Funding for Women Candidates



Funding for Women Candidates

Women continue to be severely underrepresented in decision-making processes and bodies across the world at all levels. In fact,  the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) reports  only 23% of members of parliament (MPs) are women. A major contributing factor to this is the unequal access to the resources needed to successfully seek nominations or participate in electoral campaigns. It has been increasingly recognized that politics dominated by money, more often than not, is politics dominated by men.  IPU conducted a survey in 2008 of 300 MPs affirming that campaign financing was one of the biggest obstacles faced by women. This was later confirmed in research done by UN women in 2013 [1], wherein over 80% of the respondents identified access to financing as one of the biggest barriers to enter politics. The costs of running for office varies greatly across countries and the barriers faced by women differ depending on context. Systemic issues such as lower economic status and lack of economic independence affect women globally, effectively placing barriers for women’s participation in politics [2].

While there are several factors that affect women’s political participation, electoral systems are key among them. Majority-based and candidate-centered systems tend to require more self-funding from candidates, putting women at a disadvantage. Costs will often be incurred in attempting to win a primary election, and then in the election period. Party primaries can be very expensive and act as an obstacle for women’s participation as they often require significant self-funding. Proportional systems typically require less fundraising from the individual candidate and are therefore considered favorable to women. This is due to political parties bearing the biggest costs for campaigning. However, political parties often stand as gate-keepers, nominating men they believe are more likely to attract more private funding due to ingrained gender stereotypes.

In many countries, the role of private funding is diminished due to the provision of public funding from the state. Around 30 countries have introduced public funding measures that promote the nomination and election of women into decision-making bodies. This may include earmarking funds for activities supporting women’s participation, such as providing direct funding for women’s wings; withholding funding for parties that do not reach a threshold of women nominated; or increasing funding for parties with higher levels of gender equality. International IDEA’s latest report on the matter  indicates that gender targeted public funding is only effective in countries where the funding amounts are high in relation to private funding; when the potential losses in public funding for not nominating women is high; and the connection between public funding and gender equality is sufficient to overcome gender prejudices within political parties. In contexts where parties do not rely on public funding, the penalties for not complying are low and gender-targeted public funding is unlikely to be effective.  

Objective of the e-Discussion

iKNOW Politics and its partners are convening this e-Discussion from May 15 to June 19, 2018 to seek input from political party leaders and members, politicians, experts, practitioners, and researchers on the challenges and opportunities of funding for women candidates and its role in promoting women’s political participation. The submissions will contribute to the elaboration of a Consolidated Reply that will augment the knowledge base available on campaign funding and its impact on women’s political participation.


  1. In your experience, what are the main challenges women encounter in raising funds for elections in your country?
  2. Are there any examples of innovative ways of fundraising used by women candidates?
  3. What are the good practices in political parties to support the nomination and fundraising for women candidates?
  4. What measures can governments establish to financially support women candidates? And how can these be effectively enforced?  
To contribute: 
  1. Use the below comment section below.
  2. Send your contribution to so that we can post it on your behalf.


[1] UN Women undertook an assessment of parliamentarians and activists during the 57th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women in New York in March 2013, and with members of the iKNOW Politics network, A total of 70 respondents provided their views on the issue of political financing.

[2] For a comprehensive analysis of the challenges in receiving funding faced by women across the world, please see the chapter “Women in Politics: Financing for Gender Equality” in Funding of Political Parties and Election Campaigns: A Handbook on Political Finance


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Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy (NIMD)'s picture

At NIMD, we recognize that financial resources are a prerequisite for competing in elections. This often represents an obstacle for women who wish to enter into politics, as the socio-economic situation of women in most countries is lower that of men.

We work with women politicians and political parties to start to even the playing field.

We have put together a roadmap of steps political parties can take to facilitate the equal participation of women and men:

Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy (NIMD)'s picture

Governments have a key role to play. Some recommendations are:

- Limit the amounts that can be spent on campaign financing. Ensure transparency in campaign financing to limit the use of black money and of illegal networks and companies.
- Strengthen the mandate of the Electoral Management Body (EMB) to monitor campaign spending and hold political parties to account regarding their financial reports. Ensure sufficient financial and human resources for the EMBs to be able to effectively implement their task.
- Explore possibilities for financial incentives to increase women’s political participation.
- Provide financial incentives for political parties to identify women candidates and put them on the list. Gender Electoral Financing and Gender Quota can reinforce each other.

admin's picture

Posted on behalf of Dr. Ameena Al-Rasheed, iKNOW Politics Expert, Consultant, former Assistant Professor and UN Regional Advisor, UK. 

