Kvinnoparad under självständighetsfirandet i Burkina Faso 11 december.

Women march in Ouagadougou 11 December 2007 during celebration of the 47th anniversary of independence. Since 2005, Sida has been financing the NDI, which works to give women a stronger voice in Burkina Faso.

Photo: AFP/Scanpix

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Women gaining political power in Burkina Faso

Published: 22 June 2009 Updated: 12 August 2014

The political arena in Burkina Faso is traditionally the men’s playground. Women with political ambitions have long been kept outside the corridors of power. But the political landscape is now being redrawn with the help of the Sida-supported National Democratic Institute (NDI).

Since 2005, Sida has been financing the NDI, which works to give women a stronger voice in Burkina Faso. By offering education in the political process, the NDI has created a platform for women to reach decision-making positions. It has had a great effect.

Aminata Kassé, head of the NDI’s office in Burkina Faso, says:

– One of our targets is to increase the number of women that are chosen and another is to help them after they’ve been elected. In the latest municipal election, in 2006, 6,400 women were elected.

The project has been a success thanks mainly to the political power having been moved to local levels. Before the election in 2006, the number of municipalities was multiplied, leading to thousands of new elected positions. The NDI and other non-government organizations took advantage of the political space that was created. As a result, more than one-third of those who were elected were women.

Female politicians see female needs

The municipal election in 2006 signalled the start of a long-term process. Without follow-up, there is a risk that the progress made will merely by empty statistics and the NDI is therefore focusing on giving those women elected onto municipal executive boards further education. The target is to train them in looking at the needs of the poor, particularly among vulnerable women.

– The newly elected women have been better at integrating women’s needs in politics, as well as access to micro-credit, access to clean water and at creating markets to sell locally grown vegetables, Kassé says. 

Burkina Faso is one of the world’s poorest countries, with a very low standard of education. One striking example of this is that many of the newly elected female mayors can neither read nor write. The insufficient level of knowledge illustrates the difficult challenges that remain in implementing continued democratic development.

New law changes the rules of the game for national elections

An historic date for the women’s movement in Burkina Faso was 16 April 2009. On that day, a new law came into place requiring at least 30 percent of the candidates, in both municipal and national elections, to be women. The NDI has played a central role in the campaign work and mobilized important forces to drive through the bill.

– The big challenge now is helping the political parties to follow up the new law. With the help of Sida’s latest contribution, we’ll help many political parties in the plan to recruit more women, Kassé says.

Events in recent years have led to a general change of attitude towards female politicians in Burkina Faso. People in the rural areas have seen positive results under female leadership and a greater number of women are climbing the political hierarchy. The NDI’s work has only just begun.

What the NDI does

The NDI helps non-profit and non-profit seeking civil and political leaders in building democratic institutions, observing general elections, guiding and advising political parties in their organization, working for popular political engagement, helping countries design professional legislation and increasing the participation of women in politics. Its current chairman is Madeleine Albright, the United States’ secretary of state in the 1990s.

Page owner: Department for Africa

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