiced preconceptions about us. If we have not paid attention to these, let us watch the pre-6.pm or 7p.m main news bulletin introductory videos on TV. In a contest of infamy, GTV’s Adult Education series introductory footage will do well.

 

The fact is, we have many fine stories to tell. One area that we need to be celebrating is our swift action when it comes to signing international treaties, conventions and agreements. It is on record that Ghana was the first country in the world to sign the International Convention of the Rights of the Child.[1] Ghana was also the 6th country in the world to sign and ratify the statute that brought about the International Criminal Court.[2] Not bad at all, considering that almighty United States has not signed, much more ratified, these important international documents.

 

Ghana and international women’s rights

With specific reference to the promotion of women’s rights on the international plane, Ghana has done a fantastic job, too. For instance, Ghana has signed and ratified the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)[3] and The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People's Rights (ACHPR) on the Rights of Women in Africa,[4] among several others. The CEDAW is perhaps, the most comprehensive of all international treaties on the promotion of women's rights in the world. It specifically provides that countries that have signed on to the Convention must have Affirmative Action laws to ensure women’s full participation in decision making at all levels of governance.  

 

Making Ghana’s international obligations work in the domestic setting

In International Law, Ghana falls under the category of countries that are known as ‘dualist’ states. Dualist states are states in which international treaties do not have the status of law in the domestic legal system; all treaties require implementing legislation to have domestic legal force.[5] In simple terms, this means that if Ghana signs and ratifies an international treaty, the contents of the treaty do not automatically become part of the laws of Ghana. Parliament must pass a law that contains the contents of the international treaty and it is the law passed by Parliament that will be applied in Ghana.

 

Over the years, it has been observed that after ratifying international treaties, Ghana fails to pass the necessary laws to make the contents of such treaties applicable here. Often, a government will put together a policy to guide the implementation of some of the provisions of such treaties. Since such policies are not binding because they are not laws, they are more honoured in breach than in observance.[6]  While women constitute more than half of Ghana’s population (51.2%), they represent only 13.8% of Members of Parliament, and constitute less than 30% of Ministers, Members of the Council of State, heads of public institutions and Boards. The numbers are even lower at the local level. For example, the number of women elected and appointed to Assemblies continue to decline over the years;10 percent in 2006, 6 percent in 2010 and 5.4% in 2015.[7]

 

Over the years, it has been observed that our political parties trumpet their intention to make women’s representation a priority only when they are in opposition and are desperate to win power so they can break traffic rules with impunity, receive quadrennial car and house loans and ex gratia in perpetuity. For example, in the NDC’s 2012 Manifesto, the party promised “the ultimate goal of attaining 40% women’s representation in all public appointments and at the Party’s Conferences and Congresses”. NDC won the national general elections in 2012 and it did not happen.      The NPP stated in its 2016 Manifesto as follows: ”appointment of women to at least 30% of available public office positions.” NPP won the 2016 elections and it did not happen. Perhaps, knowing they had no intention to carry the promise through in 2020 and beyond, the NPP did not include its previous promise to appoint of 30% women to public office positions in its 2020 Manifesto.  

 

The Appiatse apocalypse

On Thursday, 20th January, 2022, we heard the horrendous news of a tanker explosion at Appiatse, a suburb of Bogoso in the Western Region. According to news reports, the explosion occurred after an accident involving a motorcyclist and a DAF truck carrying mining explosives from a mining company based at Tarkwa to Chirano Gold Mines. On reaching a section of the road between Bogoso and Bawdie, the motorcycle rider from the opposite direction ran under the van carrying the explosives. The motorcycle reportedly caught fire, ignited the van which burst into flames and exploded. The driver is reported to have sustained a deep cut on the head and was rushed to the Government Hospital, Tarkwa. The Police escort escaped unhurt. A number of people including the motorcycle rider reportedly died from the explosion. The extensive damage affected a nearby ECG transformer. A number of buildings near the site of the explosion were destroyed while a portion of the road was also damaged. Some vehicles plying that road were also damaged with passengers and inhabitants sustaining various injuries. Thirteen people died in the explosion and fifty nine others suffered various degrees of injury, according to reports.[8]

 

The inhabitants of Appiatse were advised to move out of the area for their safety while recovery efforts were underway. Ghana Police Service reportedly appealed to nearby towns to open up their classrooms, churches, etc. to accommodate surviving victims. By all accounts, the whole Appiatse community was wiped out in the explosion. Thus, only a new, reconstructed township will be able to restore normalcy to the unfortunate victims of such a needless disaster.

