Gretchen Bauer is a Professor at the Department of Political Science and International Relations, University of Delaware in Newark, USA. Her current research focuses on women’s political participation and the use of electoral gender quotas for parliament in Sub-Saharan Africa. She is the co-editor of Women in African Parliaments and Women in Executive Power: A Global Overview. She has conducted extensive research in southern Africa and taught in different venues in east and West Africa. She is currently a Fulbright Scholar at LECIAD and CEGENSA at the University of Ghana.
The objective of the lecture was to highlight lessons which Ghana could learn from other African countries in terms of increasing women's political representation and leadership. Bauer extensively elaborated the need for electoral quotas in Ghana in other to increase women's political participation in Parliament. This she reiterated would advance the interest and concerns of women. As of February, 2016, Ghana is ranked 150th out of 185 countries worldwide in terms of women representation in the lower or single house of parliament with only 10.9% women in its parliament. Ghana over the years has not been able to create a conducive environment for women to actively compete with men for positions in parliament. Several barriers ranging from cultural, to economic to religion have hindered women's progress towards participation in decision making. To buttress her position, Bauer gave a historical antecedent of women's representation in Ghana from independence to present. She attributed the following prevailing conditions to this asymmetrical representation in the country; successive military coup d'états, no quotas in previous elections, autonomous women mobilisation among others.
In brief, the way forward for Ghana to achieve high percentage of women members of parliament, is to change the electoral system by using reserved seats and bring more women into leadership positions. Also, a conscious effort should be made to break the psychological barriers that hinder women's political representation in Ghana.
Contributors: Annabelle Pwalia