A future in politics for women in Algeria
Yasmina is a lawyer by training, but after she got married, it took a lot of courage for her to step out of her housewife status and get involved in politics.
- In 2012, Algerian women occupied 31 percent of parliamentary seats, placing the country 26th worldwide and 1st in the Arab world.
- Though UNDP-supported reforms helped establish a 30-percent quota for women in elected assemblies, the rate is only 18 percent at the local level.
- Nearly 300 elected women in five pilot provinces received training from international experts in 2015; the project is being extended to five additional provinces.
As a native of the Djelfa province, several hundred kilometres from Algiers, she realized that getting elected and participating in politics was a real challenge for women in her country. Most Algerian villages follow a patriarchal system and politics is reserved for men. "Leaving the house every morning to go to work and then running for local elections was like an affront to the people of my village,” Yasmina says. “It was initially very difficult for me and my family to cope."
Though the 2012 political reforms, supported by UNDP, helped establish a legal framework that granted women 30 percent representation in elected assemblies, the rate is only 18 percent at the local level. This is because it is difficult to find women willing to appear on ballots in the communes.
In response to the challenge, UNDP in 2013 launched a programme to support the effective and regular participation of women in elected assemblies. The initiative led to the launching of a forum of Algerian women parliamentarians in June 2015.
Also since 2015, UNDP has been working with the Ministry of the Interior and Local Government to enhance the capacities and knowledge of elected women on participatory democracy, working with civil society and public service management. The objective is to increase their participation in political and governmental institutions and hence their active integration in the decision making process. The project targets not only locally elected women but also newly elected women parliamentarians.
In the five provinces targeted, close to 300 women have been trained by international experts. The list of prominent women lending their expertise includes Isabelle Durant, former vice-president of the European Parliament, former minister and current parliamentarian in Belgium; Ana Santos Esteban, university law professor and local governance and human rights expert, Nogareda Moreno, professor of international relations and public communication training expert.
"I travel back and forth, 150 kilometres each way, every day to attend training sessions," says Yasmina. "It is a true godsend for women from remote communes to receive training of this quality and level.”
Yasmina adds that the training helped her to better understand what her job entails and strongly motivated her to run again in the upcoming elections.
"Through these exchanges with the trainers, I’ve come to understand the importance of having women participate in the decision-making process and the impact this has on the future status of women in Algeria."
The project, funded by Canada, the Netherlands and Norway, is being extended to five other provinces in the country. Besides increasing the number of women representatives in parliament (with a proportion of women in the National Assembly of 31 percent, Algeria already ranks 26th worldwide and 1st in the Arab world), the programme aims to support the role and impact of elected women representatives, resulting in a more gender-sensitive parliament. It also seeks to strengthen women’s influence on the political agenda and ensure that there is an impact on legislation and on women’s rights.
"We have come a long way since the day I decided to leave my house to go work and became the first elected woman from my commune," Yasmina says. In her village, she has become a role model for many young girls who often come to ask her for career advice.