The Ghanaian Women’s Manifesto Movement
- Scope of Influence
- Start Date
- Time Limited or Repeated?
- A single, defined period of time
- Targeted Demographics
- Face-to-Face, Online, or Both
- Communication of Insights & Outcomes
- Public Hearings/Meetings
- Traditional Media
- New Media
Problems and Purpose
Despite gender equality being enshrined in the 1992 Constitution and the establishment of a Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs in 2001, women continue to be politically and economically marginalized in Ghana (UN, 2004). In response to an increase in violence against women and a lack of government policy responsiveness, Ghanaian women activists took to the streets on July 5th 2000 in protest, beginning a coalition movement. In 2003 these activists supported by the Network for Women's Rights in Ghana (NETRIGHT) and ABANTU for Development, began to hold deliberative assembly meetings consisting of women from across all districts in Ghana (Manifesto, 2004 and Apusigah, 2014). Through this inclusive and participatory process, a consensus tackling a broad range of gender inequalities and practices effecting Ghanaians was reached. This became published as the Women’s Manifesto for Ghana and launched at the Accra Conference Centre on September 2 2004. The Manifesto lays out a cohere set of demands and policy prescriptions to ensure that the equality and human rights of women is upheld. The release of the Manifesto in September 2004 also marked the formation of the Women’s Manifesto Coalition (WMC), a broad coalition of civil society organization, which advocates for broader participation of women in society, which is meant to monitor the government’s efforts to implement the demands. Through this process of coalition building, participatory deliberation, and the coordination of demands, the Manifesto was able to directly impact national policies effecting women.
Background History and Context
The women of Ghana have vibrant histories of political participation despite colonial and post-colonial authoritative-military regimes (Cornwall, 2005). When Jerry Rawlings took power in a 1993 coup d’état existing policies and institutions did not adequately address women’s rights (Handley and Mills, 2001). A renewed women’s movement in the 1990s and during the election in 2000, led to an increase in official political representation of women, but significant inequalities persisted (World Bank, 1999). On Sunday July 5th 2000 a second female body was discovered in Accra, marking the 25th death in the city since 1999 (Sakyi-Addo, 2000). This provoked street protests among female activists (Mama, 2005). It also generated intense public discussions, what the Ghanaian branch of the Federation of International Women Lawyers described in a letter to President Rawlings in July 2000 as “a national crisis” (Sakyi-Addo, 2000). In response, the government reaffirmed the importance of women in democratic national development and announced that it would initiate a gender ‘strategies document’ in 2001 and create the Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs (MWCA, 2011). Activists however feared this would depoliticize their political participation, leading to ineffective and “ghettoized” policy reforms (Mama, 2005).
In 2003 Rose Mensah-Kutin and Takyiwaa Manuh, decided to start a coalition movement around creating a Women’s Manifesto for Ghana supported by NETRIGHT, ABUNTU but 35 other organizations (Interviews, 2005 and Quaicoe-Duho, 2009). From June to December 2003 consultations were conducted with women’s groups, NGOs, civil society organizations and women district assemblies from across Ghana (Apusigah, 2014). On September 2nd 2004 the Women’s Manifesto for Ghana was officially released based on these deliberative consultations and its monitoring body the Women’s Coalition Movement (WCM) organized. Since the Manifesto's creation in 2004, the Ghanaian government has passed the Domestic Violence Act, the Human Trafficking Act, the Disability Act, and has banned female genital mutilation (Quaicoe-Duho, 2009). The WCM remains active in promoting women's rights in Ghana, updating the Manifesto ahead of the 2016-17 elections; both continue to lead gender-policy discussions in Ghana (Quaicoe-Duho, 2009 and WCM, 2017).
