Democracy cannot be achieved without women as voters, leaders and candidates during the elections

Democracy cannot be achieved without women as voters, leaders and candidates during the elections


In marking the International Day of Democracy today, this feature spotlights UNDP’s support to Tunisia in its steady transition to democracy with particular focus on strengthening women’s candidates for the Constituent Assembly elections.

Women’s political participation is a key component of democracy and the electoral process cannot be achieved without a full and active participation of women in public life as voters, civic and political leaders, and candidates during the elections.

For the upcoming elections of the National Constituent Assembly which are slated for 23 October 2011, Tunisia adopted legislation requiring that the candidate lists alternate between women and men candidates, explicitly aiming at parity in the Assembly. However, Tunisian women face numerous challenges in politics and most of them will run for office for the first time and most of women are not on the top of the electoral lists.

As part of its support to the electoral process in Tunisia, UNDP initiated a full programme to support women candidates. Around 100 women candidates were trained on electoral campaign strategies and on how to overcome campaigning challenges, including establishing campaign teams, collaborating with civil society organisations, and communicating successfully with community members, voters and the media. The women trained will train other women within their political parties to ensure progression and continuation.

“The two days training projected me into the success. The exchange with the other candidates from the other political parties was very useful,” said, Samira Ben Kadour Belkhadi, women candidates from the Tunisian Party of Work, at top of the electoral list of Ariana.

As a follow-up, UNDP is organizing individual coaching for the women candidates at the electoral lists’ top and organizing trainings around the country (Sousse and Gafssa) for the candidates of the south and the west in partnership with the Centre for Arab Women for Training and Research (CAWTAR).

Special focus is given also to the public image and the public perception of women’s participation in politics. Radio and other media channels are being used to promote public discussions on the role of women in politics and share knowledge and experiences from the Arab region and elsewhere around the world where women have played a leading role in promoting democratic transition. Trainings targeting journalists will be provided to sensitize them on equal and fair electoral coverage.

It is worth noting that between April and July 2011; UNDP provided technical support to 60 political parties. The support focused on strengthening capacities, knowledge and skills of politicians and other stakeholders (technocrats, civil society members…) and affording them an opportunity to work together and agree on best means to ensuring a peaceful, democratic and a more inclusive and consensus-based transition process.

UNDP supported the process through inaugurating discussions around the constitution engaging political parties, members of the High Commission, the media, and civil society in a workshop on ‘Constitutional Processes: Comparative Perspectives”’ in July 2011.

This support to political transition in Tunisia is also focusing on the electoral process through supporting the high Independent commission for the elections as part of UNDP’s efforts to promote democratic governance in the Arab region.

UNDP supports one in three parliaments in the developing world and an election every two weeks. In 2010, UNDP helped over 130 countries and devoted US$1.36 billion* in resources to democratic governance, making UNDP the world's largest provider of democratic governance assistance.

The international day of democracy reminds us of the importance of democratic governance, through citizens’ participation in planning, decision-making, provision of public services, monitoring and evaluation, for the achievement of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015, for humanity as a whole, and the Arab States in particular.