Engaging Male Champions to Support Women’s Political Participation

e-Discussions

Engaging Male Champions to Support Women’s Political Participation

Research and experience has documented that gender diversity yields better outcomes in political decision-making and that women’s role in local and national political processes greatly improves democratic outcomes. Women’s right to equal voice and participation in political life has a strong foundation of international commitments - from the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) to the Beijing Platform for Action and more recently the Sustainable Development Goals. Yet women continue to be under-represented across every area of political life – including in political parties, being  part of inclusive constitution-making processes, as candidates, elected representatives, voters, etc. As of June 2017, women make up only 23.4% of national parliamentarians, 7.9% head of state, and 5.2% head of government, with unknown numbers in local government.

Gender balance in politics, however, can only be achieved if men work side by side with women to share the responsibility in breaking harmful cultural norms and practices, as well as the institutional, structural and legal barriers that hinder women’s equal and influential political participation.  Proactive work by male champions, in partnership with women, is necessary to establish an environment that empowers women’s political participation at all levels of decision-making. 

Men’s partnership is required  in addressing issues that hinder women’s political engagement, including: structural barriers, discriminatory practices and violence that prevent women from exercising their right to vote; unequal access to education, networks and resources; discriminatory institutional practices and laws that prevent women from being recruited, nominated for standing for office, or getting elected; institutional discrimination against women in office resulting in their not being appointed to committees where they can have influence; violence, sexism and harassment against female candidates and female elected officials, and negative gender-based stereotypes perpetuated by the media.

Men can help lead the charge with women in enacting legislation that promotes women’s rights, repealing laws and policies that discriminate against women and limit opportunities. They can also support the advancement of women in decision making bodies by advocating for temporary special measures. In political parties, men and women can work together to champion women’s participation including nominating more women, having hard targets or quotas for women in leadership roles in the party, and ensuring women have the same professional development opportunities as men to enable their advancement within the party.

Beyond legal reform, quotas, and capacity building, gender balance in politics requires a reconfiguration of gender dynamics and power relations, breaking down social norms and stereotypes that limit women’s participation in decision-making. It requires men to question and challenge the status quo, to change practices, and to lead other men in doing the same. It also requires a normative shift for women who may contribute to sustaining gender stereotypes and narrow gender identities regarding leadership roles for women as well as men.

Men can be powerful advocates in their community to promote women’s role in political life, speaking out about the importance of women’s role [in political life], advocating for women to run for office, supporting registration of female voters, or canvasing for female candidates. Male leaders can also utilize media appearances to make targeted statements advocating for change, raising awareness on the lack of women’s representation and leadership in their communities, or supporting the realization of women’s right to participate in elections.

As fathers, men can help re-shape gender identities by emulating shared decision-making and leadership in the home, and speaking to their children about the importance of women in politics. Fathers also play a fundamental role in cultivating a culture of equality by sharing the duty of caregiving for children and by setting equal standards for boys and girls within the family, thus opening opportunities for women and girls to participate in public life.

Objective of the e-Discussion

This e-discussion is a platform to promote an active and fruitful dialogue on how men can be catalysts for enhancing women’s participation in politics with the goal of drawing out best practices and lessons learned.

Structure of the e-Discussion

The e-discussion is co-convened by iKNOW Politics and the International Gender Champions, a leadership network that brings together female and male decision-makers to break down gender barriers, from 06 September to 12 October 2017. Public officials, political party leaders, civil society activists, government and international organizations representatives, academia and technical experts are invited to contribute with their experiences by answering to one or more of the below questions. The iKNOW Politics team and the International Gender Champions teams look forward to an informative knowledge-sharing exercise on this topic. 

The e-discussion will be supported halfway through with a Facebook Live of a roundtable discussion in Geneva on 2 October 2017 on the topic with male and female International Gender Champions based in Geneva. Stay tuned!

Questions

  1. How do you explain the low representation of women in decision-making around the world, whether in village development committees, parliaments, governments, or intergovernmental organizations?   
  2. How can men as leaders take meaningful action to foster an increase in women’s representation in decision-making bodies? How can men as husbands/partners, fathers, sons, and other family members, support women’s role in political life? Share concrete examples.
  3. What strategies and approaches have been successful in engaging male champions in shifting the gender disparity of women in decision-making bodies?
  4. What potential challenges do male champions face in being active and vocal supporters of women in politics (or in women’s empowerment and gender equality)?
  5. What can be done to catalyze and encourage more male champions of women's political participation?  Please share any initiatives or good practices that you are aware of.

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questions 1.