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The non-governmental organization (NGO) ABANTU for Development was the initial supporter of the idea to start a coalition around creating a Women’s Manifesto for Ghana at the behest of Rose Mensah-Kutin and Takyiwaa Manuh. Important activists and organizers of the movement, include: Rose Mensah-Kutin, Hamida Harrison, Renée Zandvliet and Dzodzi Tsikata – among countless others (Mama, 2005). The convenors of the Manifesto Steering and Drafting committees conducted editorial contributions and support. The deliberative consultations and publication of the document received forms of financial support from a number of organisations; The Ford Foundation provided core funding while the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES) supported monthly press conferences, the FES also provided institutional support to the secretariat, paid for the cost of publishing the Manifesto, and contributed to its launch and dissemination (Mama, 2005). The NGO Actionaid-Ghana actively participated and supported consultative meetings and contributed to the launch of the Manifesto. The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the UN System Support for the Promotion of Gender Equality in Ghana also helped fund consultations. The Third World Network-Africa (TWN-AF) and Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) supported drafting meetings, and contributed to the launch and dissemination processes (Manifesto, 2004). Other funders are IBIS-Ghana, the Shaler Adams Foundation, the Global Fund for Women, and the African Women Development Fund (AWDF) who supported public awareness initiatives of the Manifesto (Manifesto, 2004).
Participant Recruitment and Selection
Participant lists for the deliberative consultations in the publication of the Women’s Manifesto were drawn from pre-existing community based non-government, civil society, and women’s organizations across Ghana. This was primarily accomplished through the use of ABANTU for Development and NETRIGHT contacts (Mama, 2005). Participants in the movement more generally were drawn from across Ghana, united in concern for the inequalities and lack of rights enforcement for women (Manifesto, 2004 and Mama, 2005).
Methods and Tools Used
Activists in the women's rights movement undertook a process of protest, coalition building, participatory deliberation, and the coordination of demands. Three years after protests began in the early 2000s, activists in the women's rights movement gained the support of the Network for Women's Rights in Ghana (NETRIGHT) and ABANTU for Development. The groups worked together to hold deliberative assembly meetings consisting of women from across all districts in Ghana (Manifesto, 2004 and Apusigah, 2014). Through inclusive, participatory processes, a consensus tackling a broad range of gender inequalities and practices effecting Ghanaians was reached and was published as the Women’s Manifesto for Ghana. The release of the Manifesto in September 2004 also marked the formation of the Women’s Manifesto Coalition comprised of civil society organizations and community leaders. The Coalition advocates for broader participation of women in society, which is meant to monitor the government’s efforts to implement the Manifesto's demands.
Deliberation, Decisions and Public Interaction
The demonstrations in Accra throughout 2000 against government inactivity in women’s rights involved a variety of civil society organizations, pickets and a coordinated march to Osu Castle “to protest... I mean, we were desperate!” (Interview, 2005). According to organizer Rose Mensah-Kutin, the “idea for the Manifesto” originated in 2003 through discussing regional and national strategies in West-Africa after continued government ineffectiveness. She continues in more detail; “We knew national elections were coming in 2004, and the people were talking about whether women were going to try to do something. Takyiwaa Manuh... was talking to me, trying to push me to think of something, and so I said maybe we should develop a Woman's Manifesto. We knew that Nigeria had done something like that, and so had Botswana and Tanzania. And so I just said it – that we should have a Ghanaian Women's Manifesto and she said it was a wonderful idea, and that is how it started.” (Mama, 2005).
The deliberative consultations across Ghana utilized ABANTU for Development’s networks to “interact with women's groups and women's activists from all over Africa, particularly Nigeria.” (Mama, 2005). These regional inspirations and networks in West-African among women activists helped ground the Manifesto for Ghana and provided a framework for the participatory consultations (Manifesto, 2004). As Mensah-Kutin explains further: “I remember when I went to Nigeria in 1996 and got a copy of The Nigerian Women's Political Agenda. From that time, I began to feel that one day we could also embark on something like that. I remember talking to Nkoyo Toyo, and she said that theirs was a very simple process. They held a series of women's political summits that brought different groups together in a series of meetings. I thought it was an interesting idea” (Mama, 2005).
The consultations in Ghana took place from June to December 2003. Among these were consultations with women’s groups, NGOs and other civil society organisations from across the country; District Assembly women (180 in number) from all the District Assemblies in the country (Mama, 2005). Media women and men and representatives of Political Parties also participated in the consultation, as did the Women and Juvenile Unit of the Ghana Police Service and the National Commission for Civic Education (Mama, 2005). As an organizer, Hamida Harrison notes that “this was the first time in the history of this country that these people met” (Mama, 2005). These consultations were centred on figuring out what issues were of concern for women and what demands/solutions could resolve them (Manifesto, 2004). They were inclusive, involved support of local communities and Assembly deliberations (Mama, 2005).
