How can policymakers increase women’s political participation in developing countries? The National Democratic Institute (NDI) explores this issue by analysing the progress of its women’s political participation programmes in Morocco, Indonesia, Serbia, and Nepal. While there is a definite increase in women’s participation, there has not been a corresponding increase in the number of female political leaders. Future programming must focus on preparing women to take on these leadership roles.
The NDI programme approach focuses on providing capacity building to equip women with the skills necessary to pursue roles as politicians, civil society leaders, activists and informed citizens. NDI also works with youth to change leadership stereotypes.
Interviews with NDI staff, participants and external actors in Morocco, Indonesia, Serbia, and Nepal indicate the benefits of increased female political participation. Women benefited directly from increased access to the policy process and greater opportunities to build skills necessary for active engagement. Respondents frequently mentioned that the benefits of NDI programming reached beyond the party context to the society as a whole.
The most effective programmes were those that reached across demographic and social boundaries, provided targeted capacity building, and provided opportunities for women to work together. Successful programmes included:
- Providing skills and leadership training for women
- Creating opportunities for women to work together across party boundaries
- Promoting intra-party reform in the areas that are boundaries to women’s participation
- Empowering women to work together, build professional networks and forge mentoring relationships
- Engaging youth in programming that challenges existing, patriarchal leadership norms
Women’s political participation has increased, but future programming must address the persistent socio-cultural barriers that prevent women from achieving political posts. This requires programmes that challenge existing perceptions of the role of women, promote partnerships involving both men and women, and address the structural issues that prevent female self-sufficiency. Recommendations include:
- More efforts to cultivate female role models and facilitate opportunities for women to network and engage in advocacy.
- Helping women manage personal and political roles and responsibilities.
- Greater integration of men into efforts to promote female participation.
- Creating opportunities for income generation and political financing for women who want to enter into politics.
- Increasing rural and grassroots outreach programmes in order to combat issues relating to illiteracy, poverty and lack of civic education.