In your experience, what are the main challenges women encounter in raising funds for elections in your country?

Prior to including women in the political process and standing for offices and being candidates in elections, it is very imperative to explore and understand the current women's position vis a vis society economic social and political settings. We have known for quite some time and across the globe that poverty has a feminine face, and it is a reflect that the wide majority of women are among the big strata of poor people in our planet. Having said that, for women acquire a position in political offices, specific economic power and finances are needed, and not to overlook the social and political dimension of women's presence at the decision-making process, there are also many other obstacle the hinder women from assuming powerful and decision making position in politics in general. Now as we discuss the election procedure itself and finance for political campaign, it not easy to deal with issues in isolation of the whole political process, elections rules, political party engagement etc. All in all there is a certain and a specific need for affirmative actions to secure women's position in the political process, this task should be performed by all relevant parties, i.e political parties, election committee, the rules, the regulations and the election nature.

Are there any examples of innovative ways of fundraising used by women candidates?

May be there are many example of how women thrive to raise fund and to support their campaign and to stand for office, nonetheless, without political parties commitment, and without sound measures that allows women to take part, even finances cannot guarantee women's selection, nonetheless, women often made huge efforts to raise fund and to support their campaigns and i believe a comprehensive perspective into women's inclusion in politics and political offices need to be followed, including funding issues, affirmative action, election rules adjustment, and allowing platforms for women to take part and to be visible in the public sphere so that women's image in politics can smoothly been normalised.

What are the good practices in political parties to support the nomination and fundraising for women candidates?

Affirmative actions should be well in place to secure women's inclusion and selection, positive discrimination in allocation of fund should be thought, as women socially and political face more challenges than men in assuming offices.

What measures can governments establish to financially support women candidates? And how can these be effectively enforced?  

Collective actions are needed as:

  • Affirmative action and political parties’ genuine commitment.
  • Election rules that are responsive to the needs of both men and women and that will include women taking into consideration the social barriers facing women.
  • Positive discrimination in the process to promote more women and to challenges the societal systemic structure of patriarchy, and to make women part of the inquiry by bringing in their cognitive structure and placing them equal to men.
  • Securing the full commitment of the political parties to the efforts to boost women's participation.

All in all, I believe that raising fund for women, need to be simultaneously followed by commitment of all, affirmative actions well in place, inclusive election rules, that takes in to consideration the social cultural and economic set-up and women's positioning in the society. 

Mawuli Dake's picture

At the recent Mo Ibrahim Weekend in Kigali, Rwanda, The Vice President of Liberia, Madam Jewel Taylor proposed, and it was unanimously endorsed, the creation of a women's political trust fund. This was based on her experience and the shared experiences of many other female elected political officials in the room- where the issue of resources became their biggest impediment. A working group was proposed to work out a concept and modalities for this- under the leadership of the African Development Bank.

I am still curious to find out how this will work- considering campaign finance laws and regulations, combined with the multi-faceted partisan and ideological complexities. But I am sure there is a potential there to address some dimensions of the funding gap for female candidates.

In our experience at Moremi Initiative for Women's Leadership in Africa, working with young female politicians and emerging leaders throughout the continent. The situation is even more dire for them. We must find a solution to this if we are to make any meaningful headway in our fight for greater and equal representation and participation of women in our elections and democracies.


Ambassador Akua Sena Dansua's picture

1, The main challenges are sexual harassment by potential male benefactors, lack of collateral security to obtain loans from financial institutions, unwillingness of banks to fund political projects including elections, due to uncertainty of of electoral outcomes and the ability of candidates to repay loan if not elected among others.
2. Innovative examples of raising funds may be context-specific and may not be restricted to cash only. For instance one can appeal to leaders of grassroots associations to campaign for votes with little or at no cost while candidates can also mortgage property such as lands, vehicles or houses in exchange for financial assistance by local money lenders or wealthy individuals. Political Parties can also support female candidates with major campaign materials such as vehicles, motor-bikes , outboards motors(depending on the physical terrain) and the female candidates use of effective communication skills and tools.
3. Good practices by political parties to support women candidates,, may also be context specific and depends also on the electoral system and laws in place. But the insistence of political parties on quotas for qualified female candidates and effective lobbying by the women’s wings of their political leadership for sizeable quotas for women, may be helpful.
4. Measures by governments to support women candidates may include , amendments of legal regimes in use if not favorable, enforcement of legal regimes if available,intensive lobbying by women’s groups in the Country, insistence on the implementation of UN Conventions on the political empowerment of women including provisions in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and others by Networks such as iKnowpolitics as well as more Donor support towards the political empowerment of women especially in developing Countries..

