ENHANCING WOMEN’S PARTICIPATION IN DISTRICT ASSEMBLY ELECTIONS IN THE NORTHERN REGION OF GHANA (September 2019 to July 2020)

INTRODUCTION

In 2018, RUWA-GHANA did a cursory study of all the Metropolitan, Municipal, and District Assemblies (MMDAs) in the Northern region of Ghana and realized that most of the assemblies did not have women representatives who stood for elections and won; rather the presence of some women in the assemblies was on the benevolence of the president’s appointment. This prompted the team to work on a proposal to the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) for funding to implement a project entitled “Enhancing Women’s Participation in District Assembly Elections in the Northern Region of Ghana”. The proposal went through and the eighteen (18) month project was approved and implemented from January 2019 to July 2020.

The overall objective of the project is to improve women’s participation in local elections in four districts of the northern region of Ghana during the local elections in September 2019 and to groom thirty (30) interested women to stand for the elections. However, in the process of implementation of the project, the government of Ghana reviewed the country’s election calendar to shift the country’s local elections to December 2019, changing the overall objective to “to improve women’s participation in local elections in four districts of the northern region of Ghana during the next local elections in December 2019 and to groom thirty interested women to stand for the elections.”

The overall objective of the project was really attained because, unprecedentedly, twenty (20) women from the four (4) project districts filed and contested the District Assembly Elections of December 2019; three (3) women won their seats and are currently functioning as elected Assembly members.

THE PROJECT DISTRICTS

  1. Tamale Metropolitan
  2. Sagnarigu Municipal
  3. Savulugu Municipal
  4. Yendi Municipal

The vigorous campaign involved a series of activities aimed at helping to successfully achieve the overall objective of the project. The entire proposed activities were fully implemented within the period stipulated in the proposal (i. e., from January 2019 to July 2020). Below are the activities implemented:

  • Baseline Survey carried out
  • Validation of baseline survey with a Communiqué issued,
  • Float on International Women’s Day (March 8, 2019)
  • Inception Meetings in four Districts
  • Inception Meetings in four Tertiary Institutions
  • Junior Parliament Platforms (JPPs) formed in communities and tertiary institutions
  • Junior Parliament Platform Committees (JPPCs) formed in communities and tertiary institutions
  • Radio Discussions and Phone-in Programs carried out
  • Drama Performances in Dagbanli and English done in communities
  • Capacity Building Workshops carried out
  • Workshop Sensitization Handouts printed

 

THE IMPACT OF THE OSIWA PROJECT ON ITS IMPLEMENTED DISTRICTS

The following are testimonies of individual beneficiaries of the project within the implemented districts:

 

Name: Nzara Salifu
District: Yendi Municipality

Occupation: Hair Dresser

Honorable Nzara Salifu is from Guntingli, a sub of Yendi Municipality. She is 30 years old and a hairdresser by profession. She has no formal education and so she can neither read nor write in the English language, but she can articulate her views strongly in the local language of Dagbanli. She competed with men and won, despite all the odds women face.

She is quoted as having said, “The RUWA-OSIWA project has ignited women in the project area and I regard the support coming from chiefs, elders, and the clergy as most significant for it has the tendency to influence many more men to support women in future local elections.”

Name: Alhassan Mariam
District: Savelugu/Nanton District
Occupation: Development Practitioner

Honorable Alhassan Mariam heals from Kpano, a village in the Nanton district around Savelugu. She is 32 years old and a developer by profession. She has had formal education up to tertiary level. She is bold and able to communicate in both English and Dagbanli. She was persuaded to step down in the course of the campaign, but she declined and contested with men and won despite all the odds.

Name: Yakubu Wumpini Bibiana
District: Sagnarigu Municipality
Occupation: Student

Honorable Wumpini Bibiana heals from Malshegu, a village in the Sagnarigu Municipality. She is 34 years old and a student at Wineba University in Ghana. She articulates her views strongly. She communicates well in both English and Dagbanli. She was also persuaded to step down in the course of the campaign, but she declined and contested.

Name: Tahiru Alhassan Carlos
District: Savelugu Municipality
Occupation: Teaching

My interaction with RUWA in terms of its interventions dates back to 2017 when the Executive Director, Mr. Masud Aziz Rauf, invited me to join a research team.

My perception before this campaign for women’s election into district assemblies is that in the northern region of Ghana in particular, scarcely will you hear chiefs openly saying they support the course of women to be in leadership, the notion is that generally the place of a woman is ‘the kitchen’.

The change I witnessed has to do with the comments of chiefs as I participated in almost all of your activities in Savelugu. I heard the Paramount Chief of Savelugu (Naa Abdulai Yakubu Andani) on the night a drama performance was staged at the forecourt of his palace saying he will provide every support within his capability for the realization of the goal to get women elected into district assemblies. Indeed when power went off in the middle of the performance the chief made available an electrical generator which provided power for the rest of the program. I am surprised also at the overwhelming support coming from men as evidenced by comments from men after drama and during RUWA meetings.

