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Political Parties

Political parties are considered gatekeepers for women’s access to political positions, as they play an important role in institutionalizing women’s inclusion in politics. Ensuring that political parties in Sudan play an active role in the advancement of gender equality and the enhancement of women’s political participation is particularly important as Sudan prepares for its transition to democracy.

This Report examines political parties’ internal policies and structures and their impact on women’s access to positions of power and decision-making at all levels, starting from within the political parties themselves. By scrutinizing parties’ constitutions, manifestos and various policy documents, the report highlights how women participate in political parties and the extent to which political parties support gender equality.

Source: International IDEA

Taking the opportunity provided by its 2017 review of political party strengthening, "Reflect, Reform, Re-engage: A Blueprint for 21st Century Parties," NDI has revised its long-standing Win With Women political party assessment tool, including by adding guidance on measuring levels of and dealing with the violence that women members face within their parties. The No Party to Violence: Political Party Assessment includes survey, focus group and in-depth interview tools to be used with women and men in the leadership and membership of parties in order to develop action plans to root out the violence targeting women within their own political party.

Over the last year, this new approach has been piloted with a number of the larger political parties and civil society in Côte d’Ivoire, Honduras, Tanzania and Tunisia. The outcomes from this piloting represent the first assessment of women party members’ experiences of violence within political parties, thus providing important new insights on the phenomenon, which has never been systematically studied previously. It offers a unique cross-country analysis of the current understandings and perceptions of men and women party members around the types, levels, and impact of violence against women within these institutions. This important information is being used to create party- and country-specific recommendations to improve awareness, action and accountability to end violence against women within political parties, thereby strengthening women’s membership and their roles on a basis of enhanced equality. The piloting process has also created a safe space for multi-party dialogue in ways which have not exposed any party to the political risk of negative commentary from the issue being aired in public and/or used by their competitors.

This report provides a preliminary analysis of the topline findings from the surveys of men and women party members in the four countries. This briefing will be followed by an analysis of the accompanying focus group and in-depth interviews that were carried out as part of the No Party to Violence: Political Party Assessment pilots.

Click here to read the report.

The UK Labour Party has long utilised All-Women candidate shortlists in an aim to ensure that female representation in the House of Commons increases. This has always been controversial, however it has been responsible for a noted increase in the number of female MPs in general and female Labour MPs in particular. Here, Mary Nugent and Mona Lena Krook dispel some of the myths around All-Women Shortlists, and show that gender quotas do not pose a threat to ‘merit’, and that the diversity they have fostered has brought about a number of important democratic outcomes. 

Diversifying leadership and ensuring representatives look more like voters is a longstanding issue for political parties: Labour’s shadow cabinet reshuffle earlier this year prompted complaints of women being sidelined in the party, and just this month Liberal democrats announced new provisions to for candidate selection for women and minorities.

All-women shortlists (AWS), Labour’s gender quota policy for MP selection, is the most significant provision to ensure women’s representation in the UK. Introduced in 1993 following the failure of ‘softer’ measures to tackle shockingly low numbers of women in the Labour Party, the AWS policy establishes that at least half of all ‘winnable’ Labour seats are open only to applications from women.

Numerically, the AWS policy has been a great success. It contributed to a doubling of the number of women in the House of Commons when first used during preparations for the 1997 election. Nearly twenty years later, the share of women among Labour MPs is 43%, compared to 21% among the Conservatives and a depressing 0% among the Lib Dems.

Despite these achievements, AWS – as a method of change – remain consistently controversial. Even Harriet Harman, a key architect of the policy and a consistent champion of women, admitted in a speech in 2014 that “no one likes all-women shortlists.”

Yet many of the claims made about AWS have not been subject to systematic analysis, making it difficult to distinguish between “myth” and “reality” in debates over gender quotas in the UK. Seeking to gain some clarity, we identified and empirically tested nine of the most common claims about AWS in our paper “All-Women Shortlists: Myths and Realities,” published recently in Parliamentary Affairs.

