Reform political financing to increase women participation in politics

Reform political financing to increase women participation in politics

Photo by UN Women

Out of 1.4 billion Africans, half of that population is female, yet their participation in political processes remains way below average.   According to the Women’s Political Participation: Africa Barometer,2021, women’s representation in remains way below the 50% mark of gender parity and representation in politics in Africa.

On average,21% of women serve in cabinet, 24% parliament, 21% local government,12% political party leadership and 7% executive positions. The public institution with the highest representation of women is the Electoral Management Bodies with 28%. The lack of political will, restrictive electoral frameworks and deeply entrenched patriarchy are some of the root causes of these low figures. Countries like Algeria, Benin, Cameroon, Comoros, Congo, Djibouti, DRC, Kenya, Morocco, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, and Togo are among those that have constitutional provisions and have passed legislation, and adopted national policies mandating gender parity in executive, legislative and judicial branches, political party rosters as well as across the public sector.

Secrets Known singles out monetised and commercialised electoral politics as one of the key barriers to women participation in politics. Given the expensiveness that comes with contesting for a political position, most women can’t afford and don’t have access to finances. Commercialised electoral politics locks out women from participating as political candidates and limits their participation as mere voters. To increase the numbers of women in politics, governments in Africa must decommercialize politics by enacting political financing laws that promote transparency, accountability to enhance electoral integrity. 

Africa’s Agenda 2063 commits to improving women’s political participation. Accordingly, member states are required to implement AU parity principle in line with AU gender policy and ensure targets for equal opportunity of women in decision making positions, in the political (legislative), judiciary and the executive are achieved. The Maputo protocol and the Sustainable Development Goal 5 on gender equality provides for the increase and meaningful participation of women in political decision-making. Laws on campaign financing and political financing can be a good place to start from to realise gender parity.

Countries like Nigeria, Kenya, Seychelles, and Tanzania have progressive laws on campaign financing though these laws have largely suffered from non-enforcement and non-compliance. While some of the African countries like Rwanda have surpassed the 50% mark of women in political decision making at a parliament level, countries like Nigeria with just 6% remind us that there is need to cultivate enabling environment for women to participate in politics because laws alone can’t get the job done. Electoral systems need to actively look at the historical disadvantages of women’s political participation and find solutions. In addition, as mindsets change, so must frameworks change and in tandem.

With the commemoration of International Women’s Day that happened yesterday, it is important for Africa to be intentional in reforming its systems, practices and policies to ensure that more women sit on the political decision-making table. Africa should enact reforms on political financing.

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