Mauritius: Women find a political voice at local level

Mauritius: Women find a political voice at local level

Date: February 5, 2012
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A new local government law that provides for gender quota introduced in Mauritius, requires that at least one-third of the candidates in local elections must be women and the same for men. This is in line with the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development, which calls on States to put in place special measures to increase women representation and participation in decision making positions. The main Gender Protocol target on governance is to ensure that countries achieve the 5050 target of women and men in all levels of decision-making positions.

But the adoption of a quota at national level is not yet on the horizon, even though there is only 18% of women legislators only three females out of a total of 25 cabinet ministers.

The new quota in effect since January 2012 forces political parties to file candidates of both sexes for local elections: at least one or two out of the three candidates in a given election ward must be women.

The next local elections are due to take place in April 2012 in the five towns and 108 villages in this Indian Ocean island nation of 1.3 million people, located 2,400 km off the southeast coast of Africa.

Town and village councillors are elected every five years. Their main role is providing oversight of their respective localities to ensure the smooth running of service delivery such as garbage collection and road infrastructure. They are also tasked with taking care of the environment and organising cultural, leisure and sports activities for the local population.

Prime Minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam said the introduction of a quota is a legitimate right for women and a big step towards equality between men and women. “We must ensure that the number of women candidates rises considerably,” he said in his televised New Year address.

Three foreign constitutional experts – Professors Guy Carcassonne of the Sorbonne in France, Vernon Bogdanoret of Oxford University in the UK, and Pere Vilanova of the University of Barcelona in Spain – have submitted a report on these issues to Ramgoolam.

During debates in parliament in December, the opposition asked the prime minister about extending the gender quota to the national level.

“Let us wait for the report by Professor Carcassone and study the whole system before taking a decision,” he replied, giving the impression that he is not in a hurry to change the system. The next national elections are not due until 2015.

Source: IPS

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