  • How do you explain the low representation of women in decision-making around the world, whether in village development committees, parliaments, governments, or intergovernmental organizations? 
  • In some provinces, where traditions remain perennial, sending the girls to school is not a priority. To some low-income families, boys are sent to school at the expenses of the girl children. These stereo types set up by cultural mentalities and practices have contributed  to women excluding themselves from participating in politics, because of the wrong conception about engaged women, most of them have been convinced that politics and leadership is for men. 
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    By Dr. Ibrahim Okinda, PhD in Communication and Media Technology Candidate, Moi University, Kenya

    1. How do you explain the low representation of women in decision-making around the world, whether in village development committees, parliaments, governments, or intergovernmental organizations?    

    • Low socio-economic status
    • Patriarchy society
    • Women’s poor attitudes towards politics: Low to political knowledge, efficacy, interest, party partisanship and trust
    • Inadequate accessibility to relevant political information
    • Media  coverage of women, women politicians and gender equality is often inadequate and stereotypical
    • Fewer role models

    2. How can men as leaders take meaningful action to foster an increase in women’s representation in decision-making bodies? How can men as husbands/partners, fathers, sons, and other family members, support women’s role in political life? Share concrete examples.

    • Men as leaders should: Enact legislation that promotes women’s political participation for instance in Kenya which has a progressive constitution which if adhered to can attain this.
    • Men as husbands/partners, fathers, sons and other family members should: Give women opportunities of leadership at family level, for instance allow them to take charge of not only traditional but non-traditional roles in the family; and initiate  open interpersonal political discussions at family level involving all genders and give all of genders equal opportunity.

    3. What strategies and approaches have been successful in engaging male champions in shifting the gender disparity of women in decision-making bodies?

    • Use these champions in village and religious meetings
    • Use opinion leaders whether men or women to engage the public

    4. What potential challenges do male champions face in being active and vocal supporters of women in politics (or in women’s empowerment and gender equality)?

    • Cultural impediments as such  male champions may be branded failures and against the traditions of the society they reside in 

    5. What can be done to catalyze and encourage more male champions of women's political participation?  Please share any initiatives or good practices that you are aware of.

    • Male champions need to financially supported to do public education
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    By Dr. Santosh Kumar Mishra, Technical Assistant, Population Education Resource Centre (PERC), Department of Continuing and Adult Education and Extension Work, S. N. D. T. Women's University (SNDTWU), Mumbai, Maharashtra, India.

    Note:

    • Views expressed below are of the contributor AND NOT of the PERC, SNDTWU where he is currently employed.   
    • Major portion of the contribution presented below have been drawn from secondary data sources (which have been quoted in the Reference Section at the end of the text).

    Questions

    1. How do you explain the low representation of women in decision-making around the world, whether in village development committees, parliaments, governments, or intergovernmental organizations?

    Women continue to be under-represented in the political and economic decision-making process. Balanced participation of men and women in decision-making is a precondition for the improved functioning of democracy. There is need for positive measures to strengthen institutional mechanisms – such as framework laws, governmental programmes, national action plans and the setting up of gender equality committees in elected assemblies – in order to make up for lost time in this field. It stresses that political parties have a responsibility to promote women’s access to decision-making positions. The media also has a role to play in forming public opinion about the place of women in society [1].

    2. How can men as leaders take meaningful action to foster an increase in women’s representation in decision-making bodies? How can men as husbands/partners, fathers, sons, and other family members, support women’s role in political life? Share concrete examples.

    Girls and women have a right to engage in civil society, vote in elections, be elected to government office, serve on boards, and make their voices heard in any process that will ultimately affect them, their families, and their communities. By investing in their right to political participation, the international community not only moves closer to achieving gender equality, but also to fulfilling several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and targets that depend upon it. While achieving gender equality and empowering girls and women is the goal of sustainable development goal (SDG) 5, the benefits from the inclusion of girls and women are cross-cutting, paving the way to more inclusive and egalitarian democracies, balanced economic growth, and enhanced peace-building capacities [2]. In addition to measures by national governments and other stakeholders at the macro level, male population can contribute lot at the micro level for furthering women’s participation in decision-making matters. They, in their individual capacities, can encourage women and girls to take vital decisions in household activities. This can be good beginning which, at a later stage, can become mass social movement with intervention of interested individuals or organizations.   

    3. What strategies and approaches have been successful in engaging male champions in shifting the gender disparity of women in decision-making bodies?

