The first Gender and Elections BRIDGE workshop welcomed in Botswana
The European Centre for Electoral Support in partnership with EISA and SADC Election Support Network delivered a BRIDGE module in Gender and Elections together with the Botswana local partner, Emang Basadi. This training event took place 8 – 10 October 2014 at Cresta President Hotel in central Gaborone and is part of the regional training and research scheme in the frame of the Preventing Electoral Violence Project.
Twenty-four participants from civil society, media and political parties attended the workshop. Rindai Chipfunde-Vava (Zimbabwe), Bridget Masuleke (South Africa) and Victoria Florinder (Sweden) were the facilitators. They created a conducive learning environment by connecting the workshop to Botswana’s electoral context where general elections will take place in the next few weeks on 24 October 2014.
Botswana, one of Africa’s most stable countries, is the continent’s longest continuous multi-party democracy. Elections are regularly held every five years, with the next scheduled to be held in 2014. The Bechuanaland People’s Party (later Botswana People’s Party, BPP) led both as the country’s first national party and as the first political party to break up into splinter groups before the first General Elections in 1965. Elections are managed by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), which was established in 1997.
Botswana operates the first-past-the-post (FPTP) or simple majority electoral system. To avoid the huge costs of running national and local elections on separate dates, general and local elections in Botswana are conducted simultaneously. The country has had a history of free and fair elections with no violence reported despite the BPP remaining in power since independence. The 2009 elections saw a continuing decline in the number of women candidates both in the parliamentary and local government elections. In the parliamentary elections there was generally a low turnout of women candidates across all parties. Botswana has got a low representation of less than 10% women in Parliament. It seems the upcoming 24 October 2014 elections will not address this situation soon as there are 17 female candidates vying for office out of 57 parliamentary seats.
The Gender and Elections workshop offered an opportunity for participants to gain and share skills/ knowledge on gender and election area, but also helped in bonding as team of women from different shades of life. This also provided an opportunity to share experiences, analyse election issues and provide solutions on how to improve critical barriers facing women during the elections.
The workshop examined the following themes; Women in Parliament and the political world, targets and numbers, electoral systems, quotas and special measures, gender responsive governance, political financing; challenges and barriers encountered by women; electoral violence; Voter Registration, Voter and Civic Education and Women the media, and election observation.
The participants and the host organisation expressed gratitude to ECES for supporting and organising this event. They requested more BRIDGE workshops in order to build the capacity and strategies to in order create gender balance in Botswana political and public spheres.