Strengthening Women's Rights and Political Participation

Democracy, Human Rights and Governance
Egyptians celebrate at Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the popular revolt that drove President Hosni Mubarak from power after 30 years, Feb. 12, 2011.
Petro Ugarte, AFP

In 2011, Secretary Clinton stated that:

...any democracy that does not include half its population—its women—is a contradiction in terms.

Women have the right to participate in decisions that affect their families, their societies, and particularly their own well-being.  Yet despite recent progress, women around the world are still largely absent from national and local decision-making bodies.  Globally, fewer than 20% of representatives to national legislative bodies are female, and women continue to face countless challenges to participation in the civic and political life of their countries.

Beyond the numbers, the quality of women’s participation is often hindered by discrimination within organizations or limits on women’s access to mentoring, training, technology, and other resources. 

Strengthening women’s rights and addressing barriers to political participation are critical steps toward empowering women, reducing poverty, and achieving our development goals.  In every country where USAID works, women are advocating and working for equal rights and opportunities. 

USAID supports their efforts by:

  • Providing skill building and leadership training for women civil society members, women’s organizations, and female journalists

  • Ensuring all get-out-the-vote campaigns are tailored to reach women as well as men

  • Providing training for female members of political parties and parliaments  and supporting the development of women’s caucuses

  • Improving women’s access to justice

  • Supporting local efforts to advocate for legal rights that enable women to participate fully in the political and economic life of their societies

  • Supporting women’s participation in political and post-conflict transitions

Women’s effective participation and leadership in civil society organizations, political parties, and governing bodies ensures that decision-making includes a broader range of perspectives and interests.  This leads to policies that are more likely to foster inclusive economic and social development and benefit all people.   Particularly in political transitions and post-conflict settings, the active participation of women is critical to ensuring that transitions to democracy and peace are legitimate and sustainable.

USAID’s Center of Excellence on Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance is taking steps to better integrate gender equality and women’s empowerment across the democracy, human rights and governance (DRG) field by:

  • Improving attention to gender in our revised Strategic Assessment Framework

  • Establishing a standing Gender Working Group

  • Supporting field officers with gender-inclusive tools and training

  • Supporting women’s participation in political transitions and situations of crisis and conflict

Last updated: August 13, 2012

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