BRIDGE Gender and Elections Module in Pretoria, South Africa, 16-20 May, 2011

15 June 2011

Gender inequalities within electoral processes are common all around the world, strengthened by and connected to the social, cultural and economic barriers facing women in most societies. As of 2011, only 19% of the world’s MPs are female and there are only around 20 female head of governments.

The BRIDGE module on Gender and Elections addresses the whole range of issues related to gender in electoral processes. The aim of the module is to make electoral management bodies (EMBs) understand why women’s participation is important and how to improve it, as well as for women’s advocacy groups to understand the electoral process and develop strategies to promote women’s participation. Further, the module provides tools for participants to look at elections from a gender perspective.

With the aim to increase women’s participation in electoral process in Africa, International IDEA arranged a 5 day BRIDGE course in Pretoria, South Africa, during 16-20 May 2011. The 22 participants came from all over the continent – from Tunisia in the North to Lesotho in the South, from Liberia in the West to Kenya in the East.

The participants brought a mix of professional experiences, ranging from electoral consultants, election administrators, gender advisors and NGOs working with women’s issues. Most participants were at managerial level or similar, invited with the intention to bring about change when returning back to their jobs.

The course presented a broad range of topics, including:

  • Democracy, Governance and Human Rights
  • International Agreements
  • Gender Mainstreaming
  • Legal framework and legal institutions
  • The Electoral Cycle concept
  • Barriers for women participation in electoral processes
  • Strategies for enhancing women’s participation as voters and candidates
  • Electoral systems and quotas

The course was facilitated by Margot Gould, Sibongile Zinemo, Ola Pettersson and Antonia Ngabala, the latter who received her full accreditation after successfully have facilitated the course. 

As is the case with most, if not all, BRIDGE trainings, the atmosphere was highly participative with the participants drawing inspiration from their own experiences. The group was dynamic and the training was characterized by intense discussions from day one. A very positive impression from the training was the enthusiasm and knowledge displayed by the male participants.  

The course evaluation revealed that participants enjoyed the interactive methodology of the training and that the training provided them with useful knowledge about gender and elections as well as practical tools for how to address gender issues in their own contexts. Participants will now play the role of agents of change, within their own organisations and also in the wider context in their respective countries. A clear-cut example was when one of the participants, the deputy chief electoral officer of the Kenyan election commission, called her office during a break to ensure that the provisions in the Convention for the Elimination of all Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) were properly addressed in a new electoral law being scrutinized by the Electoral Commission.


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