IN the PRE-ELECTION PERIOD
- Fight prejudice: inform women about their rights and use the support of progressive traditional authorities whose words can help change the perception of the role of women in society.
- Lead by the example: break the taboo by giving airtime, by broadcasting reports, to women with prominent roles in society (elected officials, representatives of associations, entrepreneurs). Provide information on their careers and their actions. It is not a case of applauding them as “women” but as citizens, which could encourage others to follow suit.
- Ensure equal access to information by disseminating practical and concrete information on becoming a candidate, voting and other procedures. Indeed, many women tempted to enter politics do not know how to go about it.
- Publicise the difficulties encountered by some women on their journey to raise general awareness of these problems and overcome them more effectively (difficulties in raising funds to validate the candidacy and mount a campaign, the need to fight against tradition, prejudice, lack of support from within parties, etc.)
- Provide information on promising initiatives and sources of assistance: aware of the positive effects on a country of an increased presence of women in society and politics, some African states have put in place incentives (additional subsidies for parties who meet a quota of women candidates standing for election, free support or training programmes for women who wish to enter politics, etc.).
DURING THE ELECTION PERIOD (CAMPAIGN AND POLLING DAY)
- Give women the same voice as men in politics: ensure that women are not absent from the media during electoral periods; one good idea is to use female political analysts.
- Do not perpetuate the reign of money: given the financial difficulties faced by women candidates, it is necessary to allow them – just like men – fair and free access to private and State media.
- Focus on “gender” issues in programmes: devote debates and reports to the positions taken by parties and/or candidates on the issue of gender equality (for example, “Which parties include this in their political manifesto, and propose reforms?”).
- Reiterate the secrecy of the ballot, bearing in mind that in some circles it may be frowned upon for a man to vote for a woman.
- To interest men as well as women in the issues of the election, cover topics likely to interest women more particularly (health, education) while making sure to also address men on these subjects. Be careful not to confine women’s interests merely to issues relating to the home.
- Lead the way within the media: allow more women journalists to cover politics.
- Play an educational role by emphasising the essential role of women in consolidating democracy. Studies have shown that the number of women parliamentarians has a huge influence on the nature of debates in politics.
OUTSIDE OF ELECTION PERIODS
Bear in mind that elections are indeed an important time, but that the participation of women has an impact on everyday life. The media must help ensure that women are not systematically assigned roles that distance them from decision-making processes. To this end, it is essential, just like during an election period, to combat misconceptions of women, to inform both men and women about women’s rights, to give the floor to both women and men on subjects ranging from culture to politics. In terms of political news, do not forget to interview female elected representatives. Then find out whether the promises made by candidates on gender equality have been kept and if the reforms have been implemented.
The major obstacle is financial. For your name to be on an electoral list, you must pay a deposit. Then, to run for an election (to campaign), you have to have money. I had to provide more than 6 million CFA francs. I also had the full support of my husband, who was actually the mayor. That’s why I tell women to do everything to ensure they have the backing of their husbands. Aminata Mariko, Member of the National Assembly of Mali
Always reach out to both men and women, perhaps men above all, when raising these issues. They have an important role to play.