The conference “More Than Quota: Towards Greater Representation of Women in Local Elections 2020” concluded today in Sarajevo. It was organized by Westminster Foundation for Democracy and the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), in partnership with the Gender Equality Commission of the House of Representatives of the Parliamentary Assembly of BiH on the occasion of International Women’s Day.
The aim of the conference was to draw attention to the main causes resulting in poor representation of women in politics and decision-making bodies, with particular focus on violence in public spaces that limits political activism of women.
Nermina Voloder, Country Representative of Westminster Foundation, said: “Women in Bosnia and Herzegovina who participate in political life often do it at their own expense, as the lingering traditional norms raise the bar for women in terms of what the public and political entities expect of them. Women in politics face different forms of violence, most commonly in the form of intimidation on social media, and disrespectful, demeaning sexist comments.” She referred to the Survey on Violence against Women in Politics, published by the Westminster Foundation for Democracy in 2019, which revealed that 60% of the women surveyed confirmed having experienced some form of violence during their time in politics.
“It is for this reason that women decide to ‘withdraw’ from political life. Violence is particularly widespread on social media and the election process causes it to rise significantly. Political parties and the media have a responsibility to ensure equal conditions for the political participation of women and men,” Voloder said.
Elmaja Bavčić, Co-ordinator of the Gender and Youth Unit of the OSCE Mission to BiH noted that there is a real disconnect between women’s participation in political processes and their representation in formal political structures. “Despite the electoral list requiring a 40% gender quota, stark inequalities remain in gender representation in decision-making bodies at all levels of government. Increasing women’s participation in politics brings wide and important benefits for the whole society – not only for women. When women participate in politics and elections – be it as candidates, voters, party supporters or electoral administrators – they can make sure that their needs and interests are well addressed”, she said.
The OSCE Mission to BiH and Westminster Foundation will continue to work with political parties to improve gender equality principles in their policies and programmes, as well as increase women’s meaningful political participation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.