Increasing women participation: role of political parties

Welcome to the New Year. New Year means less time remaining to plan for 2019 elections. In this article we want to reflect on the role of political parties in increasing participation of women in elections especially in the pre-elections period.

Women constitute majority in the country being about 53 percent of the population and 53.81 percent of registered voters. However, their majority is not mirrored in elected positions. During the May 2014 Tripartite Elections only 30 parliamentary seats and 53 wards were taken by women.

While we have three years and some months to May 2019, there is a window to address the structural causes of such results. We deal with political parties here because they are the primary and most direct vehicle through which women can access elected office and political leadership. Therefore, the structures, policies, practices and values of political parties have a profound impact on the level of women’s participation in political life of the country.

During this pre-election period, political parties could be focusing on the following as one way of laying the foundation for more women participation during the May 2019 elections:

Internal Party Organization strategies include:

  • Addressing gender equality in their legal framework. This can include adopting a statement on gender equality in the party’s constitution, adopting measures, including internal quotas, that ensure women’s participation on governing boards.
  • Holding special convention for women: This could be a separate forum for women held parallel to the national convention/general assembly or as a special convention for women. This forum would provide an opportunity to discuss women issues which do not normally get adequate attention during conventions. Such forum would also focus on motivating and building a network for women that would stand in elections. This would strengthen and make the women's wings more active going beyond the traditional roles. 
  • Putting women in party positions: Women who have the experience of holding a party position and handling the pressure will have higher chances of contesting in elections than those who have never held a position. So having more women in party positions would mean more probable candidates for the next elections. Parties can come up with quotas for positions in their structures.
  • Expose women: There are other women who are doing fine in politics and these should be mentors to others. Parties can building strategic alliances with political parties that have vibrant women's wings. Exchange visits would be ideal.

Next week we will look at the activities during the elections period which will include candidate recruitment during primary elections, financing and capacity building.