Table of Contents
Stakeholders for Consultation
Identification of Key Diversity Issues
Benefits of Embracing Diversity
Vision, Mission, Objectives and Targets
Key Performance Indicators
Diversity Action Plan
Implementation of Plan
The last few years have seen a marked increase in the involvement of women in the Armed Forces. Though they were initially restricted to administrative and technical roles, they later moved to combat-related roles as well. Speaking specifically of Ghana, it is to be kept in mind that Ghana is a male-dominated society with its roots deep into patriarchal ideologies and beliefs. Due to the influence of patriarchy on their society, the roles of women are highly restricted to those of a wife, mother and a homemaker. The military is one of the most male-dominated fields, not just in Ghana, but in many other countries as well. The Ghanaian Armed Forces have male personnel who dominate in roles pertaining to combat and leadership. Given the changes in society and progress in the fields of gender equality, armed forces everywhere have seen a rise in the number of women joining their ranks. This change has also been witnessed in Ghana with a greater number of women opting to join the army and carry out their duties in the past decade. The first female to be recruited in the Ghanaian Armed Forces was in the year 1958, as the president then, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, encouraged women’s contributions to the army as he considered their developments to be of significant importance to the nation. However, this change has been met with some hostility.
The current strength of the Armed forces of Ghana is approximately 14,000. The average age to serve in the army is from the ages of 18 to 25 years (The Ghana Armed Forces Regulation, 1962). In 2020, Ghana ranked 106th out of 136 countries in terms of military strength in the World (Ghana Military Facts and Stats, 2020). Women form an approximate of 10% of the total military personnel in Ghana. In the last five years, soldiers are being asked to quit or retire from the army based on the grounds of misconduct. Mass resignations have become a common occurrence in the Ghanaian Armed Forces with the reason being cited as discontentment, lack of welfare, low morale and misbehaviour (Ghana Armed Forces Reacts To Reports Of Mass Resignations, 2016). From 2010 to 2015, the armed forces witnessed around 55 soldiers from various ranks being away without official leave and about 194 army personnel from across ranks retiring voluntarily. During the Christmas break of 2015, it was reported that 1 soldier had lost their mind, 11 were injured and 8 were away without official leave. Research data and statistical information on the current scenario is scarce and not available.
To formulate a diversity recruitment plan, apart from my involvement, there are a few other stakeholders who are as important. Without the inputs and guidance from certain members and representatives of the Ghana Armed Forces Council, it will be difficult to get a clear picture of the challenges related to inclusion and diversity that the armed forces are facing. The Defence Minister of Ghana or a representative from his end would be required for their inputs as the armed forces are supervised by the Ministry of Defence. Inputs provided by the Chief of Defence Staff and the Chief of Army staff due to their direct involvement in the recruitment process are also welcome. The commander in chief of the armed forces, who also happens to be the Supreme Military Commander of the Presidential Guard Regiment is another stakeholder whose guidance would be recommended in this project. Since the Navy and Air Force are extended bodies of the Armed Forces and as important as the military, the contributions of the Chief of the Naval Staff and the Chief of the Air Staff is also required in order to gain a better perspective of the problem and formulating appropriate solutions. Apart from these high-profile members of the armed forces, contributions from the representatives of the soldiers from the military, navy and air forces would also be helpful, especially female representatives as it is a project on diversity-related issues.
Probably the main issue in terms of diversity is the lack of female representation in the armed forces. The armed forces have always been a male-dominated field, making their participation significantly higher than the women. The current numbers state that 90% of the army personnel are men while only 10% are women (Ghana Human Resource Defence, 2020). To understand the reason behind the lack of diversity and women representation, one must understand the Ghanaian society and the position of women in their society.
The change in the position of women in society in Ghana has been slow. Though equal rights are granted to them according to their Constitution, inequalities still exist in the fields of health, employment and education. One of the areas where this disparity is visible is the armed forces. Accessibility to resources is also less for women, which makes one think that perhaps women exhibit a lack of awareness about the recruitment process of the army. Also, they are restricted by cultural norms and expectations. According to the traditional and cultural beliefs of the Ghanaian society, women should not take up roles and responsibilities outside of their homes. Assuming roles other than that of mother, wife or homemaker is looked down upon. By taking up positions of leadership, women are likely to face discrimination as almost all the fields are male-dominated ones. This thought process is one of the major contributors to a deficiency in participation in the armed forces.