    The causes of women’s continued lag behind men in leadership and participation in decision-making are well known, some of them being (a) persistent highly patriarchal political systems, (b) inadequate training of aspiring women leaders, (c) poverty, and (d) illiteracy. In order to promote women’s leadership and participation in decision-making in pursuit of Goal 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Section 12 of the Commonwealth Charter, it is imperative that ongoing successful strategies are continued, and more innovative approaches introduced to accelerate the advances made so far. These measures may include supporting special leadership training programmes to develop the leadership capacities of women and enhance their effective participation in decision-making. Promoting women’s economic empowerment as a prerequisite to advancing women’s participation must also be top priorities of governments and civil society [3].

    4. What potential challenges do male champions face in being active and vocal supporters of women in politics (or in women’s empowerment and gender equality)?

    Men are likely to face challenges in efforts to increase women’s participation in decision-making. Difficulties may begin at home where other male population may discourage others from taking required steps. This is because of deep-rooted cultures which do not, in many cases, promote women’s development. This is a big challenge and there is need to research into how to overcome this barrier. 

    5. What can be done to catalyze and encourage more male champions of women's political participation?  Please share any initiatives or good practices that you are aware of.

    The role of women in decision-making is central to the advancement of women around the world and to the progress of humankind as a whole. It is, therefore, right and, indeed, necessary that women should be engaged in decision-making in every area, with equal strength and in equal numbers [4]. Under international standards, both men and women should have equal rights and opportunities to participate fully in all aspects and at all levels of political processes. In practice, however, it is often more challenging for women to access and exercise these rights. The extent of women’s participation in politics and women’s access to decision-making can be seen as the key indicators of gender equality in a society. Gender equality in decision-making is to be viewed in the context of whether women are in the position to make or influence public decisions on the same footing as men [5].

    There are several ongoing initiatives and good practices aimed at enhancing women's participation in decision-making. One such initiative is the Poor Rural Communities Development Project (PRCDP). The PRCDP is a rural development intervention covering some of the poorest communities in Guangxi, Sichuan and Yunnan Provinces in China. The project has a strong outreach to ethnic minority areas and aims to improve livelihoods security and achieve sustained participation of rural people in project design, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation. It does this by heavily involving farmers in decisions on the kinds of rural infrastructure and livelihood activities that will be implemented in their communities. A facilitated process brings households together to discuss the key challenges faced by their communities and to identify solutions that can be carried out with strong participation from the farmers’ themselves [6].

    Ensuring that local investments are responsive to women and men’s priorities is a key feature of the PRCDP. As beneficiaries play a substantial role in project implementation, gender analysis carried out by the team focused on how women and men access basic services and on what their respective roles in decision-making at the community and household level were. The analysis was undertaken using qualitative research methodologies such as participant observation, key informant interviews and focus group discussions. These were either separate discussions held with women or consultations with groups with a balanced men/women composition. The aim of the analysis was to identify entry points for women’s participation in the community-based activities promoted by the project. Gender analysis also focused on how the implementation arrangements proposed by communities would impact men and women differently. The key concern in this case was to ensure that implementation arrangements did not place an undue burden on women who already have a particularly heavy workload of agricultural activities and domestic work. The preparatory analysis carried out by the project focused on how women’s economic situation and development priorities are often wrongly assumed to be the same as those of other poor groups. It sought to understand how: (i) local customs, beliefs and attitudes limit women’s participation, (ii) women’s economic and domestic workloads pose important time constraints to their participation in community activities, and (iii) customs, policies and laws limit women’s access to resources [6].

    In addition, the PRDCP gives women a seat at the table when it comes to decision-making at village level. The project uses a 30% target for women’s participation in the village groups created to implement sub-projects. This is intended to make sure that beyond the planning stage women are able to benefit from the additional capacity building activities implemented by the project and are able to participate actively in village organizing, in monitoring construction work and in mobilizing the community for the operation and maintenance of the sub-project investments. In order to support local facilitators in this, a project specific gender-check list was put in place as a step-by-step guide for gender-sensitive community planning [6].

    References:

    [1] Parliamentary Assembly (2005). “Mechanisms to ensure women's participation in decision-making, Report: Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men” (Accessed on September 07 from: https://assembly.coe.int/nw/xml/XRef/X2H-Xref-ViewHTML.asp?FileID=11068&lang=en).

    [2] “Strengthen Women’s Political Participation and Decision-Making Power”. (Accessed on September 07 from: http://womendeliver.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Good_Campaign_Brief_8_092016.pdf).

    [3] The Commonwealth (2017). “Women's leadership and participation in decision-making in the Commonwealth”. Geneva, Switzerland: The Commonwealth (Accessed on September 07 from: http://thecommonwealth.org/media/news/women-leadership-and-participation-decision-making-commonwealth).

    [4] “Women's Role in Decision-Making Central to Progress of Humankind”. (Accessed on September 07 from: http://www.loyno.edu/twomey/womens-role-decision-making-central-progress-humankind).

