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Women, Election and Gender Equality In Ethiopia

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Tuesday, April 6th, 2021
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Needless to state, Ethiopia has finalized preparations to fairly as well as freely conduct the 6th National Election next June. Here, the role over half portion of the population–women–can play in making a difference during elections should never be overlooked.

Women have not yet achieved equality in most societies, including in the electoral process as a result of historical, cultural and other trying and appalling factors.

This writer approached potential electorates to seek information about the probable factors affecting women participation in elections and barriers, particularly women have faced with regard to accessing electoral processes.

“In the context of our country, women have been facing a range of hurdles with regard to a number of social, economic and political scenarios. When it comes to the latter in particular, women have encountered significant walls and greater challenges in electoral participation,” said Meskerem Kidanie a gender studies graduate.

As to her, possible strategies have to be devised, after well-identifying barriers of course, to address women challenges via properly applying international standards and legal frameworks, taking temporary special measures, forming inclusive political parties and gender-monitoring in electoral tasks.

Meskerem said though the degree considerably varies from country to country as well as from continent to continent, barriers to women’s political participation are becoming global phenomena.

Since the aftermath of the reform witnessed over the last three years, the government of Ethiopia has been providing women with opportunities to partake in a number of socio-economic and political issues.

According to Meskerem, everyone in the nation has to be provided with the skills and knowledge necessary to improve women’s participation in electoral processes. If this is so, all concerned will learn to develop key strategies to overcome blockades to participation. Besides, contending political parties, civil society organizations, non-government organizations as well as the general public have to more broadly understand that they must consider why women’s participation is crucial to electoral processes and democracy. In addition, these bodies are expected to facilitate a networking opportunity for women’s empowerment and advocacy tasks.

Political parties have to understand that they must consider the experiences of men and women in the electoral process and should well comprehend that why women’s participation is crucial to electoral processes and democracy, as well as how to improve it.

As a facilitator, it is essential for the government to prepare context to deal with qualms that may arise in pre, during and post elections in an open and constructive way. This can be achieved through organizing a one-on-one talk, facilitating group discussions where everyone has the chance to speak, and creating an enabling environment, she stated.

Having a short stay with this writer, Tebeje Godefa, a Civic and Ethical Education teacher has explained that women political empowerment advocates and practitioners are also expected to understand the electoral process and develop strategies to promote women’s participation through providing experts with tools to analyze electoral processes and elections from a gender perspective. This could be fostered by providing a networking opportunity for women’s empowerment advocacy clusters.

According to him, human rights are for everybody; women and men are entitled to equal rights and to equal access to the electoral system, too.

As to Tebeje, it is not enough to have prepared women candidates. “We need prepared voters, who give them their votes. The media have a central role in enhancing or hindering women’s political participation by perpetuating or challenging gender stereotypes.”

Tebeje further elucidated that there are many steps the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia can take to help ensure broader participation by women. Besides, domestic and international election observers can contribute to public confidence in elections and to women’s participation.

As learnt from Tebeje, apart from ensuring that the basic rights of both genders are respected, women’s inclusion in electoral and political processes has multiple benefits for all of us and contributes towards better governance. The benefits garnered from women inclusion in electoral and political processes are quite significant. The issue of women’s inclusion helps each stakeholder make significant steps towards gender equality.

Undeniably, national and local elections can support women’s political participation in multiple ways, but specific measures may be required to overcome the barricades of gender discrimination. Women candidates may face gaps in capacities or resources that prevent them from competing effectively, for instance. If polling stations are located in remote or unsafe areas, women voters may be reluctant to use them. Sometimes, electoral administration bodies are unaware of hindrances to women’s participation because they do not have the knowledge, skills or data to analyze and correct these.

According to Tebeje, electoral participation can take multiple forms that contribute to the realization of civil and political rights. Voters and candidates exercise, respectively, their right to vote, active suffrage, and their right to stand for election, passive suffrage. Every citizenry of the country has to exercise their right to have access to public service in their country. For instance, journalists or media professionals exercise their right to freedom of opinion and expression and contribute to fulfilling the right of all citizens and the general public to access election-related information.

He has also stated that domestic observers, election mediators, voter education agents, and other civil society representatives exercise their right to participate in non-governmental organizations and associations concerned with the public and political life of the country.

“Gender inequality and discrimination in society and in politics have a negative impact on women’s participation in elections. In various roles as voters, candidates, journalists, civil society representatives and electoral administrators, women frequently face social, physical, psychological, economic and cultural obstacles that hinder the full exercise of their participation rights and they often suffer from discrimination and violence,” said Tebeje.

In a nutshell, enduring the impact of the male-dominated culture of politics, the incumbent is working to help more women enter and remain in politics.

Most importantly, there is a growing recognition that stable peace and national prosperity can only be achieved when institutions are democratic and representatives of all groups of the society.

Images : Google Images

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