I regard the support coming from chiefs as most significant for it has the tendency of influencing many more men to give their support to the project.

I can see the women are happy with the project. That is the other success I see with the project.

Name: Fusheina Osman
District: Yendi Municipality, Gender Desk Officer
Occupation: Works at Yendi Municipal Assembly.

I have been in RUWA women empowerment project since January 2019 (8 months ago).

Before this empowerment intervention which seeks to campaign for women to be elected as Assembly members, my perception was that the Islamic religion does not allow women to be or to seek for leadership position and that women must always be led by men.

As a patron for the Yendi JPP the change I witnessed has to do with how men and women openly talked in support of women’s election at JPP meetings, after drama performances, during radio discussions, at inception meetings which occurred as a result of the strategy adopted by the project. At inception meeting and capacity building workshops, various experts made it clear that the Islamic religion does not forbade women from taking up leadership positions.

I regard the JPP formation and its JPPCs as the best change tool that can be mainstreamed into the Gender Desk Officer’s activities to sustain the gains of the project by continuing the activities of the JPPs even when the project ends.

I have also seen other success which has to do with it with men and women speaking with one voice in support of women’s participation in leadership.

Name: Gladys Atusongo
District: Tamale Metropolis

Occupation: Works at Tamale Metropolitan Assembly.

I have been in RUWA women empowerment project since 2016 (3 years ago).

Before this empowerment intervention which seeks to campaign for women to be elected as Assembly members, my perception was that men will never want to see women seeking to stand for Assembly elections.

The change I witnessed was very wonderful and surprising to see men stood up during inception meeting and formation and inauguration of Junior Parliament Platform Committees (JPPCs) at the Disability Resource Centre, Sagnarigu to talk in favor of women’s election into district assemblies and wishing that they win. Also on Zaa FM station I heard men who phoned-in to make contribution supporting the idea of women getting into the assemblies as elected members. A decade ago you hardly would hear such comments from men.

The change I regard as most significant is the paradigm shift from women being totally out when it comes to assembly elections and now many men’s minds are changing towards seeing women as being capable standing for and winning district elections.

The other success of the project I can share is the haste with which the women involved in the project have embraced it with alacrity. Their enthusiasm is unprecedented.

Name: Chief Shahadu Kamaldeen
District: Yendi Municipal Assembly
Occupation: Chief of Guntigle Traditional Area.

I have heard of RUWA women empowerment project in recent times through jingles played on Zaa FM radio station few weeks ago.

Before this empowerment intervention I have been in discussion with close relations on how women could be empowered to take up leadership positions, even with my peers (chiefs), my perception was that many people will at a point in time come to the realization that society needs both men and women in order to achieve concrete development.

The change I witnessed with your intervention was the level at which you include traditional leaders. I as a traditional chief have shared complements with you each time you invited me. I am aware you also invited some of my colleague chiefs and they too have given you positive response. I am moved with the
level of enthusiasm of the women. In my community (Guntigle, Yendi) 2 women are competing for the seat and I have admonished them to be decorum in their campaigns. My support for women candidates has no limit.

The change I regard as most significant is the passion of the women. I believe we shall have assembly women in Yendi this year. RUWA keep encouraging them and supporting the women.

The other success of the project I can share is the support men are giving to the project. Times are really changing. Years back you would not see men doing that.

Name: Juliana Kwara
District: Sagnarigu Municipality, Gender Officer
Occupation: Works at Sagnarigu Municipal Assembly.

My association with RUWA’s women empowerment project was the inception of the RUWA-OSIWA project entitled “enhancing women’s participation in district assembly elections in the northern region of Ghana”. That is since January 2019.

Before this empowerment intervention, my perception was that it will take a very long time before men in the northern region of Ghana will buy into the idea of women taking up leadership positions.

As I participated in the inception meeting, formation and inauguration of Sagnarigu JPP and JPPC I saw the level at which men (the Executive Director of RUWA and his team, Assembly men and even men of the clergy) talked in favor of women being in leadership. It was then that I had a change of mind that after all it will not take long the northern region of Ghana will see many of its Assemblies with elected women members. I have also seen that the eagerness with which the women especially Sagnarigu women have patronized the campaign is like it is a long awaiting issue that they could not wait to grab.

My surprise is with the men, given the cultural background of the region and how I listened to men welcoming the campaign on Zaa FM station and at training workshops organized by RUWA I felt very good. So that is the one I consider most significant change.

That is all the successes I can talk about. I pray that many women will register for the positions and will win the elections.

Also see below;

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