After these consultations, Drafting and Steering Committees were set up to draft and make decisions on the process of developing and promoting the Manifesto. Information generated through the various consultations served as the basis for the production of a pre-draft Manifesto. From February 2004 to April 2004 three meetings were held to draft the manifesto. In April-May 2004 the draft was used to organize broader regional consultations throughout the country for additional comments and suggestions about how the document could be improved and finalised for publication and wider dissemination (Mama, 2005). Further consultations were organised with different constituencies including the media, senior female executives in the various Ministries Departments and Agencies between June-July, 2004. Activists had a positive relationship with the media, briefing them monthly on chapter contents before the official publication (Mama, 2005). The drafting process was therefore highly publicized, inclusive, and open to revision reflecting the participation of new individuals and the ongoing discussions about the Manifesto’s content.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The results of this deliberative consultation and coalition building among women activists was the publication of the Women’s Manifesto for Ghana and the setting of concrete demands. The presentation in the Accra Conference Centre was attended by women and men from across the social and political spectrum, attracting extensive media coverage (Apusigah, 2014). The main demands reflect a wide-variety of demands made by Ghanaian women, targeting specific areas of concern and prescriptions how to move forward (Manifesto, 2004). The document is directed at the executive branch, policy makers, politicians and political parties, parliament, the judiciary and civil society – both men and women (Manifesto, 2004). The Women and Juvenile Unit of the Ghana Police Service, “made very positive contributions,” particularly on questions of violence against women and the decriminalisation of prostitution (Mama, 2005). The National Commission for Civic Education, a constitutional body, also took up the regional launches of the Manifesto in several regions of Ghana (Mama, 2005).
The full Manifesto can be found here: http://library.fes.de/pdf-files/bueros/ghana/02983.pdf
The Manifesto consist of ten sections including a preamble and a concluding “call to action” to men. The ten central themes are;
- Women’s Economic Empowerment
- Women and Land
- Women, Social Policy and Social Development
- Women in Politics, Decision-making and Public Life
- Women, Human Rights, and Law
- Discriminatory Cultural Practices
- Women and Media
- Women, Conflict, and Peace
- Women with Special Needs
- Institutions with a Mandate to Promote Women’s Rights
Each chapter begins with a contextualized gendered analysis of the theme, which is followed by a series of concrete demands on the government to remedy the specific grievances mentioned within a committed time-frame. Given the broad consultations, advocacy, lobbying strategy adopted and the commitment of women, women’s NGOs and organisations in the process of producing the Manifesto, it generated significant optimism about its ability to enhance women’s participation in public affairs in the country (Akyeampong, 2008 and Quaicoe-Duho, 2009).
The processes involved in the production and dissemination of the Women’s Manifesto also culminated in the formation of a broad coalition of NGOs and other civil society organisations under the WCM. The membership of the Coalition, which is hosted by ABANTU for Development, includes 35 organisations, many of which are themselves coalitions and networks, as well as over 700 individual women and men. The Coalition has launched a number of initiatives linked to the Women's Manifesto, including a biannual conference for women in district assemblies and a mentoring programme for young women in tertiary education institutions (Zandvliet, 2013).
The National Democratic Government in April 2004 announced its recognition and acceptance of the content of the Women’s Manifesto for Ghana and the work of the WCM: “The NDC accept generally the objectives of the “Women’s Manifesto for Ghana” published in April 2004... An NDC Government will work with the sponsors of the Manifesto to incorporate its key demands in the NDC's “Affirmative Action Policy for Women document... to be revised, updated and implemented upon assuming office in 2009” (Quaicoe-Duho, 2009). Since the Manifesto's creation in 2004 and in partly keeping this promise – not without criticism – the Ghanaian government has passed the Domestic Violence Act, the Human Trafficking Act, the Disability Act, and has banned female genital mutilation (Zandvliet, 2013).