    [5] Ukrainian Women’s Fund (2011). “Women’s Participation in Politics and Decision-Making in Ukraine: Strategy Paper”. Kiev, Ukraine:  Ukrainian Women’s Fund (Accessed on September 07 from: http://www.osce.org/odihr/85974?download=true). 

    [6] “Poor Rural Communities Development Project Gender Mainstreaming in China”. (Accessed on September 07 from: http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTEAPREGTOPSOCDEV/Resources/12649GNChina.pdf). 

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    By Agripinner Nandhego, Programme Specialist Political Participation and Leadership, UN Women Uganda

    How do you explain the low representation of women in decision-making around the world, whether in village development committees, parliaments, governments, or intergovernmental organizations?  

    • In Uganda Negative Cultural perceptions play a big role in discouraging women from joining politics. Many people (both male & female) still believe women should not take up an active role in the public sphere. society sometimes shuns them and they get little support and encouragement. 
    • Low levels of education also deter women from participating because they may not meet the educational requirement for the positions. 
    • Sometimes lack of support from political parties discourages women from participating because they are not given space to nurture their potential and grooming into politics. 
    • There is limited space for mentoring of upcoming women leaders so they lack the skill of effectively participating in politics. 

    How can men as leaders take meaningful action to foster an increase in women’s representation in decision-making bodies? How can men as husbands/partners, fathers, sons, and other family members, support women’s role in political life? Share concrete examples. 

    In our traditional societies men are still valued and listened to. They are the 'gate keepers' through which you can get access to a community. They need to come out and sensitize communities on the importance of women in politics through different forums i.e as clan leaders, religious leaders, cultural leaders teachers etc.. In Uganda many civil society organizations are training men as civic educators and role models in society and in some societies it is working. UN Women has launched the He for She campaign in 2 cultural institutions (Buganda and Alur) and the message has been passed on that even these cultural leaders support women empowerment with a trickledown effect. The strategy of male champions is working even in Parliament where women who are 32% of the parliament work with male Mps to push for gender legislation. The Anti Female Genital Mutilation bill was tabled by a male MP and successfully enacted into law. 

    What potential challenges do male champions face in being active and vocal supporters of women in politics (or in women’s empowerment and gender equality)?

    One of the challenges is that men risk being sidelined by other men in society. They can be labeled 'pro women, and in extreme cases 'Anti African' because some people still believe patriarchy is a cultural thing that needs to be protected. 

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    Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Chief of ITU’s Strategic Planning and Membership Department and most senior-ranked woman at ITU, contributes to the discussion with a video interview.

     

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    Michael Møller, Director-General of UN Geneva and founder of International Gender Champions contributes to the discussion with a video interview.

     

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    Dr Khalid Koser, Executive Director of the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund (GCERF) and International Gender Champion contributes to the discussion with a video interview.

     

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    By Catherine Watuka, Executive Director of WUSETE and iKNOW Politics Expert, Kenya

    The lack of support for women leaders in political parties is related to the parties’ internal structures. Women have been voting for years but have they achieved actual political equality with men? NO. Women have fought alongside men in national struggles but when the franchise is finally achieved, their political interests and ambitions are left out in the cold. Women participate in the entire election process, vote, their votes are solicited for by politicians but are refused serious consideration, what they want or have to say, is regarded with very little weight. If parties refuse to open their doors to women, how will this under-represented half of the population, which has much to contribute to politics, become visible?

    Women have no real influence in the formations of their parties. Attend any of the numerous political empowerment workshops for women and their experiences are practically the same. In small things they are listened to, but when it comes to asking for important things women generally find they are up against a wall. Take a close look at local and national committees, and the national structures of major political parties. When meetings are to be held and important matters are to be decided and ratified, women generally find things have been planned and prepared, without consultation with them. When they object they are overruled and reasons found to diplomatically and politely eliminate them. Coping with men in the major parties seems utterly hopeless.

    In national politics, women have no voice or power whatsoever. Before general elections they will be told to organize their fellow women and asked to help in raising funds. But when it comes to discussing candidates and party policies, they are denied any share of influence in their parties. Yes, party leaders make statements indicating their willingness to take women into the high ranks of the parties, but in fact, the women who have run for any elective post will tell you they are excluded from any actual kind of important participation. They are called upon to produce votes, but they are kept in ignorance of the most crucial plans and affairs. Many women working in political organizations all over this country are unpaid, and they are so far only allowed to do the detail work which bores the men. While their votes cant be ignored and remains a critical factor in mobilizing campaigns every election, the individual women who are in party committees have no real power-back from women voters.   

