This is the third blog in the “No Party to Violence” series and the first to highlight the findings of the Violence Against Women in Political Parties Assessment completed in Côte d’Ivoire. The blog is authored by Fatoumata Bako, a Senior Program Assistant for NDI Côte d’Ivoire. Fatou has continued to support initiatives to promote women’s political participation and helped to manage all aspects on the Côte d’Ivoire assessment. Below she provides an overview and findings from the Violence Against Women in Political Parties Assessment.
In Côte d’Ivoire, as we have found in many other places around the world, violence against women in politics has long been hidden, unknown, unrecognized, ignored or considered part of the "normal" practice of politics or as the "cