|Ms Joyce Bawa|
The Deputy Minister of Transport, Joyce Bawa Mugtar has passionately attacked some of the cultural and religious norms and practices that had over the years discriminated against, disadvantaged and constantly held down majority of women in the North of Ghana from participating adequately in the processes of democracy and decision-making.
The minister asserted that the lack of motivation from religious and traditional leaders, the lack of education, the cultural system which forces young girls into early marriages, suppression and discrimination against women, had been the major contributing factors militating against the women in the north and discouraging them from taking up certain responsibilities or positions at the local or national levels.
Speaking on the topic: “The Right to Participate equally in Democratic Governance- Steps to overcoming the obstacles” at the official inauguration of the Women’s Wing of the Gonjaland Youth Association in Tamale, Mrs. Joyce Bawa was particularly unhappy about how traditional and religious norms and practices in the north had somewhat prevented the Article 35 of Ghana’s 1992 Constitution which provides for equal rights and opportunities for women to thrive.
She said that the reason why women in Ghana and for that matter Northern Regions were lagging behind and not adequately participating in the democratic processes “is not because women are not protected under the constitution or laws are necessarily prohibitive of women participation but rather due to cultural, traditional and religious system as well as the lack of education”.
She accentuated that the few women in the north who had been able to rise to the occasion and had become famous in Ghana or contributing actively to the democratic development like; Mrs. Susan Alhassan, Hajia Adiza Munkaila, Fransica Issaka and herself were only born into those opportunities by parents [Fathers] who were probably part of the struggle for democracy in Ghana.
The Deputy Minister of Transport bemoaned that governments over the years had tried different methods and made deliberate and conscious attempts to get more women into certain vital national positions but not much had been achieved so far.
She maintained that, true democracy required that women and men got equal representations in governance, in parliament and at the district assembly or local level.
“I think the time has come for us to decide what we want to do as women of the north and Ghana as a whole. Whether we want to be passive, part of the process or participate adequately in decision making processes. When you look at our parliament for example; we have 275 parliamentarians and only 29 are females. This is very appalling, disappointing and unacceptable for Ghanaian women who constitute almost 52% of Ghana’s population”.
Mrs. Joyce Bawa therefore encouraged the women to start developing the interest to participate in democracy or decision-making processes from the grassroots. She also encouraged the women in Ghana especially those in the three Northern Regions to see education as the springboard to catapult them to their dream land, and also make them assertive, self-confident and knowledgeable enough to fit into any position.
She was hopeful that the inauguration of the Gonjaland Youth Association’s Women Wing would serve as motivation for the women to move forward, create access and opportunities for them as well.
The Gonjaland Youth Association is by far one of the biggest youth associations in Ghana with branches across the globe and has been in existence since 1976. The President of the Association, Alhassan Dramani said that women were the greater percentage of the Gonjaland Youth Association and creating a separate office under the association for the women would largely bring them together to have one loud voice and build their capacities socially and economically.
The Women’s Commissioner of the Gonjaland Youth Association, Madam Braimah Ramatu was very confident that the women’s wing had come to stay and assured that their activities would bring total transformation to the women in Gonjaland.
She noted that her major priorities as the leader of the young women in the area weere to promote quality education among the girl child, vocational training, self confidence and also discourage early marriages and “kayaye” among the girls in Gonjaland.
Madam Braimah Ramatu was worried that out of the seven (7) districts in Gonjaland, there was no woman as District Chief Executive and out of the eight (8) parliamentarians in the area, none of them was a woman.
She noted that Gonjaland women shouldered most of the basic domestic responsibilities but were systematically denied the resources and freedom they needed to fulfill such responsibilities. And as a result, majority of the Gonjaland women she said were poor and they represent two-thirds of the illiterate population in Gonjaland. Apart from the fact that hundreds of girls of school going age do not find themselves in school due to cultural reasons, Madam Ramatu said that the few who were fortunate to enroll ended up dropping out of school and entering into early marriages.
She however expressed the joy that a few individual Gonja women were now marking some mark in various positions in Ghana and encouraged them to excel.