Electoral processes

Implementing a framework on gender policies for electoral management bodies

Women sitting around a table during a meeting

International IDEA supports the Arab Network for Women in Elections and the Network of Francophone Election Managers to promote public participation in electoral processes by advocating for gender-sensitive practices.

‘When an EMB disseminates and conveys information that takes into account gender-sensitive perspectives that are in line with its internal gender policy, it delivers the public a message about the importance of striving for gender equality and thus has the potential to influence the media’s reporting on electoral issues in gender-sensitive ways’, states (1) Rumbidzai Kandawasvika-Nhundu, Senior Adviser, Democracy and Inclusion at International IDEA.

However, few electoral management bodies (EMBs) deliver this message. No Arab countries currently have a woman chairing an EMB. Only Iraq has a female executive director. In sub-Saharan francophone countries, only four women lead an EMB (2). Trends in women’s representation have improved, but it is still below equity expectations. As institutions that disseminate democratic values, EMBs often adopt measures to strengthen women’s participation in the registration and voting phases and in their awareness-raising activities. While some EMBs have established gender units, few EMBs have succeeded in establishing sustainable and mainstreamed gender practices. National efforts seem to be insufficient, especially when a country’s social and cultural context is resistant. Furthermore, the effort to promote women’s participation in a country may be more effective if it is led by an institution that leads by example and is considered a role model, such as an EMB.  

Over the years, the Electoral Processes (EP) and Africa and West Asia (AWA) teams have established strong partnerships in the region. International IDEA has a partnership with the women’s forum of the Network of Francophone Election Managers, Réseau des compétences électorales francophones (RECEF) – Women’s Forum, and has actively participated in the launch of the Arab Network for Women in Elections. To help decision-makers adopt a sustainable gender strategy, the EP and AWA teams partnered with RECEF and the Arab Network for Women in Elections. The EP and AWA teams are also supporting efforts to advocate a gender approach within EMBs members of both networks.

(1) Rumbidzai Kandawasvika- Nhundu. A framework for developing-internal gender policies for electoral management bodies", p 12
(2) Benin: Vice-president, Quebec: SG, Central Africa Republic and Cabo Verde: president
Feature photo: During the launch of RECEF, the Women’s Forum with the participation of International IDEA, held in November 2019 in Kigali.