Due to the societal view and limitations imposed on women, a lack of gender equality and gender integration has been observed in the armed forces of Ghana. Also, as there exists a tendency to view women as physically and inadequate for combat-related roles. This creates the concept of gender stratifying roles. In other words, it involves placing women in roles which are assumed to be best suited to their (limited) abilities. Gender stratification tends to undo the benefits of gender integration, as it promotes discrimination based on gender roles and assigning of responsibilities based on one’s gender. As a consequence of gender stratification, male dominance exists.
Activities related to the armed forces is not necessarily something that only men can be good at. to have an effective armed forces unit, both men and women are required to participate. By discriminating against women on sociocultural and gender-related grounds, the military is losing out on eligible personnel. Military units consisting of both men and women have been seen to perform better and in a cohesive manner. There is no rationality in treating women unequally and discriminating against them.
By encouraging and promoting a diverse environment in the armed forces, one gets a fresh perspective to problem-solving strategies and new ways of thinking come up. Having a unit which comprises of mixed gender keeps it strong. Employing more women into the armed forces implies that the pool of applicants is being widened and it increases the chances of recruiting more capable and qualified individuals. This enhances the quality of the armed forces of the country in general. Increasing the applicant pool by promoting diversity would also mean that only those individuals are joining the army who are serious about it and not because of an obligation or due to a scarcity in the number of recruits. This decreases the chances of officers going missing without official leaves or shirking their responsibilities. In the past, a lot of jobs which were restricted to men have now been opened up to women and it has even led to women becoming equally successful in these fields if not more. Hence, there is no reason for not applying the same approach with the armed forces. By allowing women to participate more in the activities related to the armed forces increases the talent pool for certain jobs which require more sensitivity and the need to be tackled delicately. One such delicate situation is conflict resolution by exercising diplomacy.
It is not enough to only employ and recruit women into the armed forces. They should also be given promotions and a chance to grow as considered necessary. By denying female officers and personnel promotions that they deserve is proof that discrimination still exists and other women and young girls will be discouraged from joining the army. This will again bring diversity-related concerns to the armed forces and the problem will never end. In Ghana, the highest position that a woman managed to reach was that of a Brigadier General. This achievement took place only recently, implying that they have a long way to go in terms of ensuring and promoting diverse practices in the armed forces.
The vision of the diversity plan is to create a supportive climate within the armed forces that promote diversity and inclusion by understanding the value of female recruits and acknowledging their contributions.
The mission of the diversity plan is to include more women into the armed forces so that their representation is at par with men. Women will be provided with equal opportunities based on their merits and abilities and not gender, information and guidance regarding the recruitment will be provided to increase awareness and they will also be given fair chances at being promoted to higher ranks, like their male counterparts.
The objectives of the diversity plan are to make more women aware that they can join the armed forces, develop strategies to recruit, retain and provide equal opportunities for the growth and development of female personnel, creating an environment which is supportive of endeavours concerning diversity and inclusion and ensuring that the plan is being followed to the best of the capabilities of everyone involved.
The main goal or target that is to be achieved with the help of a diversity plan is to increase gender integration and not stratification. Women should be recruited based on their capabilities and merits and not be given roles that are assumed to be gender appropriate. Currently, only 10% of the population in the armed forces is female. There should be an increase in this number in the next five years so that it is somewhat at par with the male representation. Also, not just the heads of the armed forces but also the soldiers should be trained to show sensitivity and be accepting of diversity within the units. The aim is to foster positive feelings and be supportive of women’s contributions to the army.
According to the Constitution of Ghana (1992), women are granted rights to equal and full participation within the armed forces. The Constitution states that no person will be discriminated against based on gender, childcare and paid maternity leave are ensured, women have equal rights to be trained and promoted and the State guarantees that they will do everything they possibly can to integrate women into the plans for overall development. Even though women are technically and legally given equal opportunities for training, it has been observed that they are not considered for combat training and other roles which are considered as not fit for them based on their gender. Various plans have been implemented to increase the number of women but their objectives have not been met adequately. There are no fixed quotas on female recruitment and the 90% to 10% women disparity in the armed forces is in fact, encouraged and is considered ideal. Women joining the army must be unmarried and remain so for at least 3 years. Maternity leaves last for 3 months and deployment during pregnancy is prohibited. There also exist strict policies against abuse and harassment against any person in the army.
