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 , 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 .
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.
- In your experience, what are the main challenges women encounter in raising funds for elections in your country?
- Are there any examples of innovative ways of fundraising used by women candidates?
- What are the good practices in political parties to support the nomination and fundraising for women candidates?
- What measures can governments establish to financially support women candidates? And how can these be effectively enforced?
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 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, http://www.iknowpolitics.org. A total of 70 respondents provided their views on the issue of political financing.
 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