Every four years, a majority of Ghanaians peacefully elect their government, upholding their position as Africa’s first self-governing democracy. Thanks to Global Fund grantee ABANTU for Development, Ghana’s women are ensuring the country’s governance structures reflect its demographics.
In 1991, a group of African women founded ABANTU for Development as a Pan-African organization devoted to realizing a world in which Africa’s women and men would control their continent’s resources and use them to achieve freedom from hunger, armed conflict, oppression and discrimination. ABANTU’s Regional Office for West Africa, based in Ghana, opened in 1997.
ABANTU uses outreach, training and advocacy to equip women with the tools needed to access leadership positions, participate in national development processes and make women’s rights a mainstay of national policymaking. Fueled by a Global Fund grant, ABANTU led the development and popularization of a Ghana Women’s Manifesto beginning in 2003. The Manifesto is a comprehensive framework to implement gender- sensitive policies as well as a tool to guide advocacy for policies favorable to women.
ABANTU has trained Ghanaian women nationwide to be informed, eager participants in district assemblies – the highest decision-making structures at the local level – and to use elections to bridge the grassroots–national government divide.
ABANTU’s advocacy and networking efforts have contri- buted to significant milestones for women. Since 2005, Ghana’s legislature has passed laws criminalizing human trafficking and domestic violence. An unprecedented number of women stood for district-level elections in 2006, resulting in dramatic increases in women’s representation in district assemblies. Women currently occupy eight ministerial posts as well as those of Parliamentary Speaker, Police Inspector General and Attorney General. The Ghana Women’s Manifesto has been widely accepted and routinely invoked by policy makers, political parties, academics and civil society organizations and adopted in the national Affirmative Action Policy.
ABANTU intends to replicate its successes by sharing its work with women’s rights organizations in neighboring countries.
“Through [ABANTU’s] initiative, I developed a lot of confidence... I did not win the elections but my life will not be the same again. I am willing to speak out against how we women are treated. I will do this anytime and anywhere.” — 2006 program participant from the Western Region of Ghana speaking about ABANTU’s training programs for candidates for a local government position
Year and stage of Global Fund investment in ABANTU for Development:
- $10,000 in general support to promote gender concerns in local government. ABANTU convened an inaugural summit of 158 gender activists, elected and candidate Assemblywomen, women Parliamentarians, NGO staff and policy makers representing 110 districts. At the meeting, two district Assemblywomen agree to spearhead the drafting of a Ghana Women’s Manifesto to articulate women’s concerns and recommend a political and development pathway toward gender equality. The GFW’s initial support helped the group to leverage grants from the African Women’s Development Fund and the Canadian, Danish and Ghanaian governments.
- $40,000 awarded as a two-year grant to translate, disseminate and popularize the Ghana Women’s Manifesto; to advise 71 female district assembly candidates on the electoral process; and to train Liberian refugees in Buduburam Refugee Camp on UN Resolution 1325. ABANTU’s work on the Women’s Manifesto transformed this document from paper to social movement.
- $2,000 discretionary grant funded an ABANTU staff member’s participation in a regional workshop, “Gender and Climate Change,” and supported climate change awareness programs in multiple communities.
- $40,000 grant supported ABANTU to bolster women’s participation as voters and candidates in Ghana’s 2008 presidential and parliamentary elections. This included printing 2,000 copies of the Women’s Manifesto in 4 languages for national distribution. ABANTU was invited to serve on the Presidential Debate Committee, a prestigious policy platform that creates a forum for citizen engagement in the electoral process.