Women’s representation in Parliament: The role of party women’s wings in Ghana
The political participation of women in parliaments is not only important for sustainable development of every country, but it is also crucial for their voices to be heard, as they form at least half of the world’s population. Furthermore, women’s presence in significant decision-making positions represents an indicator of gender transformation and mainstreaming. However, women remain largely underrepresented in parliament and state institutions in Ghana with a current representation of 8.3% in parliament.Against this background, this study evaluates the role of women wings in enhancing women’s representation in parliament, by exploring the gendered social, political and ideological contexts in which they operate and assesses the constraints and challenges to their effective involvement in parliament. Using in-depth interviews and focus group discussions, the research analyses the activities of three main political parties’ women’s wings in the Greater Accra Region of Ghana by addressing the following key questions: (i) What are the demographic features of members of the women’s wings in Ghana? (ii) What structures and relationships influence women’s participation and advancement in Ghanaian politics? (iii) Do women’s wings attached to political parties have the capacity to advance the agendas of women and gender equality in Ghana or are they constrained by loyalties to male-dominated parties? (iv) To what extent do women’s wings address gendered political structures and ideology within Ghanaian society generally, and Ghanaian politics specifically? (v) Do women’s wings of different parties perform different roles, and reflect different strategies for enhancing women’s public participation? The findings indicated that women’s wings affiliated to political parties are constrained by their loyalty to their political parties resulting in a lack of a clear feminist consciousness.There was also lack of cooperation among the women’s wings which also affected their ability to enhance gender equality in the country. In addition cultural norms and discriminatory practices together with a lack of financial resources were found to be major obstacles to the effectiveness of the women’s wings in Ghana in achieving gender equality and social justice. The study therefore recommends a need for a stronger feminist consciousness and the building of women’s solidarity among and between women’s wings to enable them to address the strategic gender needs of the country and achieve gender equality in Ghana.