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Chapter 5. Integrating gender concerns into policymaking.

Public policy is an important lever for removing gender inequalities and providing women with equal opportunities to participate in development. But addressing socioeconomic causes of inequity and changing socially deep-rooted gender roles are a long-term process. They require a clear policy directive, a high level of political commitment, and a sustained, coordinated effort from line ministries and other stakeholders.

Mechanisms to incorporate gender concerns into public policy should be comprehensive and institutionalized in such a way that issues can be addressed consistently and systematically. This means improving government's capacity to diagnose gender constraints, analyze their underlying causes, identify appropriate policy and program responses, and incorporate those in the normal functioning of all stakeholders. Doing all of this effectively means sensitizing policymakers to the full impact of their actions. Gender issues cut across all sectors so capacity-building efforts need to recognize deficits in capacity in all relevant institutions and sector ministries and must address them comprehensively.


The first step is for policymakers to understand the need to address gender inequality and promote women's advancement. The National Council on Women and Development was created in 1975, under the Office of the President, to see to the welfare of women and to advise the government on issues affecting women. More recently the council and its 10 regional secretariats advocated integrating gender considerations into national policies and programs through its representation on sectoral and multisectoral planning bodies.

In practice the council's wide mandate has been limited because of its ill-defined relationship with line ministries, the donor community, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and other organizations working on gender issues. Its inability to move beyond advocacy to effective leadership accounts for the haphazard manner in which gender issues are addressed and for the council's failure to be properly recognized by partner organizations. That the council does not have a clearly articulated mandate to coordinate gender efforts further complicates the problems already posed by a too small professional staff and an inability to effectively deploy the staff that is available. These deficiencies account for the absence of either a fully functioning clearinghouse on gender data or the effective coordination of women's programs and projects needed to provide strong national leadership on matters of gender.

Ghana has shown an increasing awareness of gender issues in the past two decades, and the Beijing Conference on Women added momentum to gender concerns. At that 1995 conference the government committed itself to such actions as enacting legislation to protect women's property rights, providing work opportunities for women, establishing credit institutions for women's small businesses, and improving women's educational attainment.

The government has taken measures to follow up on those commitments. A committee on affirmative action has developed and submitted to the cabinet proposals aimed at ensuring women's participation in policy decisionmaking. A committee on media dissemination is publicizing the messages from the Beijing Conference and another committee has prepared a research document on the Rights of Women in Ghana. But stronger institutional capacity is needed to translate these proposals and initiatives into action and to monitor their implementation. Without stronger institutional capacity no gender strategy can produce much concrete action.

At the sectoral level several ministries have set up Women's Desks or have created special units for women's affairs. The Ministry of Food and Agriculture has a Women in Agricultural Development Division; the Ministry of Education has a Girls' Education Unit. Whether these groups have achieved their objectives is open to question. The Woman in Agricultural Development unit has been active longer so it maybe a better subject for review. Such units often become marginalized within ministries and bogged down with peripheral "women only" projects--reflecting the persistent bias against creating effective women's units.


In Ghana many NGOs focus their activities on gender issues. Most NGOs are small and operate at the grassroots level. The 31st December Women's Movement is the largest gender-focused NGO in the country. With a membership of more than one million, it has branches in each region and is represented in all the districts (NCWD 1995). Some NGOs deal with broad issues such as literacy, income generation, and reproductive health; others work in smaller, more clearly defined areas. The Forum for African Women Educationalists, for example, works on gender issues in girls' education; the International Federation of Women Lawyers concentrates on legal issues.

The National Council on Women and Development has instituted a networking forum with representatives from women's workplace associations, social and religious societies, and NGOs. The forum meets monthly to exchange ideas, share information, and discuss common concerns. About 20 NGOs attend these monthly meetings regularly. Unfortunately, the mixed and constantly changing representation--resulting in generally unstructured meetings--means that no clearly defined gender goals and outputs have emerged so far.

Government agencies and NGOs are constrained in influencing policies and programs and addressing gender issues among other reasons by:

* Weak leadership.

* Limited financial resources.

* Lack of basic infrastructure support for activities.

* Lack of the skills needed for gender analysis.

* Inadequate access to information and technology.

These deficiencies, although serious, can be remedied.


Ghana should systematically integrate gender concerns into policymaking, planning, budgeting, and program implementation. In this regard, the efforts of CEDEP and ISODEC merit support.

In building capacity, the main challenge will be to transform society's negative attitudes toward change. Resistance is stronger when changes are not in the interest of those who have to make the policy changes, so it is important to highlight the benefits to be gained by including women in development. This process is the concern not only of line ministers, but also of district assemblies and the National Council on Women in Development, whose close association with this process is critical.

A leading institution with a clearly articulated mandate, such as the National Council on Women in Development, must show the way and bring others along. Interactions between institutions and actors will be the basis for a more informed policy dialogue and action on gender issues. It is important to develop networking links among all stakeholders, and between researchers and development workers. Sector ministries and NGOs need to be helped to work together toward common goals and monitorable benchmarks.

The National Council on Women and Development

The National Council on Women and Development and other leading stakeholders need strengthening for the task ahead. As the lead agency, the council defines a vision and develops monitorable indicators for measuring progress. The council is directly under the Office of the President, so it is well placed to advise government on policy, but it has been unable to fulfill its mandate effectively. It lacks the image and authority needed to examine sectoral policies and provide guidance and policy direction, and it has not yet established itself as the body mandated to coordinate gender-related activities. Its current focus on empowerment needs to be internalized by the national machinery, so that program shifts can effect productive changes. A strengthened and revitalized council is essential to such renewal.

The council's main problems have been administrative: rapid turnover in leadership, (without proper plans for succession), lack of qualified staff, and poor conditions of service (including low pay) have made it difficult to recruit skilled staff. Poor accommodations and a limited staff of skilled people have limited the council's ability to manage the volume of documents received. And inadequate resources and mobility make it difficult to disseminate information or monitor regional activities.

The council should be the clearinghouse for research materials on gender, but it does not currently have the capacity to link researchers with institutions, to have gaps in research filled, or to facilitate access to resources. The council is filled only with women, which negates its status as a gender-sensitive institution. It needs a more balanced representation.

The council still relies on the government's inadequate budgetary allocation from subvention funds. The government has not supported its commitment to gender equality with the resources needed to achieve gender equality. So far the council has relied on the good will of some donors rather than mobilizing fresh funding support for new projects. As a result it has been unable to assist NGOs even when such support was critical. NGOs are not required to register with the council, so it is unaware of how many NGOs do gender work. Even if it had the budget, however, the council would not be able to monitor NGO operations.

Sectoral Ministries and Related Organizations

Many policymakers do not fully understand women's importance to development and long-standing negative attitudes toward women mean that no special efforts are made to remedy the problem. Policymakers need to be aware of how gender issues limit development in specific sectors as well as nationally and how gender-sensitive policy can benefit everyone.

District assemblies need to know how men and women in their communities experience poverty differently and how that affects national development. They need to know the implications for program development and resource allocation of not addressing gender concerns. District plans need to acknowledge women's special needs and elicit their input about the development of systems appropriate to women's productive and reproductive needs.

The institution responsible for budget allocations needs to know the importance of gender work, so that budget allocations are sensitive to gender inequalities. Educational programs are needed to teach institutions such as the National Council on Women and Development how to prepare and defend budgets. The media require support and advice in processing and disseminating unstereotyped gender data.

Research bodies and universities need to know about the gaps in women's research and the inadequacies in current data analysis. Neither currently emphasizes gender differences in data collection, so they do not sort data by gender. The need for research data to give policymakers, planners, and others involved in development must be stressed.

Nongovernmental Organizations

NGOs and other civil organizations have the will to assist women, but do not always understand gender issues and do not always have the analytical skills needed to design and manage gender-responsive projects. They tend to be starved of basic infrastructure support services and equipment. Poor financial management, lack of transparency and accountability, and poor report-writing skills often constrain their ability to sustain access to funding. Some NGOs lack the ability to generate, analyze, and use gender data in project monitoring, evaluation, and improvement, or to formulate strategies for translating the results of research analysis into action.

NGOs need strong analytical skills to foster awareness of inequities. Many NGOs need to develop advocacy and lobbying skills to mobilize women to make the demands on government needed to promote change in societal behavior and in the processes that lead to gender equality. It is important to learn which NGOs are effective so other NGOs can learn from their experience and forge collaborative links with them.

The Financial Sector

Financial institutions offer services to women but with such burdensome administrative and regulatory requirements that women effectively have little access to them. These institutions need sensitivity training on gender issues. Their procedures and operations should be analyzed and their client records disaggregated by sex to show how they exclude a large segment of their potential client population. Given more information, they can be pressured to take measures to eliminate biases, unintended or not.


Integrating gender perspectives into public policy requires improving the government's capacity for gender analysis, which requires better gender-disaggregated information about different sectors of the economy and for different line departments. Also needed are institutional mechanisms for coordinating the gender-related work of line departments, for supporting NGOs' gender work, and for channeling the results of gender analysis to policymakers so that it will improve policymaking.

Information is rarely disaggregated by gender for most sectors and programs, and project evaluation rarely considers gender issues. Lack of gender-sorted data prevents policymakers from identifying gender concerns, designing actions to address them, and monitoring the results. The exclusion of gender from current management information systems is increasingly recognized as a problem. Ghana Statistical Services is now sorting information by gender and will produce a report about the gender gaps in various spheres.

Future surveys and existing management information systems in various line departments should include a gender dimension. In the fourth round of the Ghana Living Standard Survey, for example, data-collection instruments should be designed to be gender-sensitive. Information on intrahousehold dynamics between men and women and boys and girls is essential for gender analysis. Other surveys could also include instruments for collecting such information. Each line ministry could assess various survey instruments and management information systems for their ability to disaggregate information by gender.

Making gender-disaggregated data available is the first step toward identifying policy-relevant gender issues. Ghana also urgently needs the institutional capacity to undertake gender analysis--by analyzing data to identify important issues and potential policy prescriptions. Such capacity could exist within each line ministry and in such policy support institutions as the Ghana Statistical Services, NDPC, and the National Council on Women and Development. The capacity for such gender analysis is still weak in Ghana and staff in the statistical units of line ministries and institutions lack the skills, equipment, and institutional support for such analyses. Even the Women in Development Unit of the Ministry of Agriculture has little gender-disaggregated information and no staff trained to collect and analyze information on gender issues in agriculture.

The country is fortunate in having some highly qualified, well-trained professionals with extensive experience analyzing gender issues, but many do not have adequate institutional support. Given so little support, their skills and knowledge would be most effectively used taking the lead in such analyses and in training government officials. Ghana's universities have several institutes with substantial capacity for gender research and some NGOs and private consulting firms are capable of gender analysis, but researchers generally have limited access to information and minimal resources to do their jobs. Closer coordination is needed between the research and academic communities and policymakers. Government support to the research community in collecting and analyzing gender-disaggregated data would help make data available for use in developing recommendations for public policy.


Research projects on gender often have no direct link to policymaking. As a result, gender-related research is rarely considered in project formulation or design. Effective institutional channels are needed to link the results of gender analysis to policymaking. The National Council on Women and Development already has a mandate to develop the national agenda and to give the government policy advice, but the council is not a research body; it needs support from other institutions and agencies for operations research and policy analysis. Academic communities and research institutions could join the council in identifying key areas for policy research and in providing the results of gender research for policymaking.

Institutional capacity for integrating gender concerns into policymaking would be strengthened by:

* Reinforcing research institutions' ability and capacity to collect, analyze, and use gender-disaggregated data.

* Providing financial and technical support to the research community so it can conduct gender research on key topics.

* Improving gender experts' ability to develop and implement training in gender analysis and local planning.

* Training policymakers about gender issues.

* Strengthening the National Council on Women and Development's leadership on the gender dimensions of public policy.

* Building partnerships with NGOs and other stakeholders and mobilizing their support on gender issues important to policymaking.

* Including gender studies in the educational curriculum and setting up programs of gender studies in higher institutions of learning.

* Providing technical and financial support to improve the capacity of relevant sectors, NGOs, community-based organizations, and beneficiary groups to plan and monitor activities.

* Strengthening the capacity of government sectors, NGOs, and district-level institutions to make their interventions more efficient through continuous evaluation. This evaluation could be provided internally, cross-departmentally, or by an independent body such as the audit office, or externally by the World Bank, NGOs, or other stakeholders.

Edited by

Shiyan Chao
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Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Ghana: Gender Analysis and Policymaking for Development
Author:Chao, Shiyan
Publication:Ghana Gender Analysis and Policymaking for Development
Date:Sep 1, 1999
Previous Article:Chapter 4. Developing human capital.
Next Article:Chapter 6. Improving opportunities for gender equitable development.

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