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A record number of women were sworn in as legislators as Senegal's new parliament was inaugurated on Monday.

Sixty-four women now have seats in this West African country's 150-member National Assembly, thanks to a law on gender parity.

But the breakthrough made by women candidates has relaunched a debate on the quality of their work in the legislature.

Elections to the National Assembly, the lower of two houses of parliament, took place on Jul 1, and were comfortably won by the Benno Bokk Yaakaar coalition (BBY), whose candidate - Macky Sall - won the presidential election in March.

But the poll also served as a test of a Parity Law passed in 2010 which required all 24 parties and coalitions to put forward equal numbers of men and women on their candidate lists.

Shortly before the legislative elections, the government and women's organisations conducted a major awareness campaign about the law.

"Our objective was to see women take 40 to 45 percent of the seats," said Fatou Kiné Diop, president of the National Parity Observatory (ONP), which was set up under the presidency in 2011.

The campaign would seem to have been a success, with the proportion of female legislators jumping from 22 percent in the previous parliament to 43 percent for the incoming session.

 

Read the complete story at All Africa, published 2 August 2012.

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