Analysis and Lessons Learned
The deliberative consultations and publishing of the Women’s Manifesto was able to build off of pre-existing activisms of women and NGO/CSO networks to create new coalitions connecting women around distilling core issues, setting targets and policy prescriptions. This model of deliberative consultation and coalition building was highly effective in addressing the wide variety and diversity of inequalities experienced by women (Zandvliet, 2013). As the Manifesto contends in the closing remarks; “The most important task ahead of us in the coming years is to strengthen our coalitions and networks to ensure that they are up to the tasks of promoting, monitoring and assessing progress in the implementation of the Manifesto” (Manifesto, 2004).
In an interview Rose Mensah-Kutin, Hamida Harrison, and Dzodzi Tsikata describe what they have learnt and consider to be the three most prescient lessons from their experience in the Manifesto campaign (Mama, 2005);
- “A collective project of this nature strengthens unity, builds confidence and empowers not just those who initiate it, but all who become involved in it”
- “We also learned that the more thorough and broad-based a political process, the more it can withstand challenges from powerful quarters... the unprecedented level of our mobilisation protected us”
- “Finally, the importance of partnerships, both within our ranks and with different constituencies – mass organisations, the media and other women's organisations – is a key lesson.”
Commentaries and Criticism
Criticizing the policy effects of the Women’s Manifesto for Ghana, Diana Højlund Madsen argues that; “translating gender mainstreaming into practice demonstrates that gender mainstreaming has not lived up to the expectations for transformation – the Ghanaian women's movement has not played the role imagined in taking gender mainstreaming further. ‘Agenda-setting’ of the women's movement and taking gender mainstreaming in a more democratic/participatory direction seems to be more of a vision than a reality” (Madsen, 2012).
Ghanaian commentators have also suggested that since the Manifesto lacks binding mechanisms to enforce government to commit to its demands, it remains fundamentally a moral rather than ‘legal’ document (Quaicoe-Duho, 2009). Further, some argue that patriarchal structures within society and culture more generally in some communities pose a significant barrier to the achievement of Manifesto goals and women’s rights more generally (Manifesto, 2004 and Akita, 2010). The political participation of women, despite having pre-colonial precedent, and being a necessity for democracy, is still actively discouraged and discriminated against. A broad range of educational initiatives and community based campaigns should accompany policy implementation.
The director of ABANTU for Development Ms. Mensah-Kutin explains the significance and impact of the Manifesto on gender issues in Ghana more positively: “It has been like the roadmap with which we are working on gender issues in this country. It is a civil society document, but everybody, people in parliament, government officials, everybody makes reference to it. The landscape of women's rights issues has changed dramatically since then. The thinking, the attitude, the policy interest in women's rights issues has really increased since the development of the Women's Manifesto for Ghana.” (Zandvliet, 2013).
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Madsen, Diana Højlund. “Mainstreaming from Beijing to Ghana – The role of the Women's Movement in Ghana.” Gender and Development 20 (2012).
Mama, Amina. “In Conversation: The Ghanaian Women’s Manifesto Movement.” Feminist Africa 4 (2005).
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The Coalition on the Women’s Manifesto for Ghana. “The Women’s Manifesto for Ghana” Friedrich Ebert Foundation (September 2004).
Zandvliet, Renée. “Women’s Manifesto in Ghana: Ghana's Civil Society's 'Roadmap' for Women's Advancement.” Capacity4dev (March 18th 2013).
ABANTU West-Africa Regional Office http://www.abantu-rowa.org/
Amina Mama, “Interviews with Ghanaian Women’s Movement Activists.” Feminist Africa http://agi.ac.za/sites/agi.ac.za/files/fa_4_in_conversation.pdf
The Network for Women's Rights in Ghana (NETRIGHT) http://www.netrightghana.org/about-us.html
The Women’s Manifesto for Ghana, The Coalition on the Women’s Manifesto for Ghana (Hosted by ABANTU for Development, 2004) http://library.fes.de/pdf-files/bueros/ghana/02983.pdf
Lead image: Ghana Broadcasting Corporation https://goo.gl/Soqrvu