We find that not only is there no loss of ‘quality’ associated with the use of gender quotas, but AWS may in fact result in better candidates being selected. The real enemy of meritocracy in British politics is not gender quotas, but rather, unwarranted male dominance. Here we evaluate three of the most common myths associate with AWS.

Myth 1: AWS select ‘unqualified’ women

Vocalizing a sentiment held by many AWS detractors, Edwina Curry has suggested that women elected via AWS are unqualified to be MPs, as “women who’ve come through this route have skipped several steps so their skills may be deficient.”

Criteria regarding the skills and experiences that make someone “qualified” to be an MP are very much debated, with the attributes demanded of elected representatives varying across parties and over time.

At the heart of these criticisms, however, is a belief that AWS promote women who are inexperienced and not yet ready to be in politics.

To test this claim, therefore, we collected data on the number of years in other elected positions – in local, county, regional, or EU politics – prior to entering parliament, comparing women elected via AWS to their non-quota counterparts, male and female, across the three main parties for every parliament from 1992 to 2010.

We find that women elected by AWS were no less experienced than other MPs when they entered parliament. In fact, women elected via AWS tend to have spent more time in a prior elected position than their Labour colleagues, male and female, in every year except 2010.

Interestingly, the data also show that AWS women had significantly more experience, on average, than Conservative MPs, male or female, in every parliament in this period. In 2010, for example, the mean years of prior experience of AWS women was 6.8 years, compared to 4.4 for Conservative men.

Research from other countries helps explain possible reasons for these gender differences. A survey conducted by Fox & Lawless in the United States found that women tend to underestimate their own qualifications, sensing a need to accumulate more experience before they feel qualified to enter politics.

Gender quotas can thus serve a “mobilizing capacity,” as suggested by Geissel & Hust, inspiring qualified women to come forward as candidates and enabling parties to recruit and elect untapped talent. A study on Jordan, for example, shows that introducing a quota drew women into the political arena who would otherwise not have run for office.

Myth 2: AWS only elect white women

Another criticism of AWS questions the diversity of women elected through the policy. Diane Abbott, the UK’s first black female MP, for example, noted at the Speakers Conference on Parliamentary Representation in 2010 that “all-women shortlists have, in effect, been all white women shortlists.”

We test this claim with data obtained from the Labour Party, tracking the share of candidates identifying as black, Asian, or minority ethnic (BAME) at each stage of the selection process in the run-up to the 2015 general elections.

Comparing the selection results in AWS and open seats, we find that the share of BAME applicants in both types of seats was similar, around 20%. However, BAME candidates were much more likely to be selected in the final stage in AWS constituencies: 16% of AWS seats ultimately chose BAME candidates, compared to just 3% in open seat selections.

While earlier elections did result in AWS candidates who were overwhelmingly white, data from 2015 thus indicate that this pattern is changing, with a positive impact on BAME representation overall.

In this case, it appears that efforts by Abbott and others have increased awareness on the need for more diverse representation, enabling AWS – among other instruments – to be a vehicle for encouraging others types of diversity in parliament.

Myth 3: AWS women ‘underachieve’ in the House of Commons

A third common criticism regards the supposed performance of women elected via AWS. During his campaign for Conservative party leader, Iain Duncan-Smith stated, for instance, that “All-women shortlists have not been a success for Labour because instead of getting people who are of high quality, what we’ve actually got in is people who haven’t really performed as politicians for the Labour Party.”

As there is no agreed-upon criterion for measuring the “performance” of MPs, we employed a range of different measures. Drawing on data from TheyWorkForYou and The Public Whip between 2010 and 2014, we examined performance – comparing MPs by gender, AWS status, and party – in relation to five parliamentary activities: writing questions, speaking in debates, attending votes, rebelling against the party, and responding to constituents.