    Truth is most male politicians dislike the idea of women mixing in politics, and that is why they continue to antagonise elected women and can be depended upon throughout their terms to keep women's influence negative. So how can women bring men leaders to concede to real participation, representation and equality in political party affairs? Women are today ignored mainly because they have no unity under representative leaders and a spokeswoman capable of dealing with these controlling groups of men. The hard fought gains will not remain in place if women don't keep vigilant. Voter ID laws, access to polling stations, campaign financing, ever-changing electoral technologies require a vigilant, nimble organization capable of protecting the interests of women during every stage of the electoral process.

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    By Yury Fedotov, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Vienna and Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

    1. How do you explain the low representation of women in top leadership positions in intergovernmental organizations?

    This is a complex, systemic problem, and the contributing factors are many. It may be true that there is generally a smaller pool of female applicants for leadership positions, which in turn lowers the possibility of a woman being promoted or appointed, but I think it is important to recognize that the problem starts much earlier. What we need to do is address root causes. 

    We need to invest more in coaching and awareness to support women to apply and succeed in assessment processes. Many leadership positions in our organizations involve hardship locations or extensive travel, so we also need to do more to support and enable the use of flexible working arrangements, and provide opportunities for all staff to better balance private life and professional obligations. 

    2. How can men as leaders take meaningful action to foster an increase in women’s representation in decision-making bodies?

    Men in leadership positions should take an executive responsibility to ensure that the organizational culture is conducive to the advancement of women. This could include reviewing formal and informal “systems” and organizational cultures that have had the end effect of favouring men when it comes to representation in decision-making bodies. 

    At the UN Office at Vienna and UNODC we are currently developing a Gender Equality Strategy and Action Plan to make sure that our senior management undertakes such reviews and follows commitment with action. 

    3. What strategies and approaches have been successful in engaging male champions in shifting the gender disparity of women in decision-making bodies?

    Initiatives such as the International Gender Champions initiative have been instrumental in mobilizing heads of international organizations, Permanent Missions and civil society to pledge to break down gender barriers. In Vienna, we joined the International Gender Champions with a well-publicized ceremony in June. In addition to our concrete commitments to advance gender equality, it is also important to use such initiatives to raise awareness. 

    4. What potential challenges do male champions face in being active and vocal supporters of women’s empowerment?

    An important challenge we all must address is perhaps a lack of understanding of what women’s empowerment or gender mainstreaming means. That is why raising awareness is so important. 

    Being a meaningful advocate for women’s empowerment also requires achieving a better understanding of the challenges women face. Collecting disaggregated data and gender statistics is therefore essential if we want to understand conditions, needs, and contributions of women and men and address inequalities.  

    5. What can be done to catalyze and encourage more male champions of women’s empowerment?   

    Male champions can use their position and their voices to call for change, and to take and communicate concrete steps within our organizations to address inequality where found. For example, as part of our commitment as International Gender Champions, we signed the Panel Parity Pledge to ensure gender balance on conference panels. 

    For my personal commitments, I chose to highlight the importance of advancing gender equality both within our organization and in our work. I pledged to raise awareness of programmes promoting women’s empowerment on country visits, and to encourage flexible working arrangements at the UN Office at Vienna and UNODC to further promote an inclusive organizational culture. 

    These concrete and measurable commitments can help to show how we can all do our part to advance gender equality, and in this way encourage more male champions to step up. 

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    By Sonket Sereyleak, Education and Gender Coordinator, Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia-COMFREL 

    1. How do you explain the low representation of women in decision-making around the world, whether in village development committees, parliaments, governments, or intergovernmental organizations?

    What is Male Champions?

    Male champion is referred to those who are valued by people and well-known in the society as the whole such as prime minister, president, minister, decision-making position, independent analyst, reporter, speaker, and student…etc. More importantly, male champions is a role model focusing and supporting women’s political participation and social affairs.     

    Even though Women’s rights to equal voice and participation in political life has a strong foundation of international commitments - from the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) to the Beijing Platform for Actions and more recently the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), women continue to be under-represented across every area of political life – including in political parties, being part of inclusive constitution-making processes, as candidates, elected representatives, voters, etc. As of June 2017, women make up only 23.4% of national parliamentarians, 7.9% head of state, and 5.2% head of government, and local level. I found that the number of women representatives is still low because of most of signatory countries do not implement convention and law as well as has not set up temporary special measures as an effective solution for promoting  and providing opportunities for women’s political participation.

