e-Discussion on Women’s Participation in Public Life

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e-Discussion on Women’s Participation in Public Life

Background

Women’s right to equal opportunities and participation in public life is guaranteed by international agreements such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Beijing Platform for Action, and the Sustainable Development Goals. Women are active in both the formal and informal public spaces, including in social and political movements as civil society activists, political candidates and leaders, and peace negotiators.  

Over time, women activists and feminist movements have led efforts globally and nationally to advance the gender equality and women’s empowerment agenda in all spheres of life. For instance, in politics they were instrumental in achieving women’s suffrage, as well as the introduction of gender-sensitive laws and electoral gender quotas in many countries. Albeit still far from parity, women’s participation and representation in formal political institutions has increased in recent decades as a result of those reforms. For instance, women’s representation in national parliaments has nearly doubled in the last twenty years, rising from 13.4%in 2000 to 24.9%in 2020.

With the rise and renewed uses of the internet, women are using both formal and informal spaces to drive change for a more democratic and sustainable world free from discrimination. Social media tools enable digital activism and grassroots movements with unprecedented speed, reach, and often impact, transforming institutional and traditional activism and civic spaces.  

Objective 

This e-Discussion aims to explore and raise awareness on the different ways and forms women participate in public life outside of formal political institutions, such as in women’s and feminist movements, civic demonstrations and initiatives and online activism. Activists in civic and political movements, civil society groups, political parties, social media campaigns, as well as practitioners and researchers on issues related to political and public engagement are invited to join this e-Discussion from 24 August to 14 September 2020. Submissions will contribute to the elaboration of a Consolidated Reply that will augment the knowledge base available on the topic.     

Questions

  1. How have women outside of formal roles advanced the gender equality agenda and influenced other public debates and decisions? Please share concrete examples. 
  2. In organizing and pushing for change, many women activists develop valuable leadership skills. Can you share examples of women in politics who entered the formal political sphere after engaging in informal spaces?  
  3. What is the role of youth, including young women, in driving public and civil society movements and influencing decision-making? Is the public engagement of today’s youth different from previous generations’?  

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Editor's picture

Contribution posted on behalf of Siti Fuadilla Alchumaira, Co-Founder Empowomen.

  1. How have women outside of formal roles advanced the gender equality agenda and influenced other public debates and decisions? Please share concrete examples. 

There are many social movement were initiated by women. In Indonesia, Gender issues is raised by so many social movement led by women-led organisation. Some women started to organize and mobilize community who shares similar concern in gender issue, specifically the impact of gender inequality. This grassroot activity leads to any kind of campaign in social media, public event, up to collective event. This grassroot activism started small, but it creates a strength through collaboration with key stakeholder that has similar concern. In Lampung, gender issue is not yet popular topic in community. They used to have only 1 local NGO who specifically works on raising the gender issue, but in the last 3 years, there are more youth-led community, including Empowomen, that also share similar concern. The collaboration within organization could strengthen the movement through sharing resource and improving capacity to create effective advocacy strategy in delivering the concern to policy makers. This collaborative movement has been conducted through discussion session among civil society and local government where we discuss about gender inequality and its urgency. Hence, we tried to involve government as policy maker to tie in commitment in prioritizing gender issues in development plan.

  1. In organizing and pushing for change, many women activists develop valuable leadership skills. Can you share examples of women in politics who entered the formal political sphere after engaging in informal spaces?

In Indonesia, ex-minister of fishery is one of the role model. Her background is business development in coastal area that have been working closely to grassroot. She did not finish formal education, thus many people had underestimated her capacity. But Her experience in working in field has proved that her quality does not need to be defined by education degree, but the knowledge and skill she has earned throughout experience in working with real issues with community. The moment she had a chance to lead in ministry office, she had proved that her decision, leadership and program could provide more initiative that targeted the problem in grassroot level. On the other hand, her strength and persistence that have been constructed her personality helped her to be firm and brave to take and make a significant change in policy. Her initiative might lead to some controversy since her program might change traditional practice of corruption and environment destruction. She completed her role in 4 years before she decided to leave the position.

  1. What is the role of youth, including young women, in driving public and civil society movements and influencing decision-making? Is the public engagement of today’s youth different from previous generations’?

I believe that young women could create a change in society. All this time, women have been alienated or marginalized in public sphere. There is limited space for young women to access information, to get equal opportunity and to speak their concern. By providing more space for young women to build solidarity, they could share experience, improve their knowledge and capacity, and organize the movement for change. It could be an opportunity to promotes gender inequality issues that lead to gender-based violence. In this generation, we are privileged by technology which enables us to gather solidarity and amplify our campaign through social media and it reaches out no border. Online mobilization turns out the new strategy to improve awareness on activism and social issues that is not available in previous generation.

Editor's picture

    Contribution posted on behalf of Doumbia Kadidia, Specialist in Gender and Education, DC Human Rights Liaison.

