Promoting women’s political participation [Archives:2008/1211/Local News]

November 27 2008

By: Ghazi Assamiee and Yemen Times Staff
TAIZ, Nov 24 ) In an attempt to promote women's participation in the political domain, two field studies were conducted by the Human Rights Information and Training Center funded by the Middle East Partnership Initiative on the obstacles against Yemeni women's political participation. Both studies were conducted during the second half of this year, the first on the cultural and social obstacles and the second on the legal challenges to women's political participation.

In public events in Sana'a and Taiz, the center presented the studies calling for a radical change in the cultural and legal systems for the upcoming parliamentary elections in April 2009 to witness improvement in terms of women candidates.

The center's management also promised a national conference on women's participation in politics before of the end of this year during which the recommendations from both events would be discussed and a plan to empower women will be devised. Particular attention will be given to helping willing women to run for seats in Parliament in April, advocating for a 30 percent quota and using the proportional list system as an alternative to allow minorities such as women more representation in Parliament and local councils.

The cultural and social obstacles study conducted by Dr. Intisar Al-Silwi recommended increasing society's awareness and acceptance of women as leaders in the public domain. It also studied several cases of female candidates in the past and the circumstances surrounding their electoral experiences. It concluded that independent candidates faced many obstacles including financial and political constraints, whereas candidates running under the banner of a strong political party found it easier to gain popular support.

The legal study stressed the need to change legislation in order to allow for more female participation in politics, especially with regards to independent candidates who have to collect the signatures of at least ten percent of the voters in their electoral constituency to run in the elections. According to regulations, all their supporters must go to court to confirm their signatures, which creates a huge burden with regards to the logistics and financing of their campaign.

The study also recommended that related national legislation be reviewed to agree with all women rights conventions and treaties that Yemen has signed. It added that women should be given the same opportunities as men in elections through organizing sufficient media exposure, particularly during electoral campaigns. Foundations and government councils promoting women issues should be developed in order to obtain real authority to implement change.

The main factors discussed by the study include integrating the principle of equality between women and men in the Yemeni constitution and other national legislations.