admin's picture

Posted on behalf of Dr. Santosh Kumar Mishra (Ph. D.), Technical Assistant, Population Education Resource Centre (PERC), Department of Continuing and Adult Education and Extension Work, S. N. D. T. Women's University (SNDTWU), India. 

1. In your experience, what are the main challenges women encounter in raising funds for elections in your country?

According to my experiences, in India (I reside in) women attempting to get elected (in national and provincial electoral events) are constrained by gender related issues. Despite legislative and constitutional amendments over the years, they are, often, discouraged from participating in electoral processes. However, of late, things are taking different shape and they are attempting to move forward. In a country like India, which is second biggest (next to China) in terms of volume of population, self-funding is not always feasible solution to manage the electoral initiatives. In this context, “fund-raising for campaign management” becomes important. Funding from other sources is possible, but this will require positive attitude among male population towards women’s contribution in politics.     

2. Are there any examples of innovative ways of fundraising used by women candidates?

Use of electronic media, in general, and social media, in particular, can be quite effective in fundraising management. Social media offers many advantages over traditional media tools. In addition to being free platforms with the ability to reach the public rapidly, social media sites also deflect the cost of acquiring and retaining viewers. Campaign websites and blogs may draw individuals. The power of social-media-based mobilization suggests that sites such as Facebook and Twitter might facilitate mobilization strategies (source:, accessed on May 24, 2018).

3. What are the good practices in political parties to support the nomination and fundraising for women candidates?

Political parties gain when women not only participate in the electoral and governing processes, but also influence them. Superficial efforts to increase the number of women involved in politics that offer no real qualitative influence or decision-making powers are unlikely to produce any new or immediate benefits. Typical examples of such efforts include:

  • women’s wings without statutory authority or sway;
  • the selection of so-called female place holders on candidate lists;
  • the marginalization of female officials once they are elected;
  • placing women in un-electable districts as candidates; and/or
  • removing women from viable positions on candidate lists at the last minute.

The universal trend is towards democratic governance based on parity and equality among sexes. Outreach to traditionally under-represented groups, such as women, is now considered a minimum standard for the democratic functioning of political parties and for the legislative bodies within which they operate (source:, accessed on May 24, 2018).

4. What measures can governments establish to financially support women candidates? And how can these be effectively enforced?

It is necessary to access substantial funds to conduct an electoral campaign. In those countries where there is public funding along with quota systems and other measures that favour women, all candidates, including women generally access funds through their political parties. Thus, once they have secured nomination, funding is partially guaranteed. However in those countries where candidates themselves have to raise the funds, large amounts of money are often essential to running a successful campaign. Public funding, considered by many states to be a desirable and positive measure, has been adopted by countries in Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean in order to equalize expenditures among candidates in electoral campaigns. In some cases however, women candidates have argued that it is not enough to cover their expenses for two reasons, namely,

  • women have unequal access to these funds within their party, and
  • candidates rely on means from private sources to which women do not have the same access.

As a result men end up being the main recipients of public funding. Social factors can also lead to a greater need for investment in electoral campaigns. Income level, race and ethnicity, level of education, dominant language skills, geographical location, sexual orientation, age, family relations, and phenotype of women candidates all tend to affect their political participation throughout their careers, especially the ability to acquire campaign funds during electoral campaigns. The poorest and most disempowered women from developing countries, including women from ethnic minorities, face a completely different economic reality when campaigning than do women from developed countries who are supported by their parties or other mechanisms.

There are three different legal financial modalities under which parties get resources: a) public finance; b) private finance; and c) combined public/private finance. Depending on the political and socio-economic context, different modalities of finance might or might not favour women. However, in order to identify what financial modality favours women, further research is needed (source:, accessed on May 24, 2018).