    For instance, Cambodia has not yet achieved equality of gender political empowerment, especially the representation of voters and elected officials. Currently, women make up only 19.51% of National parliamentarians and 16.76% commune councilors at local level and appointed officials are small amount. The low number of women and the main part of this issue stems from a lack of specific written policy, has not amended some articles of election laws for supporting and providing opportunities as a temporary measures for women to participate at all levels. This lack is a result of failure to achieve the goals set by the national development plans and failure to fulfill the national obligations in accord with the CEDAW, of which Cambodia has been a signatory since 1992. The government has failed to solve this issue by resisting the conservatism and culture that is marked by the lower value it place on women than men across society as a whole. Furthermore, poverty, discrimination and the lack of encouragement are obstacles to women gaining equality and benefiting from participation in political and social affairs.

    Political activities are still in the narrow and there are challenges for women having an opportunity to stand as a candidate in the elections. Everything depends on volunteering of political parties, particularly political party leaders:

    Financial Needs 

    Beside of ability, popularity, level of commitment and established political background, some political parties contesting in elections raised concerns about the financial needs of the parties regarding candidate nomination. Therefore, the political parties required their members to contribute money dependent on their ranking in the party list.

    Some parties mentioned that placing women candidates at the top of the party list and alternative candidates was difficult as they did not see females’ ability.

    Discrimination during the candidate selection process

    Discrimination against women occurred largely during the candidate selection process and nominee elections in the parties.

    The most important factor is that women do not have sufficient funds to compete with their male counterparts in order to become a candidate and/or to stand at the top of the party lists, no matter how qualified they are. This is because women are generally less wealthy than their male counterparts and most of them hold positions lower than their male counterparts, which is why their income is generally lower. Women are more tight-fisted than their male counterparts in spending for political affairs due to factors of family, financial arrangement, and long-term consideration for the livelihood of their family as a priority.

    Another factor found is the resistance for a female to run for the top of the candidate lists, when this would mean excluding their male counterparts. It is almost like a tradition and culture that the party leaders and members have always excessively focused on the appointment and nomination of male candidates without taking in consideration the participation of women. Therefore, the presence of women candidates at the top list lead to the loss of opportunities for some male candidates, and thereby causing discontent among the men for they have to share the power with their female counterparts.

    Made prejudice and have stereotype

    Some parties made prejudice or have stereotype that placing many female candidates at the top of the list would alienate many voters, citing prejudices common in Cambodian culture. Those political parties were of the opinion that efforts to increase their popularity and to promote their political platform would be enough.

    Female candidates stand at constituencies where they were not expected to win

    Some women refused to stand as a candidate while some other did so but were not elected because some parties asked female candidates to stand at constituencies which were not target areas; where they were not expected to win. For instance, a female candidate from CNRP explained that she was nominated by the party to stand as a candidate in Mondulkiri province which was not the target area of the party in contesting the election, so she eventually rejected the nomination.

    “In Cambodia context, in order to get female candidates having the chance to be elected, the leaders of the political parties have to place female candidates at the capital or province constituency where their popularity is highest, to place them at target areas where the plan is to compete to win and placing women candidates at the top of their party lists.”

    Lack of political commitment

    There was decrease number of elected female representatives for the fifth legislature National Assembly and the fourth mandate Commune Council  due to the lack of political commitment from the parties, especially the parties with the highest potential and popularity, namely opposition party “Cambodian National Rescue Party-CNRP” and the ruling party “Cambodian People’s Party-CPP”.

    “The funding need, requirements and entire problem by the political parties as well as all parties have no mechanisms in supporting and providing opportunities that is temporary affirmative actions to promote women’s participation in politics, such as having no clear written policy in party and election law are a huge barrier for women’s political participation, especially women candidates aiming to stand for elections which cause to Cambodia had failed its Cambodian Millennium Development Goals-CMDGs because the appointed officials and parliamentarians have the tendency to push forward the Government’s implementation in accord with their political party line”.

    2. How can men as leaders take meaningful action to foster an increase in women’s representation in decision-making bodies? How can men as husbands/partners, fathers, sons, and other family members, support women’s role in political life? Share concrete examples.

    Some special measures should be taken action by the men as leaders:

    • Set up specific written policy as a temporary special measures and amend some articles of Election Laws by using Quota system or Sandwich system in term of has no it yet. But in term of some countries already had, it has to effectively enforce policy or law. If all these happen, the number of women elected officials and appointed officials will be increased. 
    • Monitoring on policy and law enforcement. 
    • Inspiring women and girls to participate in politics and decision-making level.  
    • Lobbying other men and male champions to support and encourage women. 

