Feminizing resistance to mainstream politics

Posted on February 1, 2010.

Paula Fray, IPS Africa Director

Paula Fray, IPS Africa Director

Guest Blogger: Paula Fray, IPS Africa Director

Early in January, I joined project managers from around the world at UNIFEM’s “Women Deepening Democracy: Transforming Politics for Gender Equality” workshop in India. Its apt that the workshop was held there. With over 714 million voters, India is arguable the world’s largest democracy with a long record of women in all levels of politics.

One such woman, Brinda Karat, Raj Sabha Member for the Communist Party of India, touched a nerve when she wondered whether we really want women to be part of the mainstream politics or whether women should reclaim the subversive role they have played in history.

Surely women do not want to be part of the mainstream – they want to change it?

Karat’s rallying call was to “feminize resistance”.

In Uganda, this month, women activists took to the street to demand that their voices be heard. IPS Africa’s MDG3 podcast reports that these women demand to speak for themselves.

Is the call for radicalization is needed? Judge for yourself. Only 26 out of 192 UN member states have more than 30% female participation in national elected office - and even then their impact is mixed.

Should it matter? UNIFEM’s Dr Anne-Marie Goetz uses the example of women’s participation in peace talks to illustrate how – if women are not involved – their concerns are not raised. In the last 300 peace accords for 45 conflict situations in the previous two decades, sexual violence and gender based violence is raised only 18 times. It is listed as prohibited in just six ceasefires. As a result, there is no response for sexual and gender based violence in justice, reparations, Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) and Security Sector Reform (SSR) provisions and ceasefires – contributing to post-conflict escalation. The level of female participation in peace talks? A lowly 2.1 percent.

Speaking to IPS in Peshawar, Pakistan, women’s rights advocate Zahira Khattak says that women can do more in establishing peace and stability in the region if they are given their due place within the socio-political structures of society.

On October 31, 2010 we mark 10 years since the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security which acknowledged that women remained marginalized in peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction processes and demanded their full participation.

Article 8 calls on

“all actors involved, when negotiating and implementing peace agreements, to adopt a gender perspective, including, inter alia: … measures that support local women’s peace initiatives and indigenous processes for conflict resolution, and that involve women in all of the implementation mechanisms of the peace agreements; measures that ensure the protection of and respect for human rights of women and girls, particularly as they relate to the constitution, the electoral system, the police and the judiciary.”

Its time to stop talking.

Looking across the room in New Delhi, I saw many women – and men – working hard to increase the participation of women in politics. The challenge of getting more women into public office and participating in political decision-making is linked to globally accepted goals to deepen democracy and eradicate poverty.

So the question is: Why are we not doing more?