The road to affirmative action in Ghana: from evidence to policy

The road to affirmative action in Ghana: from evidence to policy


Affirmative action legislation dialogue hosted by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection (MoGCSP) of the Government of Ghana.

Described as an oasis of political development within the sub-region, Ghana has had a history of a successful democracy since the inception of its fourth republican constitution in 1992. The nation has also been a leader in major political developments on the continent for decades, after it became the first country sub of the Sahara to gain independence from colonial rule.

Despite the successes some lapses remained – especially with its record on gender parity in development. Some positive achievements are being recorded in recent times however, and that is the focus of this article as we trail the journey of Affirmative Action in Ghana, with particular focus on the inputs (evidence) that informs the various policy interventions – awaiting a possible legislation before close of 2016.

Affirmative Action in Ghana

In Ghana, affirmative action is categorized into two periods: the first generation (1960s-1970s) and second generation (1980s-present). In its early days, affirmative action policies ensured that seats were reserved for women in the National Assembly (peaking in 1965 at 18.2 percent of reserved seats), and there were conscious efforts to promote women participation in certain professions (read more here).

The second generation begun, particularly after government had ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the establishment of an administrative framework within government machinery to coordinate and implement affirmative action policy.

Though generally unimpressive, consistent efforts have resulted in marginal improvements in gender parity in governance (and other sectors: read further), with recent records of a female Chief Justice (2008), a female Speaker of Parliament (2008-2012), and appointments of women to key institutions of state such as the Electoral Commission (2016).

Increasingly also, presidential candidates are choosing female running mates, but the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) have yet presented female running mates. A new entrant to Ghanaian elections (the National Democratic Party – NDP) presented a female presidential candidate, and this is expected to encourage more participation by women in key decision making portfolios.

The role of Evidence

It is argued that if the nation could record marginal improvements in gender parity across sectors of national life, and especially at top levels of national leadership, a legal framework on affirmative action, achievable through various mechanisms such as legislation on quotas, appointments, etc. could secure greater results – at least to the 30 percent targets by the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BFA) (read more here).

But awaiting such a legal framework, stakeholders have been working together at different fronts to provide the needed evidence to support policy options that seem to argue for the promulgation of an affirmative action law. Such policy options have been made possible because of available data, research, expert knowledge and citizen opinion, which have altogether supported the marginal improvements.


Although insufficient and underdeveloped, the Government of Ghana, through its sector agencies and with assistance mostly from development partners, has created datasets on key indicators on development to guide policymaking. Institutions such as the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) and Ghana Statistics Service (GSS) have played pivotal roles in this regard, gathering the needed data and managing them as datasets, disaggregated by gender, and useful for the provision of useful insight into performances in various sectors.

Most Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) in Ghana manage their own databases. These are however shared with other public service institutions, particularly for cross-sector analysis (read more on educational sector here). Data from other stakeholders such as think tanks, universities and research institutions have supported the use of data to foster gender parity, without an overarching framework.

Research and Expert Knowledge

Based on available data from sector agencies and other stakeholders, research has been conducted by interested parties, mostly research and academic institutions, to gain insight into developments within the sectors.

The Centre for Gender Studies and Advocacy (CeGENSA) of the University of Ghana and the Centre for Research, Advocacy and documentation (CEGRAD) of the University of Cape Coast are two leading research centres that have influenced the work of affirmative action in Ghana.

Some of these research are conducted as collaborations across stakeholders. The Friedrich Ebert Stiftung foundation in Ghana, ActionAid and Abantu for Development, are some private sector organisations that have supported a number of studies on affirmative action in the area of governance, both in logistics and funding.

Together with other knowledge producing institutions, these institutions have worked to influence the promotion of gender parity across various sectors, particularly in education, employment and governance or political participation.

Citizen Knowledge and Participation

Based on a culture of active civil society movements, citizen knowledge have been mobilized mostly by Civil Society Organisations, that have informed policy in many ways (see petition by women groups) to secure better participation by women – and these have been yielding results, especially in education and governance sectors (see also). Apart from mobilizing citizen knowledge, Civil Society Organisations have also helped with training and capacity building for improved participation by women.

Evidence-Informed Policy Making

In the area of political participation for instance, data from the Electoral Commission of Ghana suggest that women constituted 3.5 percent of candidates in local assembly elections in 1998, increasing to 6.8 percent in 2002 and 12.3 percent in 2006. Similarly, recent data shows that more women are contesting elections to become Members of Parliament (MPs), with rates marginally increasing from 9.6 percent in 2008 to 10.0 percent in 2012 and 11.5 percent in 2016.

Research suggests that low participation in such contest are due to cultural elements that work against the interest of women, such as unfavourable posturing towards women in politics and planning political meetings without considering the inconvenience it poses to women (other examples cited here). Research also proffers possible actions to overcome barriers to women participation such as was experience in the 2016 parliamentary elections (see here also).

Policymakers and experts have also engaged each other to discuss ways of improving gender parity at various levels. The Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection (MoGCSP) organised a series of gender dialogues on “promoting gender equality and non-discrimination through affirmation action”. And prior to the 2016 general elections for instance, stakeholders met several time to discuss ways of improving women participation (read more here), and such discussions resulted in the NDC reducing filing fees for female contestants by 50 percent.

Though generally unimpressive, women’s share of successful candidates moved from 8.7 percent in 2008 parliamentary elections to 10.5 percent in 2012. With the results for 2016 elections inching up to 12.7 percent, it is hoped that the figures will continue the upward trend. In the 2016 elections for example, the two major political parties – NDC and NPP – both presented female candidates in some constituencies (Weija-Gbawe, Ablekuma North, Ablekuma West, Krowor, Asokwa, and Gomoa Central). In the Weija-Gbawe constituency for instance, the contest was among all-female candidates from the NDC, NPP and the PPP (Progressive People’s Party).

Conclusion and recommendations

With the available data as directional signs and fueled by the desire of citizens to improve gender parity in all spheres of society, government is constantly consulting with other stakeholders including civil society groups and political parties to consider legislation on affirmative action. And it is hoped that with women influencing key decisions within society, they will be able to contribute discussions on issues that affect their very lives.

With legislation of affirmative action in Ghana expected to be passed before the close of 2016, the contributing effort of evidence to policy on gender parity should not be overlooked. Effort must also be made to improve the use of evidence – data, research, expert knowledge and citizen knowledge – in policymaking processes.

To this end therefore the following recommendations are made;

  •          that investments be made into knowledge management systems (systems that produce, store and     communicate knowledge) that aid in policymaking
  •          that data and knowledge, especially for policymaking purposes, be shared via publicly available platforms such as the Ghana.Gov portal
  •          that investments be made in building capacity of policymakers to enable them better use available evidence for policymaking purposes.