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Improving Women's Participation in Political Parties

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Practice Advice on Socioeconomic and Political Context

Improving Women's Participation in Political Parties (UNDP)

Description:  The UNDP has suggests a number of strategies for promoting gender equality in the internal organization of political parties.

Commentary: The UNDP states that gender equality and women’s empowerment are imperative for achieving inclusive, equitable and sustainable development. Women’s political participation is central to these goals, and political parties are among the most important institutions for promoting and nurturing such participation.

How political parties operate and function is determined by external regulation as well as internal rules, processes and culture. External regulation includes the constitution and laws relating to the electoral system, party financing, and party organization.

Internal processes depend on the party’s ideological foundations, historical influences, levels of regulation and internal bureaucracy, level of patronage, degree of influence of party leaders, and level of decentralization. The degree of internal party democracy is determined through practices like internal information and consultation processes, internal (formal or informal) rules and structures for the organization and decision-making within the party and transparency in the party’s functioning at all levels. In terms of party organization, an additional consideration is the extent to which the party is inclusive of different societal groups, particularly in terms of candidate recruitment, and how the party reaches out to and includes women in its internal organization.

The implementation of strategies to promote women’s empowerment in political parties can lead to greater internal democracy and transparency. The following is a list strategies suggested by the UNDP to promote women’s participation:

  • Address gender equality in internal party regulations: Building a gender equality framework, with statements on gender equality, is the main tool to establish a vision of the party, and move toward a more inclusive and responsive political party.
  • Adopt measures for women’s participation in the governing boards and decision-making structures: Improving the participation of women in governing boards and on key party committees, taskforces, and working groups, is important, notably to ensure that women’s perspectives contribute to shaping party policies, priorities, strategies, and platforms.
  • Set targets for participation in party conventions: Targets for women participation should be included in the make-up of the delegate community so as to provide women with the opportunity to build political careers and benefit from important networking opportunities.
  • Formally establish women’s wings and sections within political parties: Establishing a wing or section for women party members to meet, discuss and deliberate, articulate their priorities, and seek solutions to common problems can be instrumental in placing women’s concerns on the party agenda.
  • Ensure gender equality perspective in policy development: Political parties must ensure that their policies and priorities respond to the needs of women and men, not only in terms of gender specific policy reforms, but also in ensuring that gender is mainstreamed into all the policies of the party. This may be achieved through a policy committee that addresses gender mainstreaming and signs off on all policies for compliance, or through the provision of capacity building for party members. 

Source: UNDP (2012), "Empowering Women for Stronger Political Parties –A Guidebook to Promote Women’s Political Participation" UNDP, at: (accessed 2 December 2012)

Page Created By: Ruby Dagher. The content presented on this page is drawn directly from the source(s) cited above, and consists of direct quotations or close paraphrases. This material does not necessarily reflect the official view of the publishing organization.


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