• Wednesday, April 16, 2014
  • A program of IPS Inter Press Service supported by the Dutch MDG3 Fund

    Women Deepening Democracy

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    Women Deepening Democracy: Transforming Politics for Gender Equality. New Dehli, 13-15 January

    “Women Deepening Democracy: Transforming Politics for Gender Equality” brought together organisations supporting women’s participation in politics to identify innovations, analyse challenges to women’s political participation, assessing threats to democracies and their gendered impact and making a contribution to the UN’s system-wide efforts to promote democracy.

    The meeting was hosted by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF) and the United Nations Department of Political Affairs (DPA).

    UNIFEM’s chief advisor for Governance, Peace and Security, Dr Anne-Marie Goetz noted that women only got the vote in democracies in the 20th century and “have struggled to match this formal political equality with substantive political influence”.

    “The challenge of getting more women into public office and participating in public decision-making has been linked to a wider project of deepening democracy –of bringing it into institutions beyond the formal and public ones, the home and the community,” said Goetz.

    Five areas of reform have been identified including:

    • Developing constituencies for gender equality: making women’s vote matter to election outcomes, building alliances with other interest groups;
    • Building women’s presence and capacity in public decision-making;
    • Reversing or reforming laws and policies that permit discrimination against women (e.g. Constitutional reform);
    • Bringing gender equality concerns into accountability systems; and,
    • Pursuing the cultural and social revolution in attitudes and practices that deny women’s power.

    Many challenges remain including high levels of violence associated with political competition and the high cost of political contestation. Goetz noted that many present efforts to support women in politics were, in essence, to prevent loss of women’s rights’ gains made in the 1990s.

    In considering how to make women’s voices heard, Dr Laurel Weldon, author and President of the Women and Politics Research section of the American Political Science Association (APSA), noted that elected office was not the only route: women’s movements had the potential to best represent women’s interest and promote social change. These movements worked best when they were inclusive, autonomous and engaged with those they represented.

    Weldon said women’s movements were “necessary” to articulate a women’s agenda, adding that Governments could deepen democracy by fostering such autonomous social movements.

    The UN Democracy Fund has been providing grants to a wide variety of civil society organizations around the world for democracy promotion activities since 2006.

    In 2007 – 2008, IPS Africa implemented the UNDEF funded, UNIFEM administered “Strengthening the Voice and Visibility of Women in Elections” project. A copy of the IPS “Women in the News: Strengthening the Voice and Visibility of Women in the African Media’s Coverage of Elections, Politics and Governance Handbook: A Handbook for Women Politicians and the Media can be found at: http://ipsnews.net/new_focus/polls/womeninthenews_ips.pdf.

    For more coverage on Women and Elections in Africa, go to: http://www.ipsnews.net/new_focus/polls/index.asp.

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