ARTICLE 19 (Author)
The Senegalese local elections of January 20221 represent an opportunity for the country to elect more women to leadership positions. Despite legislation requiring effective gender parity in all fully- or partially-elected institutions, the country is still lagging behind in terms of equality, inclusion and diversity of political representation.
Senegal will finally be holding its next local elections, which have previously been postponed three times, on 23 January 2022. These elections represent a test for President Sall’s support at the local level. They will also be very indicative of where the country is currently positioned in terms of gender equality in public institutions.
Senegal is a party to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and its Proocol on Women’s Rights: the Maputo Protocol2, meaning the authorities have committed to protecting and promoting the right to equality for all women. These commitments are also reflected in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in which goal number 5 calls on countries to ‘achieve equality of rights between women and men, and promote the empowerment of women’, a pledge that must take into account the promotion of political, economic and social rights for all individuals.
Moreover, in 2010, a national law on parity in elective and semi-elective bodies was adopted in Senegal. This was acknowledged as a huge success for women from all walks of life, both from civil society and from political parties, who had fought together on this legislative reform. The law on parity aimed to initiate a new turning point for the country, and to enshrine rights relating to gender equality in decision-making bodies and lead to a sustained improvement in the political participation of women. In addition the Constitution of Senegal, the National Strategy for Gender Equality and Equity (SNEEG) 2005-2015 updated in 2016 (SNEEG2) and The Senegal Emerging Plan (PSE), all reiterated the importance of gender equality and equity.
ARTICLE 19 welcomes the increase in the national rate of women in local government over the years. In the 2014 local elections, the first after the adoption of the parity law, the percentage of elected women rose from 15.9% in 2009 to 47% in 2015, reflecting 14,000 women out of 29,787 elected.
The law on parity raised many hopes when it was adopted in 2010. Yet, more than 10 years later, the law has not been fully implemented and there remains a great disparity in terms of representation of women in the Commissions of the National Assembly, at the regional and local government levels and other sections of the public service and in the political and administrative system in general. As of October 2021, 98% of the country’s town halls are run by men, according to the Caucus of Women Leaders (CWL)3.
The number of female representatives remains extremely low4 (10% of total candidates) according to the CWL organisation’s campaign “Women taking on the town halls“, launched in 2020 to bring more women representatives onto the lists. Today, out of 557 municipalities, only 102 women are listed as leading candidates. It is also deplored that several lists do not respect the absolute parity for both titular and substitute candidates, a situation initially highlighted in 20145.
Furthermore, the law also remains limited to the National Assembly and other elected and semi elected bodies. Many activists and researchers on the ground remain skeptical that women will be given access to other decision-making spheres6. ARTICLE 19 has been working with other organisations including the CWL, on diversity and inclusion. The office in West Africa has also conducted a study to assess the level of equality in the media, which still remains limited7. States should not pay lip service to diversity and inclusion. There must be full, comprehensive and actual access to decision-making processes for all, including women.
Previously, judges in Senegal have failed to adequately deal with cases linked to respect of the parity in local elections. In the upcoming elections this week, ARTICLE 19 calls for judges to demonstrate strict compliance with the law on parity and properly apply the law when ruling on cases brought to their attention and urges the government to use the spirit of the law as a benchmark to increase women representation to non-legislative functions.
Moreover, elections are usually a tense time in most African countries, and Senegal is no exception. Indeed, most of the elections held in Senegal since independence have been marred by violence and unrest attributed by studies to both the opposition and the ruling party.
ARTICLE 19 welcomes initiatives by civil society organisations and all other stakeholders to ensure the smooth running of free and peaceful elections. ARTICLE 19 urges political parties leaders to respect international and regional mechanisms relating to the protection and security of citizens during the upcoming local elections. The organisation calls on the various political parties and other actors to refrain from actions that could increase tension and to accept the results declared by electoral bodies.
For more information, please contact:
Fatou Jagne Senghore, Regional Director of ARTICLE 19 Senegal/West Africa Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Tel: +221 33 869 03 22