Women and Political Transition: The Risk of Replicating Inequality and the Fundamental Need for Gender Parity in Decision-Making
The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) includes gender equality and women’s empowerment programming as a key facet of its democracy-building work in countries transitioning from violent conflict to more stable political processes. IFES has programs on the ground in flashpoint countries such as Libya, Burkina Faso, and Syria, as well as countries striving to end the cycle of conflict such as Côte d’Ivoire and Myanmar. These countries represent a critical cohort of transitional states, which need tailored conflict and political transition interventions well in advance of credible, transparent and inclusive elections. Research has shown that gender equality is a bulwark for democracy – ensuring the resilience of democratic institutions that represent the needs of all their constituencies –and IFES works with partners to ensure women and men from all segments of society are part of the political and electoral process.
Work in conflict and unstable democratic settings will continue for the foreseeable future and a commitment to inclusive democracy will be challenged by these settings in unique ways. The legal framework for elections and political processes are often shaped, drafted, or reformed during peace processes and political transitions. IFES is committed to programming that integrates gender equality and women’s empowerment into all political and electoral technical assistance, including evolving and complex transitional contexts. This is critical for two reasons:
- Excluding women from the nascent stages of conflict resolution is a missed opportunity to have all voices influence the blueprint for peace and democracy in their countries, and
- Excluding women from political transition processes risks replicating gender inequality in new structures and perpetuating it in societal attitudes.
This briefing paper by IFES Senior Gender Specialist Jessica Huber outlines IFES’ gender-specific programming, which examines and responds to points along the continuum of crisis, political transition and stable democracy.