As mentioned previously, the disparity in numbers between men and women in the armed forces is considered normal and even desirable by some of the military officials. There should be legal policies and protocols implemented that addresses this inequality, stating that it is not desirable and proactive measures need to be taken to reform this issue. Policies concerning marriage, maternity leaves and family support should be looked into and modified. For instance, married women are prohibited to join the armed forces and the ones who do join cannot marry for at least 3 years. Also, provisions for a career break, work-life balance and flexible work hours are not specified. These areas must be looked into as, by providing these benefits, more women will be encouraged to join the force as they will not have to compromise with their families. Women have equal rights to participate on paper but the sentiment is not shared by many. An act or legislative policy to accelerate this step and make sure that this right is exercised instead of just being on paper must be executed to immediately amend this problem.
Until about a decade ago, members of the LGBTQ community were not allowed to be a part of the armed forces. Soldiers who were openly gay or transgenders did not have a place in the army. However, changes were brought to the policies permitting them to participate as well. Since Ghana, in general, has many instances of violence and harassment of the LGBTQ community, policies should be formulated and employed to safeguard the rights and interests of those soldiers who are either gay, lesbians, transgenders or fall on the LGBTQ spectrum.
The Key Performance Indicators of the Diversity Plan include factors such as Recruitment, Training, Scope for Promotion, Cultural Measures and A Supportive Environment within the forces.
Recruitment: If the plan is implemented properly, it will result in a rise in the number of female recruits. The numbers are skewed at present so the main focus is to change that and bring proportion and equality to them.
Training: Women are not allowed equal participation in training for combat-related roles. This practise should be discouraged and women should have the right to access any form of training that is deemed fit as per their abilities. Access to training should not be limited to or decided based on their gender.
Scope for Promotion: The highest rank that female personnel have been able to reach is that of a Brigadier General. The lack of representation of women among the higher ranks is alarming, to say the least. Representation of women among higher officials will increase the attention given to women’s issues and will serve as an inspiration to other women for joining the armed forces.
Cultural Measures: Women and LGBTQ members are subjected to cultural biases and restrictions, imposed upon them by society. Through the reforms employed by the diversity plan and an increase in female recruits, a change in perspective with regards to how they are viewed by society should be brought about. It is only when a shift in perspective occurs concerning the role of women, that they will no longer be restricted by gender and other cultural factors.
Supportive Environment: The plan will be considered a success if it can create an environment within the units of the armed forces that encourages and promotes equality, inclusion and diversity. Women and other members of the LGBTQ community should be considered as equals and not looked down upon due to societal norms within the army by their male counterparts. It is only when this objective is achieved, this the armed forces can be considered truly diverse.
To implement the diversity plan, numerous actions can be executed. Firstly, a budget should be fixed and one must be careful of not going overbudget. Recruitment drives exclusively for women can be carried out in women’s institutions and neighbourhoods which explain and provide guidance related to the process of joining the armed forces. More female officers and soldiers can be promoted in a year which can serve as an inspiration for other women to join and aspire to reach high ranking positions. Women should be fairly evaluated based on their capabilities instead of being subjected to bias. Gender sensitivity and diversity training should be made mandatory for all army personnel. This will help address biases, assumptions that both men and women might have as well as foster an environment where diverse practices are encouraged. Along with training, awareness events should also be conducted to help bust myths and false beliefs related to who can join the armed forces and what should the role of women be. Fixed targets and quotas should be set annually for the recruitment of women and these targets should be adhered to as much as possible.
Despite being granted rights to equal opportunities by the Constitution, women in the Ghanaian society still experience prejudices and are socially obligated to conform to gender roles and cultural norms. Though their situation has changed in the last decade, there are miles to go and much more progress to be made before the nation can be called an inclusive and diverse one. The poor representation of women not only in the armed forces but also in other sectors is abysmal and should serve as a wake-up call to the authorities that serious changes are needed in their protocols and policies which must be implemented immediately. Women should be subjected to unbiased practices and evaluation, be given the chance to assume roles that were previously not considered gender-appropriate and should be given the same opportunities as their male counterparts not just on paper but in reality. Though the changes discussed here are concerning the armed forces, changes in other areas of society should also be considered. Diversity should be celebrated and promoted instead of looked down upon. The collective efforts and collaborative inputs of all parties involved will not only help bring some much-needed changes, but it will also serve as an inspiration to future generations and encourage people to embrace their individualities and not be ashamed to be different.
The implemented strategies should be evaluated on an annual or bi-annual basis to see whether the protocols are being adhered to. It would be ideal to have a committee comprising of representatives and high-ranking officials, both men and women, who could oversee the execution of this plan and ensure that the diverse practices are being carried out. A zero-tolerance policy of biased practices and discrimination should be introduced to ensure that nobody indulges in them. Regular evaluation and documentation of progress should be made and improvements should be brought in as and when required by the committee.
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