NIMD’s partner in Mali, the Centre pour le Dialogue Inter-Parties et la Démocratie (CMDID) is currently undertaking a project to improve the position of women within political parties. The objectives of the project are to educate the leaders of political parties about the participation and representation of women in parties and politics; and to strengthen women's political leadership within political parties.
The project, which is being funded by CMDID and UNIFEM, runs for twelve months and is due to conclude in December 2010. The project activities are being carried out across four regions of Mali, namely: Kayes, Mopti, Timbuktu and Koulikoro (including the capital, Bamako).
While statistics can only tell part of any story, those relating to the participation and representation of women in politics in Mali are compelling. For example, at the local government level, of the 703 mayors in Mali, only 7 are women. In the 2004 local elections, women made up only 6.53% of the total number of councillors elected, although this increased to 8.66% in 2009, with 934 women councillors elected out of a total of 10,774 country-wide.
Meanwhile, at the national level, between 2002 and 2005, out of a total of 14,926 posts of responsibility (from all institutions), women occupied only 1301 or 8.71%. Of the 147 members who were elected to the National Assembly in the last general elections in 2007, just 14 are women.
The representation of women in the leadership of political parties also remains low. For example, none of the fifteen political parties represented in the National Assembly feature women in important decision-making positions (for example, Secretary General, Political Secretary or Executive Secretary). Some women do occupy vice-president, deputy or generally more subordinate positions. Nevertheless the rate of representation of these women does not exceed 10%.
The Culture of Malian Party Politics
Mali is an emerging democracy. Since its independence in 1960, three distinct phases have occurred, namely: a socialist republic (from 1960 to 1968), a one-party system (from 1974 to 1991) and, currently, a full multiparty system. Despite the changes inherent in each of these phases, the social environment in Mali remains strongly influenced by the weight of traditions inherited from the great empires and transformed into virtues.
In 2007 the government attempted to introduce a quota system for women’s representation in parliament, without success. In 2008, therefore, CMDID initiated a process of reflection among political actors on the strategic positioning of women in politics in Mali. These reflections identified some major obstacles to the political emergence of women, including political parties’ statutory documents, as well as and habits (for example, holding meetings in the evenings, when women are less likely to be able to attend) that discourage the participation and promotion of women.
However, it should be noted that more and more party executives are realising the need to involve women and ensure they can benefit from important positions. In 2009, with the support of CMDID, the five political parties represented in the National Assembly issued directives asking locals to include women on electoral lists for the municipal elections.
CMDID also instigated a process of introducing gender policies within the political parties, realising that change had to come from within the parties themselves, rather than being imposed from above. CMDID's gender strategy was used during the communal elections in 2009 in Sikasso, where the number of female local councillors actually doubled.
Improving Women’s Representation
It is within this context that the current project is being carried out. The first phase (January to July 2009) involves educating the leadership of political parties about the value of participation and representation of women in politics. The hope is that party leaderships will introduce reforms in procedures and documents (for example, statutes and internal regulations) that take into account the political emergence of women within the parties.
Parallel to this advocacy, communications activities and outreach have been conducted in the form of round tables, meetings and theme days on gender and women's participation.
The aim of the second phase (September-December 2010) will be to strengthen women's leadership in party politics by supporting women who have a profile within political parties. This will be achieved using a leadership development guide previously developed by experts and endorsed by political parties. A total of 700 women from 52 political parties and CMDID members will receive this guidance.
The support provided will be in the form of coaching, as well as agreed targets and objectives for each woman. Monitoring forms will be established by women and by political parties. It is hoped that this will increase both the number of women in the bodies of political parties, and the number of candidates for the 2012 elections, in each of the four project areas.
Where to next?
CMDID hopes that the project will encourage the parties to take internal measures which will facilitate the emergence of a greater number of women as candidates for election. Beyond that, the objective is to adopt measures at the national level including, possibly, the re-introduction of the idea of a quota. It is therefore important to ensure that the State follows the development of the process and contributes to a shared political good-will.
The direct beneficiaries of this project will be the women in the 52 political parties (parties of the presidential and opposition parties), members of the Foundation and represented in the National Assembly and parliamentary groups. More generally, it is hoped that a more inclusive political culture will ultimately benefit all Malian citizens.
Read more about NIMD's Mali Programme.