In Guinea-Bissau, promoting women’s political participation starts at the local level

June 22, 2022
Joana Rodrigues/UNDP Guinea-Bissau

The participation of women in politics is fundamental for gender equality, democracy and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

In Guinea-Bissau, the Women’s Council, a consortium of civil society organizations working to promote gender equality, is currently working to elaborate a Common Agenda for women and young girls’ political participation. In order to do this, it is essential to start by better understanding the current challenges women face in terms of political participation in the country.

After several encounters between the Women’s Council, traditional and religious leaders and women and youth organizations of the Bafatá, Gabú, Canchungo and Buba regions, a consensus was found on three main solutions to promote gender equality in political participation:

-          It is essential to review the Parity Law, to ensure women’s political representation. The current law states that a minimum of 36% of women should be a part of the political parties lists for the legislative and local elections. This, however, is still not the case. Furthermore, it is fundamental to ensure alternation of the party heads, because women are still in the bottom of the political parties lists, which makes it very difficult for them to be elected.

-          Funds need to be mobilized for women and young girls during the electoral process to reduce economic asymmetry in the elections. Candidates usually finance their own campaigns and in Guinea-Bissau, considering the economic inequalities faced by women, they are in a disadvantage right from the start.

-          It’s vital to reduce socio-cultural barriers and raise awareness amongst men, especially traditional and religious leaders, on the political rights of women and young girls. In Guinea-Bissau, some women are not allowed by their husbands to be a part of political activities, and some are demanded to follow their husbands’ political choices. An awareness campaign is important to start deconstructing this narrative.

These identified solutions will now be part of a Common Agenda for women and young girls’ political participation that will be presented on a General Assembly of the Women’s Council. The agenda will then guide advocacy actions with a view of integrating these recommendations in public policies and influence the new parliament for an eventual review of the parity law.

The consultations were complemented with several focus groups with women from the main political parties in the country, as a way of sensitizing them and associating them with the cause – and thus promoting transformation within the political parties as well.

Joana Rodrigues/UNDP Guinea-Bissau