Mainstreaming Women in Political Participation: Key to Vital and Vibrant Democracy
Societies prosper when women and girls can meaningfully participate in the way they are governed. Governance entails a series of decision-making. If the government is to be prosperous it must make an informed decision to include women in the decision making process
Status of Women in Politics Globally
- Over the past decade, the rate of representation of women in national parliaments around the world has gradually increased, from 15 percent in 2002 to more than 23 percent in 2021. Some regions have experienced particularly dramatic increases, including sub-Saharan Africa and the Arab States region, where the number of women in parliaments has almost doubled.
- However, this is still well below the 30 percent benchmark, often identified as the necessary level of representation to achieve “critical mass,” a concept that women should be “a considerable minority of all legislators with significant impact, rather than a token few individuals.” But the 30 percent benchmark is well below representation of women who are more than half the world’s population.
- According to recent studies, it will take more than a hundred years to achieve gender equality in politics,
- 2020 marked the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, a blueprint for advancing women’s rights. There has been progress since Beijing, but much remains to be done to achieve gender equality in politics.
Significance of women participation in politics
- Women participation in politics is important in maintaining a strong democracy
- Democracy without the participation of half the population is not democracy.
- Women and men have the right to equal civil and political rights, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international commitments.
- Countries where women are included in decision making realize their development goals
- Women’s participation in political life contributes to gender equality and affects both the range of policy issues in any given country
- The gender sensitive legislations impact on responsiveness of policy development and governance.
In order for a country to experience the full and equitable participation of women, certain changes must occur.
- Women should be able to vote, defend their priorities, run for office, and lead effectively once elected. Voting is a fundamental right of citizens in a democracy.
- There is need for gender mainstreaming in political parties since political are the gateways to elected office in any given country
- Ultimately, once women are elected, they should be able to govern and effectively represent their constituents. Women should represent as women and not trying to be men.
Women face barriers to political participation at three levels.
- Individual level: This includes their confidence, capacity, safety from violence, and their connection to resources and power.
- Institutional and structural level: where there is a myriad of gender-based exclusions that limit the opportunities for women to participate in politics. Social institutions, such as early and forced marriages, can cause other limitations for women, including limited decision-making power within the family.
- Sociocultural level. Gender norms are deeply entrenched in every society and create one of the biggest obstacles for women to overcome.
What to consider when mainstreaming women participation in politics
- First, it is important to emphasize that any strategies aimed at increasing the inclusion of women in politics requires recognizing that the experiences of women and men in politics are not only shaped by gender, but also by intersecting identities such as class, age, ethnicity, sexuality, and ability, among others. Depending on the context, these identities may overlap with gender to compound the discrimination faced by particular groups of women. Strategies should be designed with this fact in mind.
- Second, it is very common for women, in particular young women, not to see politics as relevant to their daily lives and how their participation can influence decision making. Often the needs and concerns of young women are not reflected in the political leadership or institutions of a country, nor do the issues discussed reflect their priorities
- To address the two factors above, two things must occur. Political institutions must better reflect and respond to the needs of young women, and young people must have the capacity and input to communicate their priorities. When women have a vocal role as activists and advocates for issues in civil society, their inclusion ensures that a broad spectrum of voices will be more specific and represent a wider range of citizen concerns.
Vital and vibrant democracy requires the mainstreaming of strategic stakeholders such as women. Women play significant roles not just because they are more than half of the population in any given Country but because of they but because its their right to do so and their unique disposition as women.