Progress is being made globally to increase the number of women in political leadership positions. Political parties can play a fundamental role supporting more women to get in to politics.

WFD’s multi-party office, the Liberal Democrats and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom organised the inaugural Women’s Leadership Programme of the Africa Liberal Network on 6-7 March.

The programme supports aspiring women leaders who will stand in local or national elections over the next two years by ending barriers to women’s leadership in African liberal parties.

Often the first hurdle that women face in being elected is their own internal party selection process. Women from member parties of the ALN informed research about the barriers to women’s participation which raised important issues, including; parties do not always respect their own quotas for women candidates, there can be a lack of transparency in selection processes, and that women are often discriminated against in candidate selection.

This means women do not have an equal chance to become candidates for their parties, and subsequently to get elected.

In the same research, women also highlighted three other main barriers to their political participation; lack of opportunities for training and skills development, lack of finance and resources to participate and contest for elections and a lack of self-belief among women.

Women’s political leadership training

Women politicians from across Africa came together in Marrakech for the first training workshop of the Women’s Leadership Programme, which took place in the run up to International Women’s Day.

The training tackled some of the issues affecting the advancement of women’s political leadership. From reviewing participant party selection processes to identifying the different activities involved in getting selected, discussing the challenges that the participants face as women candidates and developing campaign strategies, the training helped equip participants with additional skills and knowledge to advance their political careers.

All participants shared a commitment to advancing women’s political leadership. As part of the programme they will attend a two additional training sessions over the course of the year and will receive tailored mentoring to support them in their party selection processes and leadership campaigns.

Women’s political leadership at the Africa Liberal Network General Assembly

The programme’s first training took place directly ahead of the Africa Liberal Network’s 15 General Assembly from 8-9 March. Empowering women, starting in your political party was a relevant theme for the two-day conference, which was attended by participants of the Women’s Leadership Programme.

Sessions on the importance of party inclusivity and of women’s equal political participation and leadership meant that the important message about women’s political leadership was shared with the whole network.

Delegates from Africa Liberal Network member parties will now develop action plans for their parties to challenge discriminatory practices and to create more inclusive and encouraging environments for women to be selected as candidates and to advance as leaders within their parties.

Working with both the aspiring women leaders and the parties within which they operate, the initiative aims to address the underrepresentation of women in leadership positions in the Africa Liberal Network.