The findings are particularly striking in the area of parliamentary questions. Labour MPs ask more questions than other MPs, but the subgroup asking the most questions by far is women selected via AWS. The contrast is especially striking when compared with the activity levels of Conservative MPs: the mean number of questions asked per year was 78 for women elected via AWS, versus 37 and 33 for Conservative men and women, respectively.

In each of the other four areas of parliamentary behavior, we find that differences between the activity levels of AWS women versus their non-quota colleagues are statistically insignificant.

Our analysis thus reveals that there is no evidence to suggest that women elected via AWS fail to fulfill their duties as MPs – and, indeed, on some measures they are amongst the most actively engaged.

From myths to realities

The most common criticisms of AWS, in short, do not find any empirical support – among these three claims, or the other claims that we examine, in our paper.

Our research indicates that AWS do not facilitate the entry of unqualified women or lead to the election of sub-par MPs. Rather, Labour’s AWS policy has reduced the barriers for well-prepared women to stand as candidates and produced diligent and active representatives.

Quotas thus do not pose a threat to “merit” at any stage of the political process. Instead, fostering diversity has contributed to a host of positive democratic outcomes. The Liberal Democrats should be enthusiastically embracing the move towards all-women shortlists, and the Labour Party should not be apologising for its transformative and effective policy solution.

Source: Democratic Audit UK

The impact of economic resources on the political participation of women has become a prominent issue in the field of comparative political finance.

In recent years, there has been a growing recognition that politics dominated by money is, more often than not, politics dominated by men. It is not surprising that the issue has moved to the forefront of debates on gender and political finance.

This report assesses the extent to which political finance is a significant obstacle to women running for political office. It focuses on the experience of Colombia, a country that, like many other Latin American countries, continues to struggle with the legacies of pervasive social, economic and political inequality that disproportionately affect women.

It explores the role of political finance in hindering women’s access to political power and its relative weight with respect to other obstacles to women’s political participation. It also suggests a number of institutional changes that might ameliorate some of the problems identified, while being fully cognizant of the limits to institutional change recasting deep-rooted gender imbalances.

Click here to access the report. 

In the context of equal rights and opportunities for women and men declared in the legislation of the Kyrgyz Republic, this joint publication between UNDP, UNICEF, the Alliance of Women’s Legislative Initiatives, and the PA Agency of Social Technologies, evaluates the Kyrgyz party system from a gender perspective.

National legislation and international responsibly of the Kyrgyz Republic guarantee equal rights and equal opportunities for women and men in the sphere of political involvement.

To what extent the political parties ensure compliance with the guaranteed by the legislation equal rights and opportunities of men and women, how gender equality issues are integrated into the agenda and political activities of parties, what are the approaches and practices in various parties to promote the issues of equal rights and equal opportunities for men and women, clarification of the existing (and evolving) situation in this respect in political parties of the republic is the main purpose of the Gender rating of political parties.

Gender rating of political parties (hereinafter - GRP) is a system of public monitoring of the activities of political parties in Kyrgyzstan to assess the gender sensitivity of political parties for a certain period (from 1 to 3 months).

Gender rating is based on 4 key dimensions:
1. The level of democracy and openness of the parties;
2. The level of gender sensitivity of documents and activities of political parties;
3. "Gender portrait" of parties in media;
4. Public opinion on promotion of gender issues by parties.

Gender rating of political parties was initiated and is implemented by “Social Technologies Agency” Public Association within the framework of UNDP, UNICEF “Women as Peaceful Voters and Women as Candidates” project with support of the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund.

Materials of the Gender rating of political parties of Kyrgyzstan are addressed primarily to management and activists of political parties, as a detailed scanning of the current practice of promoting and addressing gender issues made in the framework of the GRP allow identifying successful examples of "problematic areas" and to determine how and what to improve in the activity of a party in this regard.

The results of the Gender rating of political parties may be of interest to managers, experts of various political and social professions, journalists and civil society activists.

Corruption related to political party financing poses a great threat to democratic development worldwide.The study investigates party financing issues accross 22 countries.