WOMEN IN THE OIL INDUSTRY – PROMOTING SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IN GHANA
More men than women work in the oil industry all over the world, however women are making rank and breaking glass ceilings and making huge impact on this previously male –dominated industry. It is upon this note that civil societies around Ghana have recognized the importance of advocating for women’s representation in the oil and gas industry. In fact many organizations have made it their mission to lobby the government for policy initiatives that will empower women out of poverty. It is upon this that the Center for Development Partnerships has supported Alliance for African Women Initiative (AFAWI-Ghana) in their goal to encourage civil societies to advocate for women’s inclusion in Ghana’s oil industry policies. As an executive member of AFAWI, I urge policy makers to use the oil industry not just for economic development, but also for the social development of women. I believe that the government of Ghana must start creating policies that give a stronger consideration to women.
It is undisputable that the discovery of oil in Ghana carries with it significant economic and social development opportunities for the country and its citizens. Ghana’s economy will surely undergo accelerated growth and industrialization, but the potential economic boom of the oil industry also has the potential to reduce poverty and increase the standard of living for Ghanaians including women. The oil industry will open up many employment opportunities for Ghanaians, and the government seeks to provide job-training programs for Ghanaians as outlined in the “Policy Directions” section of the Ministry of Energy’s policy framework. The government has outlined policies that promote economic development and local participation of Ghanaians in the oil industry, but policy makers in Ghana have not yet specified what specific roles women are going to play to contribute to the expected economic development the oil industry will bring to the country.
The current version of the Ghana government’s policy on the oil industry makes reference to the issue of gender, stating that “while government will provide equal opportunities for all citizens of the Republic of Ghana, the participation of women in the oil and gas industry will be actively encouraged.” This statement begs the question: exactly what kind of “active encouragement” of women is the government proposing?
Ghana government needs to consider female empowerment through education and employment opportunities in the oil industry in order to aid economic development. By improving the status of women in Ghana, the government is in turn improving the status of Ghana’s economic capacities. The reality is that women in Ghana represent far less of the formal sector workforce than men, and make up the majority of the poor, the unemployed and the informal sector workforce. They do not always have access to the resources and education that would improve their skills and capabilities, and they are often overlooked by governmental policies that promote human development. By empowering women with the skills and training that they need to work in the oil industry, policy makers would be both creating a stable and adept workforce to support their projects, as well as eradicating poverty and social disadvantages that accompany unemployment.
It is well documented that women empowerment leads to the economic, political and social development of developing countries, and Ghana must take advantage of this opportune moment to bring women into the workforce. It is not enough for Ghana’s policy makers to simply “encourage” gender equity in the oil industry; they need to be more specific about education and training opportunities that will allow women to effectively contribute to the oil industry, and to Ghana’s development.
The oil industry has the potential to seriously improve the status of women in Ghana if government takes the appropriate steps to ensure that women are worked into its policies on local participation in the oil industry. Outlining more extensive and more specific policies for women in the oil industry would be one step closer to removing the socio-cultural impediments for women in Ghana. On a larger scale, developing countries around the world are turning their focus towards women empowerment in order to address larger issues of poverty and disease; Ghana can be one of these countries that benefit from policy-driven training and employment opportunities for women.
By: Felicia S. Odame (Mrs)
Executive Member – AFAWI; Lecturer, University for Development Studies (UDS)