North Africa: Women's Political Participation

In partnership with the Centre for Arab Women Training and Research (CAWTAR), UN-INSTRAW has initiated a project on Strengthening women’s leadership and participation in politics and decision-making in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.
Thirty-five Moroccan journalists, men and women, participated in two training sessions on women’s participation in politics as part of the UN-INSTRAW/CAWTAR project "Strengthening women’s leadership and participation in politics and decision-making in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia." The main themes of the two training sessions, which were held on 24-25 and 27-28 April, were the Moroccan political context, the electoral reforms, the link between local development and political participation, democracy and the incitement of human rights, and the media’s role in the reinforcement of women’s political participation.
The participation of women in politics and decision-making is one of the central areas of focus of the Beijing Platform for Action (1995), reaffirmed in 2000 by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) through Goal #3 “Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women” and its target 3.3. “Proportion of seats held by women in national parliament.” In the Tunis Declaration of the Arab Summit held in May 2004, Arab State leaders expressed their commitment to “…widening women's participation in the political, economic, social, cultural and educational fields and reinforcing their rights and status in society.”

In addition, the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) work towards strengthening women’s political leadership and their participation in political decision-making bodies to at least 30% of representatives.

In spite of these efforts and the progress achieved in recent years, the substantive participation of women in political life is still limited.

The same reality exists at the local level, with significant differences between countries. Whereas in Morocco only 0.55% of elected municipal representatives are women (2003), in Algeria women made up 8.26% of representatives (2002-2007) and in Tunisia they reached 27% (2005-2008).

Within the context described above, the UN-INSTRAW/CAWTAR project aims to mobilize women and men from different sectors – government, civil society, political parties, academia and the media – in order to support a participatory dialogue on the project’s main issues, taking into account the unique context of this Arab sub-region as well as the specific circumstances in each of the project countries.

Project priorities

The project prioritizes research and analysis, capacity-building, communication and advocacy in the following ways:

* building a more in-depth understanding of the status, obstacles, challenges and opportunities for women’s leadership and their participation in politics and decision-making at the local, national and sub-regional levels;
* strengthening the capacity of the main actors in political and decision-making processes through the exchange of information and good practices;
* creating policy dialogue among key stakeholders on the project’s main issues in order to support awareness and integration of gender issues in development processes.

Communication – in particular the representation of women in politics through media in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia – constitutes a cross-cutting priority at all phases and levels of the project.

May 2009