Steps Towards 2019: Supporting women in election, role of parties

We continue echoing voices on the need to support women participation in elections more especially as candidates.
In her results declaration speech for the April 10 Local Government By-elections in Milonde and Malindi wards, MEC chairperson, Justice  Jane Ansah SC also echoed the need to move from rhetoric to action.
“Political parties should also put mechanism to attract and retain women as their contestants. It is high time we seriously reflected on the introduction of quotas within party constitutions” she said.
In this article we want to reflect on the role of political parties in increasing participation of women in elections.
Women constitute majority in the country being about 53 percent of the population and 53.81 percent of registered voters during the 2014 elections. However, their majority is not mirrored in elected positions. During the May 2014 Tripartite Elections only 30 parliamentary seats and 53 wards were taken by women. During the April 10, 2018 by-elections only one out of nine candidates was a woman.
While it is about a year to go for the 2019 Tripartite Elections, there is a window to address the structural causes of such results. We deal with political parties in this article because they are the primary and most direct vehicle through which women can access elected office and political leadership. Therefore, the structures, policies, practices and values of political parties have a profound impact on the level of women’s participation in political life of the country.
During this period, political parties could be focusing on the following  internal party strategies as one way of laying the foundation for more women participation during the May 2019 elections:
·        Addressing gender equality in their legal framework. This can include adopting a statement on gender equality in the party’s constitution, adopting measures, including internal quotas, that will ensure women’s participation on governing committees.
·        Holding special convention for women: This could be a separate forum for women held parallel to the national convention/general assembly or as a special convention for women. This forum would provide an opportunity to discuss women issues which do not normally get adequate attention during conventions. Such forum would also focus on motivating and building a network for women that would stand in elections. This would strengthen and make the women’s wings more active going beyond the traditional roles. 
·        Putting women in party positions: Women who have the experience of holding a party position and handling the pressure will have higher chances of contesting in elections than those who have never held a position. So having more women in party positions would mean more probable candidates for the next elections. Parties can come up with quotas for positions in their structures.
·        Expose women: There are other women who are doing fine in politics and these should be mentors to others. Parties can building strategic alliances with political parties that have vibrant women’s wings. Exchange visits would be ideal.

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