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A political settlement approach to gender empowerment: The case of the Domestic Violence Act and girls’ education policy in Ghana


  • Beatrix Allah-Mensah
  • Rhoda Osei-Afful


Although rightly lauded as one of the strongest democracies in Africa, it is striking that women do not have a political quota in Ghana, and that women’s rights have more often been handed down through the politics of patronage than achieved through civil society activism. This paper investigates the role of power and politics in influencing the adoption and implementation of gender equity policy in Ghana, focusing on two policy case studies: domestic violence; and girls’ basic education. The paper finds that although policy on girls’ basic education was easily adopted and implemented without any opposition, as it was considered a less ‘contentious’ issue, domestic violence policy faced significant opposition from religious and political groups. In response, the women’s movement adopted a highly strategic approach to swaying public opinion, focusing on religious and cultural leaders, marshalling support among local community groups, and making use of informal gatherings to raise awareness about the issue. However, framing domestic violence in such a way as to be non-threatening to existing gender norms and relations limited its transformative potential and contributed to implementation gaps. Policy implementation in competitive clientelist settings tends to be a highly personalised and political process, and with few political gains to be had from enacting domestic violence legislation, successive governments have failed to even present a plan for implementing the law. Both cases reveal the role of the political settlements in influencing policy-making on gender equity and point to the need to move beyond the influence of women’s presence in formal politics towards a deeper analysis of power and politics in shaping gender equity policy.

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  • Beatrix Allah-Mensah & Rhoda Osei-Afful, 2017. "A political settlement approach to gender empowerment: The case of the Domestic Violence Act and girls’ education policy in Ghana," Global Development Institute Working Paper Series esid-091-17, GDI, The University of Manchester.
  • Handle: RePEc:bwp:bwppap:esid-091-17

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Kosack, Stephen, 2012. "The Education of Nations: How the Political Organization of the Poor, Not Democracy, Led Governments to Invest in Mass Education," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199841677.
    2. Hickey, Sam & Sen, Kunal & Bukenya, Badru (ed.), 2014. "The Politics of Inclusive Development: Interrogating the Evidence," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198722564.
    3. Dzodzi Tsikata, 2009. "Women's Organizing in Ghana since the 1990s: From individual organizations to three coalitions," Development, Palgrave Macmillan;Society for International Deveopment, vol. 52(2), pages 185-192, June.
    4. Sohela Nazneen & Simeen Mahmud, 2012. "Gendered politics of securing inclusive development," Global Development Institute Working Paper Series esid-013-12, GDI, The University of Manchester.
    5. Mosley, Paul, 2012. "The Politics of Poverty Reduction," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199692125.
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