The Role of Political Parties in Promoting Women in Politics



The Role of Political Parties in Promoting Women in Politics


In most countries, political parties are the primary and most effective structure through which women become politically engaged and get elected. Political parties’ practices, policies, and values can have a deep impact on women’s political participation and representation. Indeed, political parties nominate candidates in local and national elections, provide campaign funding, rally voters, set policy and governance priorities, and form governments.[1]

In January 2019, globally women held just 24.3% of all parliamentary seats and 20.7% of ministerial positions.[2] Although women’s political participation and representation has increased in recent years, progress is very slow. The unequal representation of women in decision-making bodies is an obstacle to achieving gender equality in society and the fulfillment of the Sustainable Development Goals by the 2030 target.

A study by International IDEA on political parties’ commitments in 33 African countries found a significant gap between parties’ written general commitments to achieving gender equality and specific measures to enforce and implement these commitments.[3] Another study focused on Latin America revealed that 30% of political parties barely refer to gender equality in their internal governance documents at all.[4]

For efforts to promote women’s equal and full political participation to be effective, they must include strategies for political parties to ensure their constitution, structures, processes, and financing are gender responsive and inclusive of all women. It is crucial that political parties encourage women’s participation and integrate gender equality issues in their policies and programmes to ensure diversity of views and no one is left behind.


iKNOW Politics and its partners are convening this e-Discussion to exchange knowledge on the role of political parties in promoting women’s political participation and representation and good practices on ways to increase and strengthen their contribution to achieving gender equality in politics and the wider society. Political party leaders and members, politicians, experts, practitioners, and researchers are invited to join the e-Discussion from 13 August to 3 September 2019. The submissions will contribute to the elaboration of a Consolidated Reply that will augment the knowledge base available on this topic.


  1. Do political parties in your country publicly express commitment to gender equality? If so, is this commitment reflected in their actions (e.g. leadership structure, candidate nominations, campaign financing, and policies)?
  2. What can political parties do to promote women’s political participation and representation within their organizations and in politics in general? What can they do to better include young women, women with disabilities, and indigenous women?
  3. Do you know of instances where political parties gained greater electoral success following the implementation of gender affirmative action measures?
  4. Violence against women in politics is a widespread phenomenon. What can political parties do to stop it? 

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[1] Ballington, J., Davis. R., Reith, M., Mitchell, L., Njoki, C., Kozma, A., Powley, E., ‘Empowering Women for Stronger Political Parties: A Guidebook to Promote Women’s Political Participation’, 2011 (NDI and UNDP):

[2] UN Women and Inter-parliamentary Union, ‘Women in Politics: 2019’:

[3] International IDEA, ‘Review of political parties’ commitments to gender equality: a study of 33 African countries’, 2012 (unpublished)

[4] Rosas, V., Llanos, B. and Garzón de la Roza, G., ‘Gender and Political Parties: Far from Parity’, 2011 (Stockholm and New York: Inter-American Development Bank and International IDEA)

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Dr. Ameena Al Rasheed's picture

It is very obvious that most of political parties, in our contemporary world would usually express interest and commitment to gender equality, from the position of being current and abiding to international human rights covenant, needless to say it was mostly expressed for courtesy and ended up paying lip service to the cause. I will explore the case of the late Sudan's revolution, where 70% of those marked on the streets of every single city and neighbourhood in the country where in fact women, and there was a reason for women to mark in millions against the previous dictatorship and Muslim Brotherhood that ruled the nation for around 30 years, as the main target during that repressive regime where in fact women. The first laws introduced in the 1989 where the public orders, that targeted women in work place, schools, universities and even streets and inside their home, decent laws were enacted to confine women to the homes, and to limit their movement and event to enforce an attire for all women, that is the hijab. Despite such an outcry from women against repressive regime that violates their right, the new forces of freedom and change the led the revolution, has paid lip services for women, as they did not take part in the negotiation table, there was no commitment from the mediators at the AU and UN level to enforce the SCR1325 on the parties, it was in fact completely ignored as the business is solely masculine and patriarchal business for these organisation and establishments.. The opposition forces, kept thanking women for taking part in the revolution, with patriarchal arrogance and ignorance and utter masculine mussels, while the world have witnessed Sudanese women leading the revolution and being the back bone of the movement in every single corner to the country, the commitment seems to wither away, by the collaboration of international organisations as well as the new opposition forces, more than that they went into proposal of 40% for women, and entered that in the peace document, with no shame or any sense of being just and of taking into consideration of the women's weight in the revolution, and what paradoxical is that all these forces where able accurately to measure the power of each and every political party in the process and to divide the seats accordingly. So once again it is a complete betrayal to women of Sudan, who suffered the most during the brutal Islamist region and who are longing for a new era that can secure their rights and end the violation and oppression.
It is very important to measure and to understand the shaky commitment of the UN and international community, as all kept silent during the process and excelled no power in forcing the parties to abide by the SCR1325 or even to consider women without whom this revolution will have had a setback and less impact in the process of toppling the dictator.
I believe it is time to have a different and alternative path for women to secure their presence and to fight against exclusion. as for the political parties there was no genuine commitment to include women, and hence, election rules need first to be build on justice and credibility in the implementation process. We know that the Sudan scenario is replicated everywhere up to this moment, and we can only say that women are surrounded with strong, formidable patriarchal norms that is even displayed with the United Nations work and commitment to empower women and to end violation of their rights.


I am a long-time campaign consultant in the US, where, in my experience, both major political parties are roadblocks rather than gateways for women candidates. It's gotten better, but there are still some big challenges, especially in the South and states like Florida where the population skews older:
(1) Both parties often are captives of the Good Old Boys - depending upon the demographic of the area - and women are viewed as the workers, not the leaders.
(2) Rather than recruit women for seats they could win, women are more likely to be the sacrificial lambs, who will lose but the party can say "Look, we recruited a woman!"
(3) While running for Congress - and winning - does not always require climbing the ladder from local to state to Washington, women who have succeeded at the municipal and legislative levels do not always get party support for higher races. Party infrastructures rarely get involved in local races - many of them are nonpartisan.
(4) Money remains a factor; while women DO contribute to political parties, too often the larger amounts come from wealthy men and the proliferation of business PACs.
(5) Clearly, international research shows that establishing party quotas leads to more women in office, but it is highly unlikely that the U.S. could or would do that.
Sadly, I am not optimistic about changing the U.S. party system, which is in such turmoil these days. But we need to continue to support the women's groups and issue-based organizations that have also become influential players in elections.