Our mission to elect African women is based on a belief in democratic values and the efficacy of women leaders. All 54 member states of the African Union (AU) agreed in the organization’s founding charter to “promote democratic principles and institutions.” Democratic institutions must be representative of the people they govern. Today, women make up half the population, but hold less than 25 percent of parliamentary seats across sub-Saharan Africa. Many countries, particularly starting in southern and eastern Africa, have built gender equality into their constitutions and employed a range of innovative policies to mandate or incentivize gender quotas.
There are bright spots. Rwanda, for example, leads the world in percentage of women parliamentarians with Rwandan women holding 63.8 percent of seats in the national legislature’s lower house. However, many others across the continent lag behind. This includes Rwanda’s larger neighbor to the west, the Democratic Republic of Congo, where women hold only 8.9 percent and 4.6 percent of seats in the lower and upper houses, respectively. Fulfilling gender quota goals and democratic principles outlined in the AU’s Charter and in national constitutions will require an immense and determined effort.
Nonetheless, we believe that including more women in governance is good not only for democratic principles, but policy outcomes as well. Research in Tanzania, Rwanda, and South Africa has shown that having more women parliamentarians is linked with greater inclusion of women’s perspectives and interests in legislative debates and decision-making. There is also a preponderance of evidence from countries facing armed conflict that where there is greater political participation of women, the probability of violence continuing diminishes significantly. The Liberian women who led the peace movement that ended their country’s civil war in 2003 stand as a powerful testament to the political impact African women can have when they organize and take action.
We are fully aware of the multitude and magnitude of challenges that African women and their communities face in building a better future. Yet, we are confident that having more women at the decision-making table in countries across Africa will strengthen democratic principles and engender more inclusive, peaceful governance.
How the site works.
Each woman featured on our site is presented in a profile that highlights the issues she is passionate about, integrates a brief biography and links to the various social media platforms created by the candidate, including Facebook, Twitter, a blog and in some cases, YouTube. Since there are no foreign funding restrictions to individual campaigns in most countries in Africa, anyone, anywhere can donate to our members’ campaigns through the donation buttons linked to each profile. Visitors to the site can also donate to the portal itself. Soon, those who wish to donate to candidates according to the issues they support will be able to do so once our “issues search” feature is operational.
We have begun our work in central Africa, specifically the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), as the country most identified with the vulnerability of women. Our aim is to reverse that image, first in DRC and then beyond, as we expand across the continent in the coming months and years. Where others have only seen darkness in the heart of Africa, we see a bright future. We are supporting Congolese women in reaching elected office and building their political networks across all levels of government.
Fempo was started by a democracy and governance specialist who saw the need to cater especially to women in the context of political capacity-building. She saw that women were typically marginalized by their own parties and the prospect of mounting a campaign in an environment of grinding poverty and raw sexism often proved so daunting that it discouraged many from taking the crucial first step.
© Fempo 2018.