Case Study – Mauritius: Will we see more women than men in local government?

Case Study – Mauritius: Will we see more women than men in local government?

Date: July 17, 2011
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Despite not being a signatory to the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development, the fifty-fifty fever has left its mark on the island of Mauritius, which is set to adopt a quota for women’s political participation in local government.

Mauritius has not signed the SADC Gender Protocol as the country’s Constitution does not allow for positive discrimination.

Article 16 of the Constitution is clear on “Protection from discrimination” and stipulates that discrimination means affording different treatment to different persons attributable wholly or mainly to their respective descriptions by race, caste or sex.

Nevertheless, Mauritius is ahead of the rest of the region in realising many of the articles of the Protocol. However, the country has had major problems when it comes to getting women into political decision-making positions, with only 18.8% women in Parliament and 6.4% women in local government. The next General Election will be held in 2015 with local government Elections to be held before the end of 2011.

The government of Mauritius has recently decided to make it a legal obligation to ensure that at least one-third of candidates of each sex are represented at all levels on a party list for both Municipal Elections as well as on group lists for Village Elections. Party Lists that do not have at least one third either male or female candidates will be rejected by the Electoral Commissioner. Click here to read more

The changes have been approved by cabinet and are now being finalised by the Attorney General before they go once again to cabinet again and then to Parliament. Once the Bill is enacted the dates for local government elections will be announced.


No country can claim to be a democracy when 52% of its population is sidelined. Having only 6.4% women in local government is a great concern, not only for gender activists, but for politicians as well. Mauritius is cited as a model of democracy and yet it is the worst of all SADC countries as far as women’s representation in local government. Yet local government is one sphere where it should be easy for women to gain access, participate and transform themselves and society at large. Many issues in localities concern women more than men.

In the last local government elections of 2005, there were 367 candidates in the five municipalities of Mauritius, of which only 44 were women. At the villages election level there were 5397 candidates in 124 villages, of which only 398 were women, just 7%.

Prior to the 2005 General Elections, then leader of the opposition and now Prime Minister of Mauritius Navin Ramgoolam gave a thought-provoking presentation at a Gender Links workshop on why it is important to have women in politics.

During the 2011 International Women’s Day, in front of hundreds of women at the Grand Baie Convention Centre, Prime Minister Ramgoolam said “I think that finally we have to put in a quota system.”

On 28 May 2011 Gender Links organised a debate on quotas for women in the local government elections with the participation of Labour Party Parliamentarians, the Mouvement Socialiste Mauricien (MSM) and the Parti Mauricien Social Democrate (PMSD). The event was held in the presence of Minister of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare Sheila Bappoo. Bappoo spoke about the electoral reforms in local government and the need to make space for more women, but she could not officially commit herself at the time.

The new bill means government has found the correct modus operandi. There is no discrimination as it clearly stipulates at least one third candidates of either sex are needed.


The targets are not only women but the population at large. Women bring a different kind of leadership. They understand the daily problems around issues such as electricity or water. When domestic wastes are not removed, women are those who suffer most. When streets are not well lit women are the targets of sexual assaults.

More women in localities means healthy living for Mauritian families. “I have the concerns of the family at heart. This is my contribution for a better Mauritius as I know the capabilities of women and know they can bring change,” said Minister of Local Government Herve Aime, who noted that he was inspired by the work of Gender Links in finding ways and means of getting more women in localities without discrimination for either women or men.

How the Protocol is being used

Using the Protocol as a tool, Gender Links has been working in villages throughout Mauritius to encourage women to join politics. In 2009 Gender Links did two different series of workshops for women in the Executive Committee of the Labour Party and the Mouvement Socialiste Mauricien (MSM). The women were shown techniques and skills to train other women in their political parties and help them join politics.

Actions being taken

In June 2010, the Director of the Francophone Office of Gender Links met the Minister of Local Government and expressed concern at the low representation of women in localities. Gender Links has facilitated workshops and has been sending strong signals through articles and participation in debates to highlight this sorry state of affairs. Women in Politics (WIP), which is a branch of Women in Networking (WIN), has also been facilitating training at the village level to encourage women to join politics. But possibly the most important action taken is that of the government to come up with a Bill to have at least one third women or one third men on party and group lists.


The challenge is for NGOs and gender activists, as well as political parties, to work hand in hand to have at least 2000 women stand as candidates at village levels and at least 120 women stand for the municipal elections.

The other challenge is to use the same model for the General Elections in 2015. Gender Links, WIP and other partners must use the New Local Government Act as a tool to convince Government to pass a law before the 2015 General Elections so that by 2015, and as stipulated in the SADC Protocol, there are at least 50% women in Parliament.


– Gender Links training manual as well as the New Local Government Bill.


– Women trained to join politics.
– The Local Government Bill enacted by Parliament.


– The fact that it will be legal to have at least two thirds men or two thirds women represented in localities, the project will sustain itself.


Once the Bill is passed in Parliament, the Gender Links Mauritian Satellite Office will send the Act to head office so that it can be put in the regional SADC Barometer. The Act must be used as a tool by the Protocol Alliance so that other SADC countries can learn from the Mauritian experience to have more women in localities.

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