Violence, tensions in electoral processes dents women participation

By Sanna Camara

Hiroute Guebre Sellassie, head of UNOWAS has warned that election processes marred by violence, tensions and violations of human rights are key factors undermining the participation of women in politics.

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Addressing participants at a regional seminar in Dakar today, Ms. Sellasie argued that economic and political development of Africa can never happen without active participation of women in governance and decision making processes.

As countries are preparing to hold elections in 2016 and 2017, UN Women and Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in collaboration with ECOWAS propose to support a lessons-learned process with a view to codifying knowledge on strategies that will increase women’s political participation in West and Central Africa.

The high level gathering brings together 35 participants, including representatives of electoral management bodies, women political leaders, national human rights institutions, parliamentarians, civil society as well as experts, practitioners and institutions on gender and elections. It also aims to identify strategic entry points for enhancing women’s participation in electoral politics.

Constructing peace and conflict resolutions

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Dr. Fatima Dia Sow, Commissioner for Social Affairs and Gender at ECOWAS said the new wave of democratization that is blowing across Africa in the past decade, is ushering in rule of law, human rights and principles of separation of power.

Dr. Dia Sowe noted that despite challenges, it should be valid argument that promotion of women in politics and elected office will promote peace and maximise potentials of society, while they lead efforts at sustaining peace and conflict resolutions.

Intimidation acts, harassment and violence greatly affect the participation of women in politics, which have already been undermined by cultural and social factors, Oury Traore, consultant and chair of the seminar also argued.

“Electoral support must therefore apply a human rights-based approach, which can contribute to upholding a safe and peaceful environment for all stakeholders and to strengthening the credibility of such processes,” Ms Traore argued.

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Mr. Axel DaVille, deputy regional director for UN Women said despite being higher in number than men, women still face discrimination and violence….

“In relation to electoral politics, the trend in both regions thus far, shows that much progress is needed as women still continue to be under represented in national and local politics,” Mr. DaVille said.

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