Gender Links Mauritius 50 50 Symposium

Date: June 6, 2022
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On Wednesday 13th of April 2022, Gender Links Mauritius organised the 50-50 Symposium, as part of the 50-50 project.

The 50-50 project comprises a multi-stakeholder and coordinated approach involving political parties, Gender-Based Violence (GBV) survivors, councils and media houses spanning over a period of four years to address gender and cross cutting issues. Earlier in September 2021, Gender Links Mauritius (GLM) launched the Rezone Campaign, the first axe of the project and as such, the 50-50 Symposium continues to strengthen actions aimed at:

  • Highlighting the principles of non-discrimination on any ground
  • The active political participation and representation of women
  • The empowerment of women and youth candidates seeking to stand for local and national elections
  • The accountability of political parties to mainstream gender in their internal and external practices
  • The openness and willingness of political parties to discuss about quotas and the current political system
  • The adoption of a strategic and integrated approach for women and youth political participation

The following themes were proposed and consequently discussed during the 50-50 Symposium:

Current electoral systems: The First Past the Post (FPTP) and Mixed electoral system.
Research suggests that electoral systems play an important role for women’s political representation. It is argued that proportional systems lead to greater representation of women than majoritarian systems. It has been recognized as the most important factor explaining cross national variations in women’s representation. The correlation between a high level of female political representation and the country’s electoral system is apparent upon comparing the seats allocated to women in several countries where a mixed electoral system is favoured. With regards to the February 2022 elections in Rodrigues, a mixed electoral system allowed for more women to be represented at the Regional Assembly.

Quota or fixed targets to achieve gender balance
Gender quotas are applied in order to correct gender imbalances in different areas and at different levels in political and economic life, political assemblies and decision-making positions to ensure the inclusion and participation of women. In some countries, the quota system is temporary to balance the gender gap and is removed when this aim is reached. It is worthwhile to note that Mauritius has been largely applauded for the introduction of a quota at the local government level. A high-level delegation from Zimbabwe went to Mauritius to learn more about the gender-neutral approach adopted in the Local Government Act 2011. The Zimbabwe Ministry of Local Government and Public Works, Ministry of Justice, Parliamentary and Legal Affairs, ZEC, UNWOMEN and Gender Links participated in this process.

In 2019, GL organised a Southern African Development Community (SADC) experts’ mission held in Zimbabwe with experts from Lesotho, Mauritius, Namibia and South Africa sharing lessons learnt from the implementation of the different electoral systems and how they work in their countries. The mission came up with clear strategy for lobbying and advocacy to increase women’s political representation and participation at both the local and national level.

Gender policies and gender mainstreamed manifestoes of parties
Research demonstrates that some political parties tend to have restricted issues of gender equality to safety and security and gender-based violence. A detailed road map on how to champion gender mainstreaming is usually missing. When designing the manifesto, a comprehensive understanding and inclusion of the gender thematic should be made. A good gender-responsive strategic plan addresses gaps in all areas of a party’s internal organization. It also considers how internal practices and operations affect the party’s capacity to guarantee gender equality in its external processes, such as in national elections. It is therefore imperative to develop a combination of quantitative and qualitative self-assessment indicators.

Stereotyping politics as a man’s world; Leadership and capacity building
Political parties are consistently identified as responsible for women’s underrepresentation, given their role as the main ‘gatekeepers’ of elected decision-making positions in most countries (International IDEA, 2016). Structural barriers through discriminatory laws and institutions still limit women’s options to run for office (UN Women). Politics is perceived to be a man’s world. Some of the comments received during Gender Links training session (2021) with women and youth of several political parties in Mauritius were as follows:

  • Women do not receive the respect and top tier positions in public and private organizations.
  • Women do the background work in politics while men are always positioned at the forefront.
  • Mismatch between statistics: 51% of the Mauritian population are women while the number of women in politics is far lesser.
  • The need for women to be confident and to speak up.
  • The need to create a platform for women from different areas of work to come together.
  • Women are equally competent and have an acute awareness of many societal issues.
  • Men and women complement each other and a balance in politics will enable women to feel more empowered and solution-oriented.
  • How to gain experience in politics when one is not offered any opportunity to be elected or have one’s voice heard?
  • Do parents encourage and support their children who want to get into politics?
  • The influence of caste and religion gets in the way of politics.
  • A critical analysis of the role of the education system is mandated.

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