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Political Parties


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? 

To contribute

  1. Use the below comment section below.
  2. Send your contribution to so that we can post it on your behalf. 


[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)

IKAT US Component 1 lead by Partnership for Governance Reform in Indonesia (Kemitraan) and in partnership with the NDI for International Affairs along with regional partners: Indonesian Women's Coalition (KPI), Persatuan Komuniti Selangor (EMPOWER) from Malaysia, Women's Caucus from Timor Leste, the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR), the Center for Popular Empowerment from the Philippines work together to strengthen representative democracy and the political rights of women by advocating the promotion of women's political representation through regional partnership initiatives.

At the moment, Kemitraan in collaboration with its regional partners are conducting regional research projects on several topics. One of them is the analysis of the current political party's recruitment system that promotes more women into the candidacy list as well as the parties' organizational leadership structure.  On this topic, the focus was on the analysis of the current political party recruitment system in Indonesia, Timor-Leste and the Philippines. The research has been conducted since September and is expected to finish in the end of December 2012.  To sharpen and enrich the result of the research, Kemitraan with iKNOW Politics is conducting this E-Discussion Circle from 26 November to 15 December 2012.

There are four main questions that this research seeks to answer, which include:

(1) Do cultural and/or societal factors explain the fact that certain female candidates get recruited by political parties and eventually elected by the electorates? What makes some women politicians successful while others are not?;

(2) On the part of the candidates, what motivates/causes candidates (especially female candidates) to decide whether or not to run for office and therefore approach (or let themselves to be approached by) the political party’s leadership?;

(3) On the part of the political party leaderships, what factors do they consider when they are selecting female candidates to be nominated? What factors are considered when filling leadership positions within the party?;

(4) Do electoral factors explain the fact that certain female candidates got recruited by political parties and eventually elected by the electorates? Does a particular election system affect the chance of female candidates being recruited and eventually elected? What electoral features increase the probability of female candidates winning seats in the parliament?

Thank you in advance for your comments, inputs and feedbacks.


How do we get more young women engaging in political parties? The Danish Institute for Parties and Democracy will be examining this question at its Copenhagen Seminar on Women in Politics in September 2012, for which a background paper will be prepared. Maryse Helbert, an expert from DIPD would like to use the iKNOW Politics platform to explore this topic and share information about positive and negative experiences. 

 Promoting and supporting young women’s engagement in politics is not without challenges. Historically, patriarchal norms, electoral system structures and male-dominated political cultures have put up barriers to young women’s participation in politics. More recently, a multiplication of approaches to political action, and a diversification of the means through which this political action happens (e.g. social media), has perhaps lowered some barriers to young women’s participation while raising others. Yet, despite these challenges and developments, promoting young women in formal politics remains crucial for the vitality of democracy.

This discussion aims to share positive experiences in recruiting more young women in political parties.

•       Who has been trying to recruit more young women in political parties and succeeded at it?

•       What programmes, strategies, approaches, methods and ideas have been successful?

Negative experiences would also be welcomed as it would give us ideas about what not to do.

We look forward to hearing your views on some/all of these questions and sharing your experiences on this important issue with our users worldwide. To submit your contributions on one or several discussion questions mentioned above, please visit our website at and register for the E-Discussion. 

Gertraud Salzmann is a Member of Parliament from Austria.

This interview was conducted in March 2019 in the margins of the sixty-third session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW63) in New York.

Seema T Gala Vapi is a Municipal Councillor from India.

This interview was conducted in March 2019 in the margins of the sixty-third session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW63) in New York

For International Women's Day 2018, International IDEA sat down with female politicians from South Africa and Zambia to discuss rising above party lines to place gender equality on the political agenda.

Norbert Mao is the President of the Democratic Party of Uganda. In this interview, he shares his experience in pushing for measures to boost women's participation in politics.

This interview was published in 2013. At the time of the interview, Omezzine Khalife was a member of Ettakatol Party and ran for the Constituent Assembly in Tunisia. She was a member of the Ettakatol’s Women’s Organization. Omezzine speaks here to ICAN about her experiences as a young woman involved in politics and running for political office. See more here

Both men and women politicians need money because it is critical for communicating with constituents. Political parties, candidates and other electoral institutions need funding to carry out tasks including campaigns. Money can also have a serious impact on fair political participation and competition. Based on cases from the United States, Spain and Indonesia, International IDEA’s documentary “Power in our Pockets: Social Media, Money and Politics in the Digital Age” studies the growing power of social media to boost public support and participation and raise funds in politics. Learn more here.  

The extent of women’s representation in elected office in any given country is determined by a wide range of factors, including the general progress towards achieving equality of rights and opportunities among women and men in public and private spheres, the choice of political and electoral systems, and the level of institutionalization of – and transparency in – decision-making processes within political parties. Nonetheless, within this complex set of factors, political parties are often referred to as the “gatekeepers” of women’s political participation. Barriers such as direct or indirect gender-based discrimination in party procedures and practices, a lack of gender-sensitivity in candidate selection and outreach, or an inequitable distribution of party resources among candidates are some of the complex challenges faced by women within political parties and, in particular, by women candidates in their electoral campaigns.

This Handbook on Promoting Women’s Participation in Political Parties aims at encouraging political party leaders, men and women alike, to support the integration of gender aspects into internal political party decision-making processes. It also seeks to develop the capacity of women politicians to advance their political careers. The key finding that has emerged during the development of this handbook is that internal party reform is critical to women’s advancement. A lack of internal party democracy and transparency, the absence of gender-sensitivity in candidate selection and outreach, as well as the failure to decentralize party decision-making processes, all inhibit women’s opportunities to advance as leaders within parties and as candidates for elected office.

To this end, the handbook provides a valuable overview of voluntary measures that political parties can adopt to enhance gender equality within party structures, processes, policies and activities, as a means to provide both women and men equal opportunities to participate meaningfully in political life.

Click here to access the handbook. 

Public Speaking and Debating 101 is a course specifically created for women running for public office. This course offers instruction on public speaking techniques, debating techniques, debate preparation and candidate presentation. This course is organized and offered by the Political Institute for Women, an education organization that offers political training for candidates, professionals and advocates. The course will be offered online on Wednesday, July 20, 2016 from 8:00 AM to 10:00 AM (EDT).

Click here for more information. 

Women comprise over 50 per cent of the world’s population, but they continue to be underrepresented in all political arenas. Democracy cannot truly deliver for all citizens if half of the population remains underrepresented. In a representative democratic system, political parties hold the power to enhance participation of marginalised groups, including women. Therefore, as the gatekeepers of women’s participation in politics, political parties are crucial actors when it comes to equal political participation and a well-functioning democracy.

This toolkit gathers good practices of Demo Finland and highlights good methods used around the world to enhance gender equality in politics. It is aimed at facilitators but it has plenty of good reference material, tools and other information for anyone interested in strengthening women’s political participation. We hope you will find this toolkit useful and inspiring.

Its objectives are to support capacity building in the following areas:

• Strengthening political parties in building their capacity on all aspects of gender equality and intra-party democracy.

• Developing an Action Plan with indicators to promote gender equality within parties.

• Supporting political parties’ women’s organisations in building alliances and adopting best practices for cross-party collaboration.

• Supporting collaboration between political women’s organisations and civil society organisations in order to improve women’s position in society, in general.

Click here to read the report