    Men as husbands, partners, fathers, sons, and other family members as well as citizens

    support women’s role in politics and decision-making in Cambodia: 

    Actually, Discrimination against female commune councilors continued to exist although there was some decrease in the number of recorded incidents. In reality, the male commune/sangkat councilors still discriminate, don’t cooperate and criticize female councilors. By comparison with 2014, the rate of discrimination decreased from 19.35% in 2014 to 12.19% in 2015. In an interview with Mrs. Chea Sokhom, a Domrey Chhonkla, CPP commune councilor, she said that “the male commune councilors seemed not to cooperate with and still discriminate against the female because they think that the female’s capacity and understanding are limited.” 

    However, the result of interview showed that 82.92% of male commune councilors supported, encouraged and changed their behavior. They seemed to value them as important partners who are just as capable as their male counterparts. In addition, they use their capacity, confidence and bravery to express their opinion in the work place and meetings although challenges remain. Their tasks and opinions served the women’s and children’s interests. Meanwhile, Women Commune/Sangkat Councillors are starting to use their powers or influence. 

    Performance and idea of women most are concerned on women’s and children’s issues as the core issue while many men and social perception are now starting to change their attitude towards to credit women status because they understand that women’s participation is the fundamental important, especially the women’s participation in any decision-making with a strong support from their family members, neighbors, friends and citizens which is deemed as necessary as the catalyst to strengthen and encourage more active participation of women [1].

    3. What strategies and approaches have been successful in engaging male champions in shifting the gender disparity of women in decision-making bodies? 

    • Lobbying and convincing male champions to support and provide opportunities for women to stand for elections and for decision-making at all levels by creating affirmative action and laws/election laws and its effective implementation. 
    • Male-female networks and strongly work together in promoting women’s participation in politics and in decision-making bodies. Some activities should be done such as trainings, big campaign, radio talkback, dialogues, meeting, raising awareness of people on social media, public forum…etc. 
    • Talking about the importance of male champions’ involvement to support women’s political participation and encouraging them by giving some awards and announcing to the public about their role model. 
    • Ending of all forms of discrimination against women and girls 
    • Some norms and traditional perceptions have to be eliminated as it looks like stereotype that is barrier for women’s participation in political decision-making and social affairs.  

    4. What potential challenges do male champions face in being active and vocal supporters of women in politics (or in women’s empowerment and gender equality)? 

    • Loss male’s positions 
    • Sharing their (male) power to women 
    • The male champions will not be supported and satisfied by other males/male friends. 

    5. What can be done to catalyze and encourage more male champions of women's political participation?  Please share any initiatives or good practices that you are aware of. 

    • Talking about the importance of male champions’ involvement to support women’s political participation and encouraging them by giving some awards and announcing to the public about their role model. 
    • Raising awareness of Gender Concept and Gender Equality, Gender Sensitive and the importance of women’s political participation and decision-making…etc 
    • Cooperating with one another about how to foster and strengthen women’s political decision-making bodies.

    [1]

    COMFREL’s Political Gender Watch Report: Assembly and Women Parliamentarians’ and Empowerment

    of Women Commune Councilors in their performance at local levels

     

    admin's picture

    By Cherith Sanger on behalf of Sonke Gender Justice, South Africa. 

    1. How do you explain the low representation of women in decision-making around the world, whether in village development committees, parliaments, governments, or intergovernmental organizations?   

    Social construction which define gender norms and roles for women across the various spheres of life position men opposed to women as leaders. This entails that women and men are nurtured to take up roles or positions in various spheres of life in line with social gender norms. Structures in government, the private sector and in communities adopt, favour and perpetuate these gender norms which exclude women from progressing and taking on leadership roles.

    While women’s representation in decision-making positions are key, it is important that women are meaningful represented. Often women are represented but are not able or allowed to make decisions due to patriarchal dominance which dictates that women’s decisions carry less weight than men’s or are simply over-ruled. 

    2. How can men as leaders take meaningful action to foster an increase in women’s representation in decision-making bodies? How can men as husbands/partners, fathers, sons, and other family members, support women’s role in political life? Share concrete examples.

    • Men need to be critical about how patriarchy operates. Men need to be progressive in questioning and rejecting broadly accepted patriarchal values and practices.
    • Men need to willingly develop or train young/upcoming women to take on positions.
    • Men as father’s need to raise their children in non-gender binary/gender non- conformist fashion allowing girl children to take on leadership roles without limitation (and supported)
    • Men should make a specific effort to give children opportunities for developing leadership abilities through training and participation in relevant processes

    3. What strategies and approaches have been successful in engaging male champions in shifting the gender disparity of women in decision-making bodies?

