Regional workshop on Gender, Human Rights & Women's participation in elections in west & central Africa

Date: Thursday, June 9, 2016

Photo credit : Ahmet DIOP/ONU Femmes
Photo credit : Ahmet DIOP/ONU Femmes

The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality (UN Women) and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in partnership with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), organized a regional workshop on the theme of “Gender, Human Rights and Women’s Participation in Elections in West and Central Africa” from 11-13 May in Dakar. The overall objective of the workshop was to take stock of women’s participation in elections in both regions over the years and facilitate knowledge sharing, compile good practices and develop joint strategies on ways to improve women’s leadership in electoral processes.

Over 40 participants, from 14 countries of West and Central Africa (principally countries that had recently mounted or are preparing for elections) were represented at the three-day meeting.  The participants who were largely drawn from Electoral Commissions, Human Rights Commissions, political parties and civil society organizations, met to share good practices and review strategies that can facilitate increased participation of women in electoral politics in both regions.

The opening session of the workshop was attended by the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), Ms. Hiroute Guebre Selassie, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Gender and Social Affairs, Ms. Fatoumata Dia Sow,  Ms Oumou Khaïry Niang, Representing the Ministry of Women, Family and Children in Senegal, Mr. Andrea Ori, Regional Representative of the OHCHR and Mr. Axel de Ville, Regional Director ai. of UN Women.

Photo credit : Ahmet DIOP/ONU Femmes
Photo credit : Ahmet DIOP/ONU Femmes

Some of the key messages which resonated during the three-day discussions included:

  • Forging closer alliances between Electoral Commissions and Human Rights Commissions in the context of addressing gender and women’s rights considerations in elections;
  • The need to harmonize at the regional level in ECOWAS, minimum provisions to support the integration of gender considerations in the work of electoral commissions;
  • Adopting gender-responsive budgeting for electoral commissions and for political parties;
  • Wide calls for the adoption of parity laws and quotas within countries of the region;
  • Developing a compendium of women leaders at country level, to be accessed by political parties when considering women candidates during elections;
  • Strengthening alliances between women leaders running for political office and the private sector and other women’s constituencies to facilitate resource mobilization efforts to support their electoral campaigns;
  • Investments in building the technical skills and capacities of women engaged in politics, and in mentorship programmes for younger/aspiring women political leaders;
  • Establishing a funding mechanism to support capacity development, training and mentoring activities for women in politics (aspiring candidates and elected women) in the two regions – a possible entry point is for UN Women to lead on this in partnership with ECOWAS.
Overall, the workshop objective of serving as a forum to  share good practices was successfully achieved. Participants had high expectations of a commitment to follow-up actions. This means that for many of the countries which attended the workshop, efforts to support women’s political participation for their next electoral cycle in four to five years time, should start now.

Photo credit : Ahmet DIOP/ONU Femmes
Photo credit : Ahmet DIOP/ONU Femmes

A communique adopted by participants at the workshop is here by attached