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Rede Feto Calls for Urgent Action to Promote Women’s Participation in Future Elections

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On 30 May 2017, Rede Feto and partners conducted a “A seminar to review the mechanism of the presidential election in 2017’, followed by a Round table on 7 June. The objective of these events was to identify ways to promote greater women’s participation and gender equality in future elections. There was specific consideration of how to motivate voting at the July 2017 parliamentary election by the 29% of registered voters who did not vote at the March 2017 presidential election.

Participants at this seminar call on all electoral stakeholders to implement the following recommendations, to promote increased women’s participation in future elections:

  1. CNE, STAE and civil society civic and voter education campaigns continuously promote the active and equal participation of women in electoral and political activities, and include events and materials specifically targeted to women;
  2. Political parties adopt a quota of at least 33% for women amongst their leadership and executive bodies at all levels;
  3. The government, political parties, women's organizations, civil society and international agencies work together to prepare strong women candidates for future elections;
  4. Capacity building is provided for potential women candidates to increase their confidence, policy development, campaigning and resource mobilization skills;
  5. Political party platforms are gender sensitive and their campaigns are accessible to women voters;
  6. A ‘women for women’ campaign promotes women’s support for women candidates;
  7. Political parties and presidential candidates appoint 50% women amongst their fiscais;
  8. Sufficient polling centers are opened to make voting accessible to all women in rural areas;
  9. For future elections STAE appoints women to 50% of all brigada/polling center manager and polling station secretary positions;
  10. Women with a disability are appointed as electoral officials and brigadas;
  11. Women are encouraged to register to vote in the locality in which they live;
  12. Media are to provide gender sensitive reporting of election campaigns and electoral issues and cover these issues from a gender perspective.

It is urgent that these actions are taken to overcome the following barriers to women’s participation in the 2017 presidential election, that the Rede Feto workshop identified.

Potential women candidates did not have access to resources to press their claims, and consequently there was only one woman and 7 male candidates, which limited the choices of women voters. There were few women recruited by STAE for management positions in polling centers and polling stations, and no women with disabilities were appointed as election officials. Few women were appointed as candidate agents.

The candidates’ campaigns did not cover issues of importance to women, such as the implementation of the international Convention on the Eliminations of Discrimination Against Women and of Rede Feto’s national plan. There was little media coverage of election issues of importance to women, or of the woman candidate for president. It was difficult for women to participate in campaign events scheduled during their hours of work, either at home or elsewhere.

There was limited civic education available to women, so many do not understand the electoral process, and no campaign to promote women’s support for the woman candidate. Many women voters faced a long walk to reach their nearest polling center, while others had to travel long distances to return to their home suco to be able to vote. Most polling centers were not accessible to women and other voters with disabilities, so they did not attempt to vote.

Rede Feto urges that these barriers are removed, so that women can take their full and equal role in determining the future of Timor- Leste.