    • Creating/Realising/Enforcing legal/constitutional duties for women’s rights to equality and non-discrimination to be respected, protected, promoted and fulfilled.
    • Creating/Realising/Enforcing policy commitments which facilitates practices and puts in place standards for ensuring women’s rights to opportunities to attain skills and experiences to take on leadership roles.
    • Civil society support through engagement with the state to increase the number of women in decision making positions through lobbying and other forms of advocacy.
    • Monitoring interview and appointment processes for decision making positions i.e. for judicial appointments.
    • Lodge complaints with human rights bodies or authorities tasked with ensuring gender equality/human rights (where such institutions exist).
    • Building networks of support across various sectors i.e. academia, communities, civil society organisations etc. to support existing advocacy for women’s equal representation in decision making positions.
    • Persistent media coverage on the importance of women in leadership positions, the framing of women’s under-representation is decision making positions as a human rights issue and the discriminatory nature of the exclusion of women from decision making positions.

    4. What potential challenges do male champions face in being active and vocal supporters of women in politics (or in women’s empowerment and gender equality)?

    • Certain forms of feminist thought exclude men’s participation from the fight for women’s rights to equality and non-gender discrimination.
    • Men can be accused of using paternalistic approaches to attaining gender equality as the historic and continuing beneficiaries of patriarchal values and practices (noting that patriarchy places unrealistic expectations on men which can be harmful to men too).

    5. What can be done to catalyze and encourage more male champions of women's political participation?  Please share any initiatives or good practices that you are aware of.

    • Media advocacy through traditional and social media on topic and men to participate in discussions to ensure that men are given exposure to and become familiar with the need for men as women’s partners and allies for women’s rights to equality and nom-gender discrimination
    • Include gender training in primary and secondary level education (social context training) 
    • Include gender training (social context training) in professional training courses i.e. for judges training, attorneys training, advocates training, law students training etc.
    admin's picture

    ParlAmericas’ contribution submitted by Lisane Thirsk, Program Manager – Gender Equality, ParlAmericas. 

    Question 2: How can men as leaders take meaningful action to foster an increase in women’s representation in decision-making bodies? How can men as husbands/partners, fathers, sons, and other family members, support women’s role in political life? Share concrete examples. 

    Parliamentarians are essential actors in the fight for gender equality due to their lawmaking and budgetary review functions which shape policymaking. In addition, their representative roles and broad public platforms can contribute to significant change in favour of women’s rights. It is especially important that male legislators use their collective influence towards these pursuits, as they continue to outnumber women in most parliaments. 

    As an inter-parliamentary institution that promotes and mainstreams gender equality in our work, ParlAmericas has compiled strategies male parliamentarians can employ in different settings to be effective allies for women’s equality and political empowerment. Parliamentarians from the Americas and Caribbean region have identified the following good practices, informed by their own experiences: 

    1) In political parties

    • Taking leadership for the recruitment of more women candidates for the next election by encouraging women they know to run for office and mentoring and supporting potential candidates
    • Ensuring their party is proactive in seeking to run a gender-balanced ticket
    • Promoting policies that favour equitable leadership by women in the party’s top governance structures

    2) In legislative and oversight functions

    • Assessing legislation and budgets through an intersectional gender lens to consider the potential impacts on diverse groups
    • Advocating for laws and initiatives that will positively impact women and help build the political will to pass them
    • Consulting with women’s groups to seek feedback on proposed legislative initiatives (not just those explicitly related to gender equality) and integrating the results into decision-making

    3) In meetings (including committees, plenary, and in the constituency)

    • Chairing meetings in a way that encourages equitable participation by all members (e.g. inviting those who have not spoken to contribute)
    • Listening respectfully when each member of the group is speaking

    4) In the media and online

    • Leveraging social media as a tool to keep informed about the work of gender equality advocates and joining discussions on pertinent topics
    • Challenging gender stereotypes and bias when they emerge on online platforms or through interview questions

    5) In everyday life

    • Learning about key gender equality issues and sharing knowledge with others
    • Encouraging other men to become allies
    • Using gender-sensitive language (i.e. communication that demonstrates respect for and does not invisibilize women) and draw attention to harmful uses of language in day-to-day conversations 

    To optimize outcomes, male allies’ contributions should be guided by the experiential knowledge and needs of diverse women in their country. This approach will help ensure coordinated efforts with women-led organizations and movements that promote gender equality. Taking joint action will help transform norms and structures that disadvantage women collectively. The resulting cultural changes will also contribute to a more inclusive political environment. 

    ParlAmericas has produced a forthcoming toolkit for male parliamentarians in the Anglophone Caribbean region who wish to further their knowledge on advancing gender equality in partnership with women. Please contact parlamericasgen@parlamericas.org for further information.