Investigation of Women Participation in Local Governance (A Case Study of Ashanti Mampong Municipality)
Objectives of the Study
The general objective of the study is to examine women‟s participation in the local government.
- To identify opportunities which are available from different stakeholders in enhancing women‟s participation in elections.
- To assess the extent to which women are successful in local government elections and in decision making processes within local
- To examine factors that impinges on the women participation in local Government.
This chapter reviewed literature on women‟s participation in local government and established the challenges (political, social-cultural, economic and election management) towards women participation and examined the opportunities available for enhancing women‟s participation in local government and politics. Literature is reviewed from documentary sources, newspapers articles and previous studies on women participation in politics. Theories such as Critical Mass, The Politics of Presence Theory and The „Individual Supply and Demand‟ Recruitment Model have been used in theoretical literature review . The empirical review which involved reading and summarizing of different materials related to the study and conceptual framework which explain dependent variables and independent variables was developed.
Definition of Concepts
Different people defined participation in different ways. Chambers defines participation as “a process through which stakeholder‟s influence and share control over development initiatives and decisions and resources which affect them” (World Bank, 1994).
According to Human Development Report (1993:1), “participation means that people are closely involved in the economic, social, cultural and political process that affects their lives”. Participation has both a narrow and wider connotation. In a narrow sense, participation means some specific action by which the citizen participates for a limited purpose. And in a wider sense participation refers to the role of members of the general public as distinguished from that of appointed officials, including civil servants, in influencing the activities of government or in providing directly for community needs (Rahman, 1991:14-15).
There is also participation in the form of social movements such as non- governmental organizations, civil society groups including political parties, trade unions and business organizations which articulate interests mobilize support and lobby governmental and non-governmental bodies to outline and implement policies addressing these interests. On the other hand, there is a political participation that is representation in elected public bodies such as parliaments, state and local governments and global social and economic institutions such as the United Nations, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization which responds to participatory pressures through policy making and implementation.
Is a system of local administration under local communities that are organized to maintain law and order, provide some limited range of social amenities, and encourage cooperation and participation of inhabitants towards the improvement of their living conditions. Therefore, local government is that part of the government of the country operating at a local level, functioning through a representative organ, known as local authority or council, established by law to exercise specific powers within a defined area of jurisdiction.
Local Governments have both political and economic purposes. Politically, Local Governments being the levels of governments closest to the people are suitably situated to provide a way for ordinary citizens to have a say in how their communities are governed. Local Governments provide opportunities for democratic participation of citizens in matters that affect them directly. They facilitate closer interaction between citizens and elected representatives (PO-RALG, 2007).
For the purpose of this study, participation is representation of women in elected public bodies such as district and village councils, cabinet and local government managerial position.
This chapter describes and explains the appropriate methodologies that were used in this study. It starts with selection of the study area, followed by different methods that were used to collect and analyze the data.
Research design is a roadmap for researchers. It is step by step approach Cooper (2006) defines research design as the blue-print for collection, measurement and analysis of data. It aids the researcher in allocation of his limited resources by posing crucial choices and the blueprint to include experiments, interviews, observations and the analysis of records. This study adopted descriptive research design. Descriptive research attempts to describe, explain and interpret conditions of the present i.e. “what is‟. The purpose of a descriptive research is to examine a phenomenon that is occurring at a specific place(s) and time. A descriptive research is concerned with conditions, practices, structures, differences or relationships that exist, opinions held processes that are going on or trends that are evident. According to McNabb(2008), descriptive research design is used to obtain information concerning the current status of the phenomena and to describe “what exists” with respect to variables or conditions in a situation.
Both Qualitative and quantitative research methods were employed. This aimed at getting opinions from the target population and establishing a link between social cultural, political, economic and institutional challenges in relation to women‟s participation in local government. Descriptive research method utilizes elements of both qualitative and quantitative research method.
The study population consisted of elected members, appointed officials and citizens. Elected officials included women and men councilors and local council chairpersons while appointed officials included local government officials such as appointed women and men councilors and other women leaders in local level.
