AD400: Most Ghanaians support gender fairness in political leadership, but women trail men in participation, digital access, asset ownership

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Josephine Appiah-Nyamekye Sanny and Mavis Zupork Dome

Over the past three decades, Ghana has taken a variety of steps to promote gender equity. Its 1992 Constitution guarantees equality and freedom from discrimination (Government of Ghana, 1992). In 1998, Ghana began working on – but has still not passed – an Affirmative Action Bill that seeks to promote a progressive increase in active participation of women in the public bureaucracy to a parity of 50% by 2030.

The National Gender Policy followed in 2015, aiming “to mainstream gender equality concerns into the national development processes” (Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, 2015). The government has expressed its full commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including Goal 5, which calls for ensuring women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision- making in political, economic, and public life.

Progress has been measurable but modest. The number of female parliamentarians has grown from just one out of 140 in 1969 to 31 out of 275, or 11% (Ghana Centre for Empowering Development, 2019). In 2020, for the first time in Ghana, a major political party (the National Democratic Party) has nominated a woman as its vice presidential candidate, while a woman heads the Progressive People’s Party ticket. But these are a far cry from the kind of robust political participation and representation by women that the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) describes as “key indicators of the general level of public sector effectiveness and accountability in a country” (Asuako, 2017, p. 5) and “a key driver for advancing gender equality” more broadly (United Nations Development Programme, 2016).

Analysts point to a variety of economic and cultural reasons why progress has been slow. Madsen (2019), of the Nordic Africa Institute, for example, cites among persistent barriers the majoritarian or “first-past-the-post” nature of Ghanaian politics (as opposed to proportional representation), the high monetary cost of running for office, and a political culture in which elected women are seen as either “small girls” or “iron ladies.”

Afrobarometer’s most recent survey in Ghana shows that even though there is strong popular support for women in political leadership, political and civic participation is lower among women than among men. The survey also shows persistent gender gaps in education, digital access, and ownership of key assets.