THE NEED to have a violence-free election in December 2012 in Ghana is of utmost importance to Ghanaians, institutions and developing partners at large.
Particularly, the recent spate of violence in some parts of the country has shown that conflicts have the potential to erode the gains made in Ghana's democratic development.
Thus, many avenues are being sought to educate all and sundry on the need to uphold the peace of the country before, during and after the December elections, and also promote other election related issues.
One of the issues is the attainment of adequate and effective participation of women in the political process, linked to the need for interventions to improve women's livelihoods generally.
It is in view of this that the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UN Women Ghana Office, Women Peace and Security Institute (WPSI) of the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Centre (KAIPTC) and the African Women's Active Non-violence Initiatives for Social Change (AWANICh) have held a Women Peace and Security Meeting in Accra.
The meeting, which was held on Thursday was on the theme, "Partnerships for Peace: Perspectives on Women's Effective Participation in the Electoral Process in Ghana" was to engage women leaders to reflect their role in the electoral processes.
The meeting brought together thirty selected women leaders from government, civil society, security sector, traditional leaders, political parties and women aspirants, was also aimed to ensure peace and security in line with the UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325.
Delivering the keynote address, a Peace Expert, Mrs. Pauline Adobea Dadzawa at the Electoral Commission (EC) said "the absence of peace thwarts all other efforts at human development."
She noted that there was growing recognition that stable peace and national prosperity could only be achieved when institutions remain democratic and representative of all groups in society.
This is why all other forms of government across the globe try to achieve partial or temporal peace, she said, adding "However imperfect, effective participation of the masses in governance is about the best means to achieve lasting and meaningful peace."
Also, she said that elections have been one of the most formidable pillars of democracy across the world, and in Africa, elections have been one of the foremost indicators of growth in democratic governance.
She, however, expressed regret that elections have also been the cause of many conflicts on the African continent due to abuse of the processes by selfish individuals and groups, leading to loss of human life and other atrocities.
She mentioned the needless rape of girls, brutal killings of people, including women and girls, loss of men through post-election violence, leaving women widows prematurely and having to bear the painful burden of raising children all alone.
Additionally, women and children end up as refugees in other countries, as women have to endure mental and physical torture in moving their families and belongings while it also disrupts children's education, especially of females.
In view of the difficulties women suffer during conflict situation, the effective participation of women in governance would help reduce violence, whether election-related or otherwise, she noted.
She, however, acknowledged that Ghanaians have taken some initiatives to control the possibility of such violence, like the constitutional provision for the "State to actively promote integration and to take appropriate measures to achieve reasonable regional and gender balance in recruitment and appointment to public office".
In her view, the establishment of the Ministry of Women and Children's Affairs (MOWAC) in 2001, the adoption of the Women's Manifesto in 2004, and many activities of CSOs among others, were all efforts aimed at promoting gender equity and peace building in the electoral process.
She added that though Ghana has made reasonable progress in participation of women in elections, "We still have a long way to go when it comes to adequate representation."
Thus, she pointed out that there was the need to strive for greater participation in elections through continued advocacy for laws that would back Affirmative Action policy, continued engagement of political parties to field women candidates as a policy and mobilization of funds to support women candidates in the electioneering process.
She urged the media to portray women in a positive light because "the way the media portray women, how they deal with issues of special concern to women, and whether they convey effectual voter education messages, can have a major impact of women's participation in election."
She stressed that women have paid their due in national development, saying "it is only fair that the group that constitutes over 50% of the population is also adequately represented in all aspects of governance."
She concluded that "Many of us are convinced that greater participation of women in governance, especially in elected offices, will be very helpful in peace building", adding "Let the men be assured that our increased participation will not be their loss, but the complement that is needed to ensure greater peace in Ghana and Africa."
On his part, the Country Representative of the UNDP and UN Chairperson for the Gender Team, Dr. Bernard Coquelin said the focus on the UNSCR 1325 and its related resolutions to promote peace and security before, during and after elections was appropriate, especially ahead of the December elections.
He said human rights are universal, inalienable, indivisible and promote the principles of equality and non-discrimination, participation and inclusion, accountability and rule of law, to give recognition to the rights that are inherent in human treaties.
He, however, expressed worry that despite the inherent positivity and wide universality of the concept of human rights, "its practical application is generally weak in many areas and even disregarded in some instances."
Thus, the attention being given to the UNSCR 1325 was in the right direction due to the high spate of conflicts and emergencies that continue to undermine peace and security of women and girls in particular.
It is for this reason that the UNSCR 1325 seeks to reaffirm the recognition of the impact of conflicts on women and girls and the under-utilized contribution women make to conflict prevention, peacekeeping/building and conflict resolution in many societies.
He was particularly pleased that the key provisions of the UNSCR 1325 include increased participation and representation of women at all levels of decision-making and attention to specific protection needs of women and girls in conflict among others.
Furthermore, he was happy that Ghana already has ongoing efforts to implement the provisions agreed to ensure women's participation and to increase their representation in decision-making through numerous capacity building advocacy and sensitization activities initiated by some public and security institutions including the KAIPTC, National Peace Council and MOWAC among others.
"It is my hope that as women leaders, your experiences will prevail as we strategize on approaches for consolidating peace and security especially this election year which requires all commitment to prevent any and all forms of conflict in the society", he stated.