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Ghana Seeking More Women Officials

Ghanaians are voting in their third local government elections since the return to constitutional rule in 1992. About 90,000 candidates are contesting 19,000 municipal and unit committee seats. For VOA, Efam Dovi reports from Accra that only 12 percent of the candidates are women.

Ghana, a leading democracy in Africa, has had a checkered political history, characterized by several periods of military rule that ended in the early 1990s.

Ghanaians have since voted in three successful presidential and parliamentary elections, all of which saw few women elected.

The situation has been a source of worry for women's advocacy groups, which have been encouraging more women to get involved in the electoral process.

Program officer Kweku Antwi-Boasiako of ABANTU for Development, a group that has been leading the advocacy, says though there is an improvement on the number of female contestants in this election, it is still not significant.

"Until government heeds calls to appoint women to take up 50 percent of the local government seats, it will be challenging to get equal women's representation," he said.

Department of Women senior research officer Marbel Cujoe says women need to be part of the decision-making process at the grass-roots level.

"... we feel that when women are pushed into that side of decision making, they will be able to make an impact and then also inform our law makers on what sort of laws or what sort of packages they can design for women," she said.

The Department of Women has organized several training programs for female contestants prior to today's elections.

Cujoe says social and traditional practices make it challenging for women to compete fairly.

"You know in our part of the world, the woman is to be seen and not heard," she said. "The woman's place is always seen to be at the kitchen, taking the roles of nurturing, caring and then child bearing ... besides a lot of us are not educated. It is also difficult because what were seeing or we have been seeing is that most of the women are single parents, a woman who is married cannot take up that challenge of moving outside the family home."

Civil society groups, donor agencies, and the government have sponsored public education campaigns, urging voters to vote massively for female candidates.

Many will be waiting to see how successful the campaign has been when polls close late Tuesday.