WHAT IS AFFIRMATIVE ACTION AND WHY WAS IT CREATED?
Most people have seen the effects of affirmative action in one place or another. For example, most job and school applications now ask a person’s racial and ethnic background, gender, and veteran status. But what is an affirmative action and what is the purpose for its creation?
WHAT IS AFFIRMATIVE ACTION-LAW?
It is a policy instituted by the government to help level the playing field for those who have been historically disadvantaged due to factors such as race, color, religion, sex, or nationality. These laws typically pertain to equal opportunities in employment, education, and business.
The purpose of affirmative action is to promote social equality through the preferential treatment of socioeconomically disadvantaged people. Often, these people are disadvantaged for historical reasons like years of oppression or slavery. However, these laws are not without their opposition. As the original segregation and disparate treatment that led to the creation of these laws has faded, more and more people have called for the abolition of affirmative action. Many have pointed out that selecting someone on the basis of their membership in a protected class other than on their actual qualification can be counter-productive to society as a whole. Indeed, members of protected classes have begun to call for the abolition of affirmative action, saying that it creates an assumption of lack qualification and preferential treatment that robs minorities of the respect of their peers. Another problem is the creation of so-called “reverse discrimination,” in which non-protected class members are actually passed over in favor of less qualified diversity candidates.
In the United States, affirmative action was first created by Executive Order 10925, signed by President John F. Kennedy in 1961. It required that government employers “not discriminate against an employee or an applicant for employment because of race, creed, color or national origin.” It also required that government employers “take affirmative action to ensure that applicants who are employed are treated fairly during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin.
WHY THE NEED FOR AN AFFIRMATIVE ACTION-LAW FOR GHANA?
The question we need to answer is what is the relevance of the affirmative action law in Ghana?
The critical need for the affirmative action law in Ghana hinges on the need to address the marginalization of women in public and economic life in Ghana. Even though women constitute more than 52 percent of Ghana’s population, the ratio of female/male membership of both Parliament, District Assemblies, public/private sectors and incorporate organizations do not reflect the composition of the population.
In 2016 it was observed in the Women’s Manifesto for Ghana that women accounted for only 15 percent of people in public office.
Secondly, Women have been marginalized in governance. The percentage of women in Parliament is a reflection of the imbalance. The percentage over the years is as follows: from 9.6 percent in 1960 to 8.7 percent in 2008 and peaked in 1965 to 18.2 percent. Others are 1992 8 percent; 10.9 percent in 2004; 11.3 percent in 2012. Currently, we have 30 out of 275 in Parliament making it 13.5 percent placing Ghana at the 139th position on the Inter-Parliamentary Union World Classification.
In close relation to the above, it is noteworthy that as a country, we have had one female Speaker of Parliament since independence. We have never had a female president or vice president. Ministerial positions have always had more men than women.
Also, the highest achieved for a ministerial appointment since 1993 is 24 percent. For Cabinet appointments, it is 15.8 percent on the average with the highest being 31.6 percent.
The Judiciary has more men in the Superior as well as Lower Courts than women and has had two female Chief Justices since independence.
The situation is the same at District Assembly level elections (below 10 percent) and appointment into local government offices.
Even though women play an integral part in the social, economic and cultural fabric of Ghana, including but not limited to agriculture, politics, governance, and business, women have a lower labor force participating rate than men put at 64.7 percent to 71.4 percent respectively according to Ghana Statistical Service, 2015. The majority are employed in the informal sector with only 31 percent working as paid employees. Women are thus disproportionately represented at the periphery of the informal sector where earnings are low and precarious, and in unpaid household work, which is unaccounted for in national accounts.
The high illiteracy levels deny many women access to decent employment and the low economic status of women limits their participation in politics and perpetuates intergenerational transfer of poverty. (Oduro, 2009).
Note that, the reasons for the marginalization of women includes the following: gendered division of labor in the home; patriarchal and patrimonial systems; negative socio-cultural practices and beliefs; lack of education and religious barriers; lack of adequate resources; nature of party politics in Ghana and lack of legislation to ensure a change to ensure gender equality.
Ghana, as it stands, has an affirmative action a bill with the call for it’s a passage into law becoming a national discourse not only for increased inequitable female political participation but a genuine concern to all key stakeholders dedicated to women’s rights promotion.
Although affirmative action has been used in Ghana since independence to address gender and regional imbalances in access to education, health, work, and political representation, its success has been variable. In particular, affirmative action measures to improve political representation has not been effective.
Though an affirmative action Law is to help the marginalized and oppressed receive equitable opportunities which are due to them, it benefits the nation as a whole. It should not be viewed as a woman’s problem for the benefit of women. Once the focus shifts from that perspective, we all as people do our part to ensure that this bill that has been sitting in parliament for years will be eventually passed into law