STAR Ghana project – Increasing Women’s Participation in Governance at the Local Level



The Gender Centre funded by STAR GHANA began a 12 month project in the Wenchi municipality. The project’s objective was to increase women’s participation in governance and increase the assembly’s responsiveness   to issues that affect women in the Wenchi assembly.

Despite gender equality being enshrined in the 1992 constitution and Ghana signing up to several international instruments such as the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination (CEDAW) and The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights on the Rights of Women (AU Optional Protocol on Women), , the number of women participating in local, district and national governance and decision making structures is very low e.g. women’s representation in the 2010 DA elections was 6.75%.  Without the active participation of women and the incorporation of women’s perspective at all levels of decision making, the goals of equality and development cannot be achieved.

What are the obstacles to women’s participation?  Over the years there has been much debate on this issue but factors such as political illiteracy, lack of confidence, low capacities, negative stereotyping of women who engage in politics and complicated bureaucracies of political party structures all hamper women’s effective participation.  What can we do about this?

It was in this direction that the Gender centre’s project was implemented.  15 women were trained to sensitize their fellow community members on the need to actively participate in governance and other decision making positions in their communities and the need to actively hold their leaders accountable to being responsive to their needs. The participants were trained on human rights, gender based violence, leadership, assertiveness etc.  These women acting as agents of their own change went into their communities, visiting churches, mosques and schools to educate and sensitize the community members on their human rights, the domestic laws and the need for women to actively participate in governance and decision making processes. Close to 5000 people have been reached so far in the project. Additionally the participants use radio stations to educate the listening public on the domestic laws of the country, especially on interstate succession laws, domestic violence, wills act and human rights and women’s participation in governance.

As part of the project the community members were given the opportunity to engage with their Municipal Chief Executive on key issues affecting them in the communities, so that policy formulation and budget allocations could be made to tackle those issues.  It was a platform  for them to highlight issues of concern such as waste management, inadequate toilet facilities and lack of water but also so that they could discuss how to address these problems.

Though not all of the issues have been solved, the community members came out with their own initiatives to tackle some of the identified problems.  Others acted as sanitary inspectors to guard against people dumping their rubbish into the already filled bins, others burned the rubbish themselves, others contacted wielders to produce their own bins, others mobilized people for cleaning exercise to remove heaped rubbish, others contacted assemblymen over the bad sate of toilets.  This empowered the communities allowing them to engage their MCE and the assembly members on their inactiveness and sought for strategies as a way forward.

It was a thrilling and also heartwarming journey, community members; especially women were empowered sharing their views and opinions constructively, they learned about their rights under the local governance act and so demanded accountability from their assembly members.  From Subinso no I and  2 and Branam, Nchiraa and the rest of the communities, women who were shy and not bold enough to demand their rights and  accountability  suddenly found their voice to demand their needs be met.   Women reprimanded the assemblymen and unit committee members on their inability to confer with them.  Suggestions such as regular meetings between the community and Assembly members were made.   Again communities were able to assess DA failures and come up with better initiatives to tackle the issues. Examples of the Initiatives include guarding against people throwing rubbish into the already filled bins, guarding against defecating around rubbish dump and demanding for their issues to be factored into the assembly’s plans.

To ensure women’s active participation the project sought ideas from community members that would support the women in the community to  take part in governance, especially in the upcoming District Assembly elections. The centre had 2 focus group discussions with men and women in the communities who suggested the following support mechanisms;  door to door campaigns, technical advice on communication and interpersonal skills to convince people to vote for women, assisting in writing manifestos, and training women on good communication and interpersonal skills.  The communities vouched to provide financial support to the contesting women.

The Gender Centre has been working to promote and protect women’s rights since 1995 each of our projects, through research, community engagement and education, are based on redressing issues to the development of women and girls achieving real equality in Ghana.  Whether working to stop Gender based violence, redressing the gender inequality of sexual and reproductive health, working to end early/forced marriage or, as here working to ensure more women are included in governance and decision making structures, we concentrate on working with the communities we engage to ensure we achieve our objectives.

It is heartwarming to know that after engaging these community members on human rights, domestic laws, governance and gender based violence  55 women confirmed that they will contest for the upcoming districts assembly and unit committee members’ elections. The Gender Centre is watching closely to see how they will perform in the upcoming elections.  Additionally 4 women opted for Alternative Dispute Resolution and subsequently for court possession on an adverse possession case. The Gender Centre will be monitoring the success of all these women as they test the laws for justice to prevail.

Patricia Ida Annan – Project Officer

Copyright © 1995 - 2018 Gender Studies & Human Right Documentation Centre, All Rights Reserved
Home  |  Events  |  FAQ  |  Contact Us