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Join an Online Dialogue on Women and Political Participation in Africa

NCDD member Leanne Nurse just brought our attention to a thematic online discussion about “Women, political participation and decision- making in Africa.” The online discussion is being organized by the United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women/Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the Economic Commission for Africa in cooperation with the E-Network of National Gender Equality Machineries in Africa.

The discussion will run for six weeks from 4 September to 14 October 2007. The purpose of the online discussion is to contribute to a better understanding of women’s political participation in Africa; collect measures taken at national and subregional levels to promote women’s participation; identify good practices and lessons learned and highlight gaps and challenges requiring further action. Register for the online discussion at http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/forum/forum-daw-politicalparticipation2007.htm. If you have any questions or experience problems when registering, please contact Mr. Rajkumar Cheney Krishnan (cheneykrishnan@un.org).

Background

In recent years women’s political participation has increased in Africa. The UN report “Africa and the Millennium Development Goals – 2007 Update” noted that the share of parliamentary seats held by women increased from 7 per cent in 1990 to 17 per cent in 2007, which is close to the global average. In Rwanda, women hold 48.8 percent of seats in the Lower House, the highest percentage worldwide. In January 2006, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf became President of Liberia and Africa’s first elected woman president. According to the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO), 30 percent of Africa’s local
councillors are women. Some countries have set quotas or reserved seats for women in national and local legislative bodies.

Despite this progress made, serious and persistent obstacles still hinder the advancement of women and their participation in decision-making processes. Some of the principal obstacles are related to persistent poverty, the lack of equal access to health, education, training and employment, the impact of armed conflict and natural disasters that affect some of the countries of the region.

The 1995 Beijing Platform for Action emphasized that “women’s equal participation in decision-making is not only a demand for justice or democracy, but can also be seen as a necessary condition for women’s interests to be taken into account. Without the perspective of women at all levels of decision-making, the goals of equality, development and peace cannot be achieved.” The Platform defined two strategic objectives: (a) ensure women’s equal access to and full participation in all power structures and decision- making; and (b) increase women’s capacity to participate in decision-making and leadership.

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, in its Article 7, called upon States parties “to take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the political and public life of the country”. In its resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security, the Security Council also reaffirmed the importance of the equal participation and full involvement of women in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security, as well as the need to increase their role in decision-making.

Themes of the online discussion

First week:
Introduction: How do you assess the current level of women’s
participation in decision-making in Africa?

Second and third weeks:
Women’s participation in politics: constraints and strategies

Fourth week:
Women’s participation in other decision-making processes: education,
private sector, civil society and the media

Fifth week:
Building alliances with women in decision-making positions

Sixth week:
Other issues, wrap up and recommendations

Ground rules for the online discussion

The ground rules for the online discussion were the following. Messages
should:

  • Be identifiable. Please include your name and organization (if any) at the end of your message. Messages without this information will not be posted;
  • Pertain to the subject of the week;
  • Be limited to three paragraphs or 500 words;
  • Have no attachments; all text has to be in the body of the posted message;
  • Contain no insulting language or statements.
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Sandy Heierbacher
Sandy Heierbacher co-founded the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) with Andy Fluke in 2002, with the 60 volunteers and 50 organizations who worked together to plan NCDD’s first national conference. She served as NCDD's Executive Director between 2002 and 2018. Click here for a list of articles and resources authored by Sandy.

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