    The gender equality agenda has been advanced by women understanding that it needs to be implemented in all programs including in our daily lives.

    To achieve this goal, women, throughout the world, gathered and made the decision to support each other whatever the race, and the social background. Throughout the world, women ‘s organizations structured themselves to offer free political trainings to their peers interested in participating to the political life of the country.  Housewives have been elected to the House of Representatives in the United States for instance; young women, activists, have succeeded by finding themselves on Capitol Hill or at elected positions at the state level.

    In African countries, women strive to reach the highest positions. In the Ivory Coast and in Burkina Faso, there are women candidates for the next presidential election. It is possible when we believe.

    The number of women in political decision-making positions has been on the rise globally. Even though, it shows a low 1% in 2018, there is a serious rise in certain categories. The same year, in Sub-Saharan Africa, an average raise of 23% could be noticed for women seating at the parliament.  (www.theyouthcafe.com)

    “Two main obstacles prevent women from participating fully in political life, according to UN Women. These are structural barriers, whereby discriminatory laws and institutions still limit women’s ability to run for office, and capacity gaps, which occur when women are less likely than men to have the education, contacts and resources needed to become effective leaders.”

    But these should never stop us, women.

    In African countries, women strive to reach the highest positions. In the Ivory Coast and in Burkina Faso, we have women candidates for the next presidential election. It is possible when we believe.

    The time for us has arrived “When we vote we win!”

    Fighting for specific issues has lead, many women of the civil society, to the political arena.

    The actual President of the National Commission on Human Rights in the Ivory Coast, Mrs. Namizata Sangare is the former president of an NGO (Organization of Active Women in the Ivory Coast) who fought for women’s rights at a time when she was mocked to try to do so. She used to hear comments like “Oh! Women have rights too?”. 15 years later, the country has around 500 elected women.

    When we are together, we win!

    Technology is a serious support in our journey for rights and justice. It is one of the main tools to engage younger generations though education, information and help them take ownership of their future. They got it right. They know that they can be connected to a multitude of other communities in their own country or worldwide. This is power and this is powerful. Online activism is the way to go, it works in our global world.

    Because being together makes plurality a more powerful entity. 

    Editor's picture

    Contribution posted on behalf of Akua Sena Dansua, former Ambassador of Ghana to Germany, Former Minister for Tourism, Former Minister for Youth and Sports, Former Minister for Gender and Children’s Affairs, Former Member of Parliament (MP), Ghana.

    Q.1

    Following increased education and empowerment from  the media , political parties and  at local governance levels such as District  Assemblies and Unit Committees in  Ghana, women especially in the informal space are anxious to claim or have claimed public spaces that rightly belong to them. They are becoming very visible and active participants in national discourses.

    I am a vivid example of  what  identification of women  outside formal spheres can  do. My career and political life  were redirected when   in 1997  Ghana’s First Lady  and President  of  the 31st December Women Movement (DWM) , an NGO , Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings, invited me to join her Movement. As a young, active and assertive   female Journalist  very interested in the empowerment of women, my contribution to this strong national agenda among others was  to write very popular editorial pieces on women’s empowerment at the newspaper I worked with. I was absolutely not interested in politics  at that time.  My participation in  the DWM facilitated local and international empowering  programmes including the popularly acclaimed 1995   Beijing Conference on Women  changed  my perception about  women in politics? These  experiences, apart  from empowering me for the job ahead were  also very fulfilling. Subsequently I was thrust into  active politics starting as a District Chief Executive from where I became a Member of Parliament, Minister of State and  as Ambassador position.  These  clearly  positions  in which I contributed actively to national  development as a woman. There are many other such examples in our Countries.

    I have also personally mentored and continue to  mentor  women  some with little education  who  are enlightened, empowered and assertive  to the extent that they able to  attend local and international conferences  on women empowerment with others  also earned  important boards membership in  Ghana. Others  had or currently occupy political leadership  positions from polling station to constituency to regional and national levels.

    From mine and other similar experiences,  I am of the strong conviction that when women  are  identified  and mentored in  the markets, churches and at farm gates  among others, they become very  interested and  are responsive to any stimuli  to be part of decision making no matter the  educational or  other challenges they may have.

    Q.2

    Same as above.

    Q.3

    Young women  and the youth generally have a big role in   influencing decision making  not only  as a  human rights reason  but because they are equal and direct  beneficiaries of  such decisions . They must get involved as strong and active advocates or as participants because it is in their own interest to do so  especially as women constitute about 50% of my Country, Ghana’s population and maybe in several Countries.

    Obviously the way and manner of engaging today’s youth in decision-making is different from previous generations especially as they are better educated,  more tech-savvy especially on social media and are  better equipped with the knowledge and skills  to participate in and influence decision-making  at all levels  and from whichever location they may find themselves. Mentoring and other empowerment programmes are key to elicit more interest of young women and the youth  in decision-making and in public life  because there are too many things  competing for their interest and attention.