 

The all-male conclave of a committee

The government’s action in dealing with the situation was swift and commendable. Vice-President Dr. Bawumia visited the area to commiserate with the people and assure them of government’s support. So also did several Ministers of State, Police Chiefs, heads of relief agencies and non-governmental organizations. To demonstrate its commitment in helping the Appiatse community to get back on its feet, the Government of Ghana, acting through the Minister of Lands and Forestry, inaugurated a seven-member Appiatse Reconstruction Committee. The Committee, chaired by a Deputy Minister of Lands and Forestry, also had members from Ministry of Works & Housing, Land Use and Spatial Planning Authority, Ghana Institute of Architects, Ghana Institute of Surveyors, and a Resettlement Specialist from the Ghana Chamber of Mines. The Chief of Appiatse was also made a member of the Committee. All seven members of the Committee were male.

 

On reading the news item, my first query to myself was: “Were there no women in Appiatse? Why this all-male conclave of a committee?” Will women not be living in the new community that is about to be constructed? Will their input in the creation of their new community not be necessary?” Thus, I was put to an inquiry to find answers to my questions. As I found out, the thirteen human beings who died in the explosion included a fifteen-month old baby girl and an eighty-year old woman. The fifty nine wounded victims also included males and females. This meant that there were, and most definitely still are, women in Appiatse. To me, the extreme ages of the two females who died in the explosion signifies the pre-eminence of the female gender in the survival of the Appiatse community. The baby girl and the old woman symbolize the beginning and end of the community. If the community that has been shattered into smithereens before our very eyes is ever going to be revived, the role of the women in the community is going to be very critical.

 

It is for this reason that one finds the gender-insensitive, all–male Appiatse Reconstruction Committee rather worrying. In this day and age, any room full of men only and tasked to take decisions to affect whole communities reflects ignorance and unsophistication and a perpetuation of historical gender-biased decision-making processes. It portrays the larger problem we have with neglecting to mainstream gender into our decisions. The composition of the Appiatse Reconstruction Committee is a mirror-image of how our Executive and Legislative arms of government, the ministries, various government departments and agencies, as well as our traditional authorities have neglected to ensure gender inclusion.[9] For instance, if at the highest level of governance gender inclusiveness were practiced as a way of doing things, the Minister of Lands and Forestry would not have needed any promptings from any quarters to include females in the Committee. The Chief would not have hesitated to remind the Minister to add a queen-mother or other female inhabitant of the community to the Committee. The representatives of the government agencies and departments would have voiced their concerns about the gender imbalance in the composition of the Committee. Oblivious to the glaring ignominy, the Committee was duly inaugurated on 3rd February, 2022. And since none of the actors had any abiding obligation, moral or legal, to ensure gender balance, the embarrassing ‘no woman’ Committee was inaugurated with commensurate fun fare and full press attendance. The ‘boys-boys’ squad marched outside for a memorable photo for the world to see that in Ghana, women do not feature in the scheme of things, re-building of communities included.  

 

Admittedly, since the 1992 Constitution does not fix any mandatory requirement for appointment of women unto Boards, Committees, and so on, governments in the Fourth Republic have formed Committees, included one or two females, and patted themselves with satisfaction as having ticked the box for gender inclusion. But increasingly, even the ‘at least one of whom must be a woman’ unwritten imperative is being slowly swept aside because no one is keeping an eye on it. The result is the blatant exclusion of women from taking part in decisions that affect their lives and their communities. Today, we are talking about Appiatse because that is what is on the front burner. It is very likely that if we were to conduct research on committees formed over the years, similar patterns will emerge. But for now, the Appiatse Reconstruction Committee tops the pack of contenders for the “Perpetuating Patriarchy for Posterity” Award.    

 

The mining company that has been found responsible for causing the explosion has reportedly been fined a paltry $6 million. $5 million out the amount is to be put into a Support Fund for Appiatse for the reconstruction effort, by the President’s directive. For now, no woman in Appiatse and Ghana, for that matter, will be privy to the reconstruction processes and procedures. And this is Ghana, A.D 2022.

 

Conclusion

At this point in our life as a nation, it is not fashionable, nay, it is unacceptable, that women will be routinely excluded from the decision-making process. If, as a nation, we want to move swiftly to join the ranks of enlightened and development-oriented nations, then we need to consciously and deliberately promote women’s participation at all levels of governance. This must start from the lowest level of political participation at the District level to the Executive arm of government where most appointments are made. We must also take a genuine look at, and be genuinely interested in, promoting women’s representation in the Legislature (Parliament).[10] If we fail to do so, all the international treaties and Conventions on women we have ratified will be of no use to our country. We must stop the embarrassing practice of using women to win seats in difficult constituencies only to supplant them in subsequent elections with men. We cannot forget Ama Sey, former MP for Akwatia Constituency, can we?







FOOTNOTES



[1] Ghana signed the Convention of the Rights of the Child on 29th January 1990 and one week later, on 5th February 1990, Ghana became the first country in the world to ratify the treaty – committing to adopt it into national law. The national law was passed in 1998 as the Children’s Act, 1998 (Act 560)

[2] Ghana signed the Rome Statute that created the International Criminal Court on 18 July 1998 and ratified it on 20 December 1999.

[3] This was done on 2nd February 1986. Ghana signed the CEDAW Protocol in 2000.

[4] This was ratified in 2007.

[6] For example, under Ghana’s Affirmative Action policy, there is supposed to be:

i.                     Commitment to provide 30% women representation in decision-making and executive positions at all levels of government;

ii.                    Allocation of 50% female quota of the 30% government appointees to the District Assemblies;

iii.                  Establishment of Gender Focal Points in all Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies;

iv.                  Promotion of gender parity as part of Free Compulsory Basic Education – including incentive schemes to increase girls’ enrolment and retention in school.

 

[7] See: “Women’s participation in decision-making: Why it matters”, an article written by Jennifer Asuako, Gender Analyst, UNDP Ghana, and posted on 4th December, 2020 at https://www.gh.undp.org/content/ghana/en/home/presscenter/articles/2020/women_s-participation-in-decision-making--why-it-matters.html

 

[9] When it comes to gender inclusion, the Judiciary has done very well. For the full statistics compiled by Dennis Law, see: https://news.dennislawgh.com/2021-gender-statistics-of-judges-in-ghana-indicates-a-marginal-increase-in-female-representation/

 

[10] For a vivid account of what then Parliamentary aspirants, Ms. Irene Naa Torshie Addo and Ms. Vicky Bright had to contend with in their bid to contest in the 2008 primaries of the New Patriotic Party in the Tema West and Okaikoi South Constituencies, see: “In Search of ‘Honorable’ Membership: Parliamentary Primaries and Candidate Selection in Ghana,” an article by Cyril K. Daddieh and George M. Bob-Milliar available online at https://codesria.org/IMG/pdf/1-_issues_in_ghana_s_electoral_daddieh_and_b_-_in_search_of.pdf. See also: Salome Donkor’s article in the Gender & Children section of the DAILY GRAPHIC newspaper edition of 11th December, 2008 at page 17 titled “Hopes of having more women in Parliament dim.”

 



Photo Credit: Ghana News Agency


12 thoughts on “Are there no women in Appiatse? 

  1. Congratulations. This is a well researched article . Ghana needs more of such articles to remind successive Governments of their responsibilities.
    As you rightly put it, because the 1999 Constitution did not make it mandatory for Women inclusion on such Committees , Boards, etc. successive Governments are not compelled to even honour their own campaign promises . On the other hand, it is my considered view that women groups such as FIDA and other strong women representations are not making the required and appropriate ‘noise’ to compel our governments to live up to expectation. There are also the absence of structures for governments to be held accountable on their own promises. The Ghanaian Media has not been very proactive on this for fear of victimisation. Added to this fact is that women on daily basis, claim equality with men.
    District Assembly elections are not supposed to be partisan but in reality they are. During these elections, women are supposed to offer themselves for elective positions, but because of the tag on women at that level for fear of name calling and the risk involved on funding, many women are not bold to venture into that area. These are but few reasons our dear country remains underdeveloped.
    There was a mismatch by the use of “by an explosion of a tanker” and a “truck carrying explosives” in the article which needs to be corrected in my view.
    There was no mention of the Joyce Aryee Committee set up to raise funds for this reconstruction exercise for which the President donated a seed money of Ghs 100,000. This committee, with a woman as the chairperson , to me, is to compensate for the one set up by the Minister without even a woman as a member.

    1. Many thanks for your thorough comments, Rev. Obeng.
      The Ms. Joyce Aryee Committee, just like any committee for fundraising, is headed by a woman. You remember COVID-19 Fund headed by Justice Sophia Akuffo? But the actual use of the funds will be for the reconstruction of the town, and women are excluded! Joyce Aryee’s presence on the fundraising committee cannot “compensate” for the terrible omission to include a woman in the Reconstruction Committee. That’s the crux of the matter.
      Your analyses of the part played by all stakeholders is brilliant. Well done, Rev.

  2. Bold and to the point. There has been too much political lip service to this.Only the affirmative action under Dr. Kwame Nkrumah was able to deliver women’s representation at that time.

  3. Very insightful and interesting to read. I have learnt. You have a critical mind. This is commendable in the light of the jealous nature of the profession we belong to. Keep shining

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