Our Work

Closing the gender gap in Ghanaian politics

Karen Takacs Women’s Leadership Fund fuels program to increase the engagement of young women

Women’s political participation and representation is key for gender equality. In Ghana, women’s participation at all levels of political, social and economic life is low. Crossroads International’s local partner ABANTU is determined to increase women’s engagement in governance. With a grant awarded in 2017 they launched a unique program to introduce young women to the political process.

“Most of election observers in Ghana are men. They [at the Electoral Commissioner] think than women will run away in case of conflict or violence,” said Mateenah Odoi a young female electoral observer.

“If my degree and qualifications say I can do it [being a political officer], being a woman says no, (…) but we can handle it. They need to close the [gender] gap [in the electoral process].”

The Young Women’s Mentorship Programme (YWMP), is a group established by ABANTU to increase leadership opportunities for young women in Ghana. With support from Crossroads and the Karen Takacs Fund, Mateenah and 24 more young women from YWMP served as election observers and documented their experiences.

Some of the 25 YMMP electoral observers with Crossroads International program officer (right).

Throughout the project, participants witnessed discrimination against women serving as election officials. They also noted that in 2016 only four women were electoral political officers —– a higher level of election observers —– and those were in the Electoral Commissioner for more than a decade.

Although participating as observers in Ghanaian elections is open to everyone through an online application, YWMP observers said that things change once women go to the training session to become a political officer. “Tomorrow they can come to the classroom and put you in a different group and your place be taken by a guy. Then, you will become a pool assistant or laminator,” Mateenah said. These and other findings will be formally submitted to key stakeholders of elections including the Electoral Commissioner with recommendations to ensure more gender parity in women’s participation as voters and as electoral officials and observers.

“Fostering young women’s interest in participating within decision-making spaces is key to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment,” said Ambra Yirenkyi, Program Officer responsible for Ghana.

“With this grant, ABANTU for Development and Crossroads expect to advance in women’s involvement at political levels, making it more likely that their rights, priorities, needs and interests are heard.”

The Karen Takacs Women’s Leadership Fund was created by the Crossroads Board of Directors in 2015 to celebrate Karen’s transformative leadership throughout her twelve years as Executive Director of Crossroads International. The Fund highlights her lifelong work with civil society organization to reduce violence against women and girls, facilitate the participation of women in decision-making processes affecting their lives, and increase women’s social and economic autonomy.