Community members were involved because these are the people who keenly followed the trend of local government leadership within the District and were believed to have key information about their views on women participation and challenges in local government.
DATA PRESENTATION, ANALYSIS AND DISCUSSION
This chapter presents the data collected, analysis and discussion of the research findings.
Findings were interpreted and discussed based on the main objective of the study. By using qualitative and quantitative approaches, the findings were presented using tables, pie charts, graphs and content analysis. This chapter combines both findings from FGDs, interviews and survey questionnaires. For the interviews and questionnaires, out of the75 targeted respondents, 73 responded.
SUMMARY, CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
This chapter presents the discussion, conclusions and recommendations of the study from the findings guided by the research objectives and questions. This chapter is divided into three sections: summary of the findings, conclusion and recommendation.
Summary of the Findings
Considering the data gathered and analyzed in the preceding chapters above, from the study, it was established that women were somewhat empowered (economically, socially), though politically a lot were yet to be done to gain political empowerment. It was also observed that there were reserved seats in political parties which gave women opportunity to participate. Also there are barriers that constrain women to participate in local government elections such as economic, cultural, lack of education, intimidations and lack of confidence, and women can succeed in election processes if they try because there some women who have tried and succeeded and some of these are local council members and local government leaders, instead of waiting for reserved seats they can compete and win.
Women representative in local government have brought changes in local government administration although it may be naturally and scientifically complicated to ascertain the real value and impact of representatives on those represented because some form of representation may largely be done for symbolic purposes (Pitkin, 1967:90-93). Moreover, Bochel(2002:67) contend that even „just by being in a position of power they are able to influence and impact upon policy‟. To achieve a balance both in levels of representation and development, a lot of measures will have to be undertaken to help bring parity between males and females. Some recommendations formed on the basis of the information and data collected and analyzed are provided below.
Since the 1990‟s the number of women in the politics has increased drastically in many countries. But to date the link between the increase in the number of women in decision making and the impact women bring once they become office holders is still questionable. This is especially so when a country implements a reserve seat quota system. This research helps to fill this void through the study of women in the local government in Ghana. The results of this analysis help to build a picture of the relationship between the descriptive and substantive representation of women in the Ghanaian local government.
This research applied the „Critical Mass‟ and the „Politics of the Presence‟ approaches in examining the link between the numerical increase of women in the parliament and their impact on political debate. It concludes that the descriptive increase in the number of women in the local government of Ghana has not significantly translated into substantive representation, in that it has not significantly altered either the content of debates or policy outcomes. Also, The Individual Supply and Demand theory basically has two components. On the one hand, it comprises the supply factors like the individual‟s level of education, financial resources, motivation, background and participation in group activities among others. The other component is the demand aspect which also deal with gatekeepers like political parties, community based organizations and local authorities. In other words, it is more a contest relating to the impact or influence of personal characteristics and qualities, on the one hand, and group interests or preferences on the other. Accordingly, the interviews and analysis confirmed that all individual supply factors as identified by the theory play a very influential role towards recruitments.
In Ghana, and in other countries, the Critical Mass approach of putting a standard measure in place to achieve a specified percentage of women in politics such as a reserve seat gender quotas system, although highly debated and criticized by some theorists, has proved to be the crucial vehicle in changing the composition and the structure of parliaments and other decision making institutions. Without reserve seats the number of women in local government in Ghana would lower than it is now. The analysis here indicates that since the introduction of reserve seats in local councils up to date, the rise in the number of women in the local government still heavily depends on reserve seats.
It is obvious that the commitment towards women‟s political empowerment is facing many challenges, including the way it is (or is not)mainstreamed in the political agenda. It is important to note that the quota system or system of “reserve seats for women” as Professor Ruth Meena termed it, will only work where there is apolitical commitment to promoting gender equality. Political parties‟ commitment to the agenda is also important, as it will allow women‟s wings to work within the framework of political parties to push for more women‟s participation before expanding it to the parliamentarian level. The decision to ensure gender parity in political participation requires a more holistic approach which will address the underlying causes of discrimination in the broader context. In the political sphere, the discourse has to move beyond numbers to also address ideological positionality and the broader issues of transformation of a politics of exclusion. While numbers are useful benchmarks, as they are only the beginning of measuring women‟s equitable participation indecision making organs.
Though women in the communities are willing to avail themselves for participation in local government, they face challenges which inhibit their efforts. in view of this, there is a need to provide strategies that would restrict the emerging challenges that account to their low-level of participation. From the findings, the following are recommendation to promote high women participation in the governance process in local level:
First, constitutional reform (a new constitution) is crucial in order to address the whole electoral system and address legal and policy frameworks so as to make politics truly democratic, including, for example, removing the financial barriers to participation, stating clearly the goal of 50% women‟s representation in public office and offering clear strategies to achieve this.
Second, political will is important, which will then translate to the development of a new constitution, holding political parties accountable to be required by law to practice internal democracy or to institute affirmative action to support the historically excluded groups such as women in decision making organs. Most importantly, the international commitments which have been translated into national policy frameworks, laws and regulations must be put into practice.
Third, autonomous women wings/committee within political parties is internal party sections that aims at strengthening women‟s representation within the party and in the political process in general. Often, women‟s wings help promote women‟s interests in party policy platforms and strengthen the demand for increasing women‟s representation in party nomination lists and decision making processes. Achieving gender parity, therefore, needs to start from within political parties. It is high time for parties to provide independent spaces for women. The women’s league of the African national congress(ANC) in South Africa is a case in point.
Fourth, timely financial support for women contestants both in capacity building and during campaigning is of importance to address women candidates‟ relative lack of access to resources due to their low economic status and lack of economically powerful networks to support them accessing campaign resources. New candidates need exposure and understand the campaign strategy: this initial stage is normally self-sponsored and can disadvantage women who are not economically powerful. And yet, experience elsewhere, such as the Democratic Party in the USA and the Labor Party in Australia demonstrates that timely support has made a big difference to women‟s chances of winning elections.
Fifth, political parties must do more to create an enabling environment for the participation of women as voters and candidates. Political parties should: develop mechanisms to increase the number of women in party leadership position, adopt internal rules that require the party to advance women in 50 per cent of positions in each election, address gender equality issues in their platforms and implement legal provisions related to election expenditures, voter identification, and corrupt practices.
Sixth in order to enable sensitization programmes are effective, the Electoral Commission as the institutional body mandated to carry out such activities, should facilitate the district staff to carry out sensitization programmes and civic education should be reinstated at the community levels. The Electoral Commission should not allow itself to be influenced by powerful interested people or groups (political, administrative) and should always be an independent institution. Only then shall elections be registered as being transparent, free and fair. There is also a need for continuous sensitization programmes even after the general election periods so as to keep the voters in the know of upcoming events. This could be carried out through seminars and workshops that are participatory aimed at equipping voters and candidates with leadership skills. This would enable women build confidence and reduce inferiority complex associated with low participation. NGOs have been applauded for pushing for women‟s rights hence the onus remains on government to fund the continuity of such programmes.
It is the view of the researcher that the recommended strategies would promote active and will sustain women participation in the governance process at local level. However, the desire for equal participation for males and females in the local level process would not come easily or be gotten on silver platter since change is a continuous process and team work between both genders in the society. Hence, it is imperative to note that real and meaningful democracy will not be attained until women and men have equal political decision power in which everyone‟s interest is equally and fairly represented (Genderlens,2005).
Positive Experiences of the Data Collection
Though there were difficulties or challenges during the data collection, there were a lot of other positive aspects of the data collection process. I was marveled at the concern and passion with which some of the members responded to the questions or interviews. They took the interviews very personal and found time to explain the issues they knew very well to me.
Challenges of the Data Collection
Even though the data collection process went on well for the most part, there were equally some compelling challenges because I underestimated the difficulties to be encountered in trying to talk to government officials or political appointees. Firstly, there were formalities to undergo to be able to get into the offices of these government officials in order to have an interview with them. But, the formalities were even less frustrating than the persistent absence of most of these officials from their offices attending to issues or programmes within and outside their offices. For that case, there were a lot of empty promises and appointments.
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