Women’s full and equal participation in political and electoral processes can be considered to be one of the litmus tests for women’s empowerment and gender equality. When women participate in elections – as voters, candidates, electoral administrators, or party supporters – they can express their own needs and interests. Decisions better reflect the electorate. Political processes are more inclusive. Democracy is strengthened.
While significant attention has been paid to women’s political participation in the electoral process, less focus has been placed on the bodies which administer elections – commonly known as electoral management bodies (EMBs) – and the role they play in encouraging women’s participation. The entry points for doing so across the electoral cycle are numerous and include voter registration, voter education, candidate registration, and ensuring women’s access to polling places on election day.
As this Guide outlines, it is important for EMBs to ensure that their internal processes and practices are gender-sensitive. This includes making a clear commitment to gender equality through a gender policy, or by including gender-sensitive elements in the EMB’s strategic plan; ensuring that women are represented throughout the entire organization, including in leadership roles; providing gender-sensitive training to all staff; and ensuring that all the data collected by EMBs are disaggregated by sex. By adopting these practices, EMBs can become models of gender-sensitive institutions.