Why Ghana deserves urgent passage of the Affirmative Action Bill into law

In recent years, the issue of affirmative action has become a hot topic of discussion in Ghana. The term refers to policies designed to overcome the effects of discrimination and promote the interests of historically marginalized groups through proactive measures.

Affirmative action policies take many forms, including quotas, outreach programs, and targeted hiring preferences. The primary objective of these policies is to ensure that underrepresented groups have equal access to education and employment opportunities, thereby promoting social and economic equity.

Despite the potential benefits of affirmative action policies, many Ghanaians remain skeptical about their efficacy. Some argue that affirmative action policies are discriminatory, providing opportunities to select groups at the expense of others.

Others believe that such policies would be unnecessary in a country where merit and ability are supposed to be the primary criteria for admission and employment.

However, I believe that affirmative action legislation must be urgently passed into law in Ghana, and in this article, I will explain why.

Firstly, the historical context of Ghana makes it necessary to have affirmative action policies. The effects of colonization, slavery and neo-colonialism still persist in Ghana today.

The white colonial powers introduced such arbitrary notions as ‘race’ and colorism that were used to separate the black people in Ghana by placing the lighter-skinned, foreign-educated people in administrative positions and pushed the darker-skinned, locally educated people in manual labor jobs.

This has left Ghanaian society with deep-seated inequalities that persist in the present day. Affirmative action policies that seek to redress these historical wrongs will undoubtedly promote equality and social justice.

Secondly, the implementation of affirmative action policies can help to counteract the effects of implicit bias, which is pervasive in all spheres of society. Implicit bias refers to the unconscious attitudes and beliefs that shape our perceptions of others. For instance, a hiring manager may have an implicit bias against women and minorities, leading them to overlook qualified candidates from these groups.

Affirmative action policies can help to mitigate these biases by ensuring that underrepresented groups are given greater consideration in the hiring process. This, in turn, can help to encourage diverse hiring teams and challenge conventional notions of meritocracy, which are often used to justify the exclusion of certain groups from the workforce.

Thirdly, affirmative action policies can help to promote diversity and inclusivity, which are essential for promoting innovation and creativity. When teams are composed of individuals from diverse backgrounds and perspectives, they are better equipped to handle complex problems and develop creative solutions. Affirmative action policies can help to ensure that these benefits are distributed more equitably across society by expanding access to education and employment opportunities.

Fourthly, affirmative action policies can help to enhance national unity. When individuals from different backgrounds are given equal opportunities, they are more likely to view themselves as part of a common national identity. This can help to foster greater social cohesion and reduce tensions between different groups. Furthermore, it can help to promote greater understanding and empathy between groups, which can help to prevent conflict and promote greater collaboration between different sectors of society.

The Affirmative Action Bill is a proposed legislation that seeks to provide gender parity in Ghanaian politics. The bill aims to increase women’s participation in decision-making positions by proposing that at least 40% of public offices be reserved for women. The bill has been in parliament for over a decade but has not received the needed attention for it to become law.

The Affirmative Action Bill presents itself as the most definite way of ensuring women’s adequate representation in Ghana’s decision-making spaces. The strategy has worked in various African countries such as Rwanda, Ethiopia, South Africa, Guinea, Kenya, Senegal, to mention but a few. There is therefore the urgency for Ghana to pass the Affirmative Action Law in order to remedy women’s low participation in political, social and economic lives.

Since the process began in Ghana, civil society organizations including ABANTU for Development, Network for Women’s Rights in Ghana, ActionAid, Women in Law and Development (WiLDAF), Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) and several others have been at the forefront of advocacy campaigns, canvassing for support for the passage of the Bill. These organizations have engaged with citizens across the country, engaged with the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection (MoGCSP), Cabinet, Parliament, Political Parties, the media and other stakeholders for the promotion of the advocacy around the Bill.

One of the significant achievements of Civil Society Organizations in advocacy towards the passage of the Affirmative Action Bill into law is the formation of the Affirmative Action Coalition.

The coalition is made up of several civil society organizations, women’s groups, and other stakeholders who have come together to push for the passage of the bill into law. The coalition has been at the forefront of advocacy efforts, including petitioning parliament and holding public demonstrations among others.

Its convener, Mrs. Sheila Minkah-Premo, an ardent advocate for women’s rights has equally been working tirelessly to ensure the bill is passed into law no time.

She believes the passage of the bill would help create a conducive environment for women, eliminate bias and enhance the participation of women in national development.

In most of her advocacy campaigns platforms, she has been relentless in her calls on civil society, media and Ghanaians at large to help push for the passage of the Affirmative Action Bill, to facilitate gender equality in governance and in private life.

Human Rights Reporters Ghana (HRRG), a media advocacy and human rights group which brings together young journalists, editors, lawyers and human rights activists has equally been adding its voice to the advocacy campaigns over the years using various media platforms to amplify its advocacy efforts. The organization has used social media to reach a broader audience and engage young people in the conversation on gender parity.

HRRG has been vocal in highlighting the importance of the bill in promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment in Ghana.

With the belief that gender parity in decision-making positions is crucial in addressing gender inequalities and promoting economic development, the vibrant advocacy group is leaving no stone unturned in its actions until the bill is passed into law soon.

While the bill is yet to become law, the advocacy efforts Affirmative Action Bill Coalition (AAB) strongly supported by civil society organizations such as ABANTU for Development, Network for Women’s Rights in Ghana, ActionAid, Women in Law and Development (WiLDAF), Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA)including the Human Rights Reporters Ghana and other stakeholders have brought the issues surrounding gender inequality in Ghanaian politics to the fore, setting the stage for increased action towards promoting gender parity.

In conclusion, affirmative action policies are essential for promoting social justice and equality in Ghana. By addressing the historical injustices that have left deep-seated inequalities in Ghanaian society, affirmative action policies can help to create a more equitable future for all Ghanaians. By countering implicit bias, promoting diversity, and enhancing national unity, these policies can help to create a better future for Ghana and its citizens.

Source: Joseph Kobla Wemakor

The writer is a staunch human rights activist, National SDGs Champion and Founder/Executive Director of Human Rights Reporters Ghana (HRRG)

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