CAR legislative elections: Canvassing for women’s increased political participation
Increasing women's participation in the electoral process has been the focus of efforts to both mobilize the female vote and boost support for female candidates ahead of the second round of the legislative elections in the Central African Republic (CAR), scheduled for 14 March 2021.
Countering women’s chronic underrepresentation and expanding their involvement in decision-making bodies as well as local and national governance has been at the heart of the “Communication campaign in support of women’s participation in the electoral process” – initiated by the MINUSCA Outreach section and the Central African Women’s Organization (OFCA). The number of women delegates in the Central African parliament currently stands at 8 percent.
Recognizing the important role of social mobilization in promoting women empowerment, MINUSCA and OFCA joined hands to actively push for increased female participation in the elections, through a door-to-door campaign. Following capacity-building training and with the support of local authorities, OFCA teams canvassed several neighbourhoods of Bangui’s 3rd and 5th districts and in the communes of Bimbo and Begoua – to rally the female vote and garner support for female candidates in the legislative vote.
The campaign involved informing women about election issues and advocacy to ensure that women have opportunities to participate in election campaigns and register to vote. Polette Yakota, an OFCA mobilizer in Bégoua hoped for solidarity among women voters, describing her role as “encouraging the women of our constituency to vote for candidates who will represent us in the National Assembly”.
Bele Gaston, the chief of the Béa neighbourhood, voiced her support for initiative: “I support gender equality in the Central African Republic. An increase in the number of female parliamentarians will help set right many bad decisions that affect life in this country, and especially the wellbeing of women.”
The protection of women during elections has been given equal importance, through the creation of an emergency hotline – the “1325 Green Line” by the MINUSCA Gender and Women Protection sections, UN Police (UNPol) as well as UN Women in collaboration with the CAR gendarmerie. The hotline – named after UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) – is manned by call center operators who are specialized in the protection of women. They relay the calls they receive from women – on election-related violence – to the CAR authorities for intervention.
According to UN police officer Geneviève Gnandja, the 1325 hotline has enabled authorities to come to the rescue of victims of such violence. It also facilitates the pursuit of justice for victims. The hotline will remain operational for the planned CAR local elections in November 2021.
Significantly, both the door-to-door campaign and hotline further the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) mandate, which recognizes women’s meaningful involvement in political and peace processes as crucial for lasting peace.
Despite efforts to amplify women’s role in the electoral process in the Central African Republic, stumbling blocks abound – structural barriers within political parties stand in the way of women’s participation, as do social and cultural norms as well as unfavourable economic conditions that disproportionately affect women.
It remains to be seen whether the concerted efforts to rally the electorate and propel more Central African women to the corridors of power will bear fruit come election day as well as in the time ahead.