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8 Mar, 2012

Guidebook Launched to Promote Women’s Participation in Politics

01 March 2012 (UN Development Programme) — With women under-represented in high level politics and decision-making the world over, a new Guidebook produced by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) is showing political parties how they can begin to redress this imbalance by supporting women’s participation in the electoral process.

Empowering Women for Stronger Political Parties – A Guidebook to Promote Women’s Political Participation, which was launched by UNDP Administrator Helen Clark Wednesday, provides best practices on how political parties can promote women’s participation in decision-making at all levels.

“With less than twenty percent of the world’s parliamentary seats occupied by women, it is clear that political parties need to do more – and should be assisted in those efforts – to support women’s political empowerment,” said Ms. Clark at the 56th Commission on the Status of Women, which recently convened in New York, where a copy of the Guidebook was presented to the forum.

Although the right of women to participate in political life is guaranteed by several international conventions, “within political parties, women tend to be overrepresented at the grassroots level or in supporting roles and underrepresented in positions of power,” says the Guidebook.

The book says that without access to established networks of influence, and with very limited resources, few role models and mentors, it is understandable that the proportion of high ranking women in political parties has remained well below that of men across the globe.

Featuring good practices from all over the world, the Guidebook, which targets political party leaders, civil society organizations and gender equality activists, endorses a range of means that political parties can use to support women’s participation in elections.

Globally, although women comprise 40 to 50 percent of members of political parties, they hold only about ten percent of party leadership positions.

The Guidebook cites over 20 examples of countries that have taken positive steps to change this by increasing women’s political participation and inclusion in the electoral process. Australia’s Labor Party, Cambodia’s Sam Rainsy Party, Morocco’s  Socialist Union of Popular Forces, Mexico’s Party of the Democratic Revolution and National Action Party, Germany’s Christian Democratic Union and South Africa’s parliament are all examples of political organisations that have adopted some kind of quota for women’s representation at a local, management or national candidature level it says.

The Guidebook points to strategies for supporting women candidates during elections, such as training and mentoring women candidates and ensuring women’s visibility in campaigns. For example, under the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor, parties were provided with additional free TV and radio airtime if they nominated women and ensured their visibility in campaigns.

Among other examples of positive steps taken across the globe are strategies that support newly elected women, such as the Association of Salvadoran Women Parliamentarians and Ex-Parliamentarians in El Salvador, which offers communication and organisational training; and the South African Parliament, which changed its calendar to accommodate parliamentarians with families, as well as implemented childcare facilities.

The Guidebook is available in English, French, Spanish, Arabic and Russian.