At a joint workshop for Election Management Bodies (EMBs) in Africa and elections practitioners, the role of women in electoral process was discussed at length.
The hybrid workshop, which was held from 13 to 14 October 2022, at the AU Headquarters, and via ZOOM online, provided a platform for the EMBs and election practitioners to share experiences on how to support inclusive women’s political participation in elections and on challenges affecting their participation, as well as seek for strategies to redress them, throughout the election cycle.
It also created opportunities for networking and sharing information on how to leverage legal and policy frameworks for gender parity in electoral management.
Participants included representatives of AU Member States, African EMBs holding elections in the remaining months of 2022 and in the year 2023, the UN and Gender Focal points in the Regional Economic Communities/Regional Mechanisms (RECs/RMs) working in the areas of elections, among others.
Opening the workshop on behalf of the Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, H.E Ambassador Bankole Adeoye, the Director of Governance and Conflict Prevention in the AU Political Affairs, Peace and Security Department (DPAPS), Ms. Patience Zanelie Chiradza highlighted the importance of influencing the representation of women in governance bodies, political parties and EMBs, among others, beyond the electoral processes.
“Women constitute the demographic and electoral majority in our Member States. However, there is still no equal representation, especially in our elective decision-making bodies during electoral processes of the Continent.
Gender Inclusive political participation, the rule of law and consolidated democratic achievements are crucial for political stability and sustainable peace,” she stated.
On her part, the Ambassador of Ireland to Ethiopia, H.E. Nicola Brennan, expressed Ireland’s commitment to supporting the capacities of Women’s Rights Organizations to ensure that the voices and aspirations of women are heard on all matters of peace and security.
“Ireland will continue to advocate that the international community have the responsibility to work for the prioritization of the Women, Peace and Security agenda, not to oversee its marginalization,” the Ambassador stated.
Also speaking at the opening workshop on behalf of the UN SRSG to the AU and Head of UNOAU, Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, the Deputy Head of Office, Mr. Gerald Mitchell, said, “Inclusive political and electoral processes are vital for the implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 (WPS agenda), including addressing election-related violence that disproportionately affects women. The UN and the AU remain committed to implementing the WPS agenda”.
The two-day workshop presented existing practices and options for promoting women’s participation, including through reforms, that may assist EMBs with skills needed to ensure a gender-responsive approach to elections.
Furthermore, it addressed thematic issues on Gender inclusive political participation and Women, Peace and Security (WPS), Legal and Policy Framework, Cultural, Financial issues and Electoral Disputes, among others.
Participants exchanged views on addressing the issues related to violence against women in electoral and political processes, the challenges and ways to promote women’s participation in the electoral cycle and in the broader issues of peace, security and development.
Closing the workshop on behalf of the Director of Governance and Conflict Prevention of DPAPS/AUC, Ms. Karine Kakasi Siaba, Ag Coordinator of Democracy and Elections Unit, reiterated the AU’s appeal to the international community and the Member States to continue to further amplify the dynamics of positive cooperation between respective institutions as well as with the Technical and Financial Partners (TFPs). This is to strengthen EMBs and other stakeholders to bring about the reforms needed to achieve full parity in political space and public governance.
Also speaking at the closing workshop, Ms Hester Adriana Paneras, Head of Institutional and Operational Partnership Service, UNOAU, reiterated the commitment of the United Nations to the UN-AU partnership in peace and security, particularly in this very important area of women’s equal and effective participation in elections.
She also thanked the partners - Irish Aid, the Government of Ireland and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for their generous support.