Women still a long way from playing an equal role in politics

Date: January 1, 1970
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Analysis of the challenges to women?s participation in governance ahead of Namibia?s 2004 elections.

This article may be used in training to:
·         Show how gender can be mainstreamed into mainstream political debates, in this case as one of the elections issues.
·         Illustrate how good use of statistics and clever ‘packaging’ of a story brings depth into article.
Trainer’s notes:
This article was written and published as part of the coverage ahead of Namibia’s 2004 parliamentary, regional and presidential elections.
The page is a good package providing a ‘vox pox’, graph and image to accompany the in-depth article on the issue.
The story is told mainly from the perspective of women (6 females, 2 males, 2 documents), however, a balanced and critical perspective of what needs to be done to get more women into decision-making is given. What is refreshing about the approach which comes through the sources is not a replay of factors such as women’s lack of education, the influence of culture, etc, but a look at the need for changes in the electoral system, political parties and strategies that need to be adopted. The use of data, such as the percentage of the Namibian population that is female, also illustrates the importance of the issue of women in governance. Also good use of background documents such as Ringing Up the Changes and the SADC Declaration of Gender and Development, which provide context to the angle reported on.
The cartoon used as an illustration is a good example of a gender-sensitive image which sends the message that women can be and should be on the same starting line as men in politics, regardless of male traditional attitudes.
The chart showing the percentage of women versus men in the various Namibian governance bodies also illustrates well how women’s participation is low.
The ‘vox pox’ illustrates well the shift in attitudes among women and men about women as leaders, with men expressing the view that women should and can be leaders, while at the same time showing that traditional views also remain.
Training exercises:
1) Gender Checkup
This exercise is effective in countries that are in between elections.
Divide participants in pairs or small groups. Each team should contact one political party’s information officer, women’s organisation, and one or two female and male politicians to ask what the party’s stance and actions are with regard to gender equality. Compare the findings with the party’s comments ahead of the previous elections both in the media and in their manifestos.
What are findings? Was gender only one of the election slogans that was quickly forgotten after the elections or does it clearly feature in the parties agenda?
2)      With reference to the case study discuss in group:
·         In what way can this article be regarded as a news analysis?
·         Who are the main sources? What other sources could have been consulted, and with what effect?
·         How is the story packaged? Is this effective?
  • Is a story like this likely to spark debate? In what way are debates of this nature important? How do they help to advance gender equality? Does the media have a role to prompt such debates?
 Links to other training resources:

Ringing up the Changes: Gender in Southern African Politics


“Gender in Media Training, a Southern African Tool Kit”, chapter twelve: Elections, Democracy and Governance


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