MAURITIUS Village Council Elections: Climbing mountains and not reaching the top

Date: November 24, 2020
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Gender Links started work at local level since 2005. We have climbed many mountains and they were getting higher and higher until the New Local Government Bill came into force.

The New Local Government Act marked a revolutionary step in the history of Mauritius. Government amended the constitution in order to push through to allow for a gender-neutral approach. Parliament reached a consensus as the opposition supported the amendment and the Bill was approved by Parliament in November 2011.

The Act required at least 30% of either sex to be candidates on all party lists. This was a milestone towards promoting increasing women’s representation and participation of women in local government.

Mauritius was amongst the worst performers out the 15 SADC countries, in terms of women representation at village level at only 6.4% before the Act was passed. After the law was passed 26% women were elected. Still a long way to go to reach the 50% women at local level however an impressive 20.4% gain.

Section 16(1) of the Mauritius Constitution that states that no law shall make any discrimination had to be amended. Furthermore Section 16(3) defines “discriminatory” as fording different treatment to different persons with regard to various criteria including sex.

A gender-neutral provision in the new Local Action goes according to the Constitution. The Government of the day has four years to ensure the Constitution is amendment so that the same provision is applied for National Election. After a very long advocacy of 13 years this Government has shown its commitment with the Child Protection Bill. Gender Links has, therefore, every reason to believe that the Constitution will be amendment so that we have over 20% women in Parliament after the 2024 General Elections.

It is unfortunate that some candidates for the village election still believe that it is obligatory to have a quota of 30% women in all party lists instead of 30% of either sex.

Among the 610 groups with a total of 5347 candidates quite a few of groups have put more than three women on the nine candidates. The results on 22nd November will tell us if patriarchy is still strong in Mauritius.

The half day workshop that Gender Links did with a few candidates on 16th November 2020 was an eye opener. Candidates did not know how village and district councils work and how President and Vice President are elected. Women candidates were encouraged to make their voices heard and to push their way to get a foot at the District Council.

The candidates came up with innovative ideas not only for their villages in general but for the inhabitants of the villages. They have out of the box ideas on how to bring food to the table especially with Covid 19 and the Wakashio oil spilling.

They explained how they will train villagers to grow what they eat using every piece of land that they can lay hand on. “Bizin netoye larivier pou ki dimounn gagn enn ti plas pou relax ek fer lapriyer, me nou kapav ousi plante dan bor larivier. Mo sir fri a pin, batat ek rasinn ki kapav manze pou pous bien laba.”  (Cleaning rivers are good as it is a great place of leisure and can be used for people to do prayers but we can also plant bread fruit, sweet potatoes and other edible root vegetables) One of the candidates said.

With tears in her voice a candidate highlighted “Women who used to ‘grat lamer’ to bring food on the table can no longer do so as so many shores are closed due to the oil spill.” Her project is to encourage all these women who are not getting any allocation from Government after the Wakashio oil spilling to find food inland as the southern coast is a disaster “Nou bizin manz saki nou plante.” (We must eat what we grow).

“Why not use the late Jose Therese and his Mozart Orchestra as a model. This will help to combat drugs. Since the Village hall is underutilised, music lessons can be organised and who knows may be one day we can have a music group for the youth and by the youth of our village. This will help to get our young people away from drugs,” another candidate said.

Gender Links also gave the participants some training on how to talk in public and on voter’s education while doing their door to door campaigning. “You have to catch the attention and the imagination of your voters with your innovative projects. They must remember what you have said even after your six-year mandate. Make sure that all your projects are implemented before six years. Keep on monitoring and engage with villagers so that they are part and parcel of your projects.” Gender Links told them.



Gender Links (Mauritius)

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