From Issah Alhassan, Kumasi
PARTCIPANTS AT a three-day workshop organised in Kumasi towards a peaceful 2010 district assembly elections, have proposed the need for the media in the country to allocate space to issues pertaining to women empowerment and participation of women in active politics in the country.
The workshop, which was organised by the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), a non-governmental organisation (NGO), with the objectives of promoting enabling environments for the professional development and fostering of media rights in West Africa, was aimed at sensitising the participations on the upcoming district assembly elections, and the need to ensure the active participation of women.
The participants were drawn from both the public and the private media across the northern sector of the country, and were tasked to explore and make recommendations on ways of ensuring women’s rights, and the active participation of women in local governance.
Giving an overview and expected outcome of the workshop, the Head of Programmes at MFWA, Mr. Sulemana Braimah, said the media needs to highlight challenges that confront the development of women in the country, and those which prevent them from adequately engaging in politics, particularly, at the local level.
He said the engagement of the media was therefore, to bring the attention of practitioners to the importance of addressing factors that tend to marginalise women and subdue them from challenging their male colleagues.
According to him, women form the chunk of the population, and as such, encouraging them to actively participate in issues of national development would go a long way to address the country’s developmental concerns.
Mr. Braimah noted that with the district level elections just around the corner, the MFWA found it expedient to seek the support of the media, and also interact with officials of the Electoral Commission on preparations made so far towards the national exercise.
The Ashanti Regional Director of the Electoral Commission, Mr. Edward Kofi Asomaning, said the Commission had gone through all the normal processes in ensuring that every Ghanaian who qualified obtained his or her voting right to participate in the upcoming elections.
He said the commission, per the constitutional mandate, reviewed the voters register in the run-up to the 2008 elections, and followed it up in August 2010 with the exhibition of the Voters Register.
Mr. Asomaning indicated that the commission had introduced innovative means, including the installation of VSAT equipment and training of district and other officers to facilitate the activities of the commission, like the processing of applications for transfer of voters, corrections and amendments to the Voters Register.
According to the Regional Director, the commission had also made a number of reforms to the existing electoral areas and units created in 1998, as a result of the increasing population, and the creation of additional districts and settlements across the country.
He said currently, there was about 5,000 electoral areas, with over 15,000 units in the country, and indicated further that under the new reform, which is currently before Parliament, the number of unit committee members, which used to be 15, would be slashed down to only five elected members, without appointees to facilitate their operations.
Mr. Asomaning noted that the changes had been necessitated by the fact that a lot of units were not functional, because they do not have the full complement of membership.
He however, insisted that the commission was ready to organise the elections this year, provided it received the legal endorsement of its reforms.
The Ashanti Regional Director stated that the commission would expect journalists and media practitioner to assist in the education of the voting public, especially, on the reforms taking place in the district level elections concept, and be responsible in the discharge of its duties during the election day.
He noted that journalists must cultivate the attitude of humility, professionalism, and be ready to learn and not to assume a “Mr. Know all” attitude in reporting issues concerning the elections.
Mr. Asomaning bemoaned the unprincipled way some journalists approached their duties, and charged them to avoid generalisation of issues, which he said, had the tendency to incite the public against the commission, or a particular group of people.
“Media practitioners will be doing a great disservice if they use their position to threaten or gain advantages. A journalist has power, no doubt. Many people fear the media and the power a journalist holds, but to abuse that power in your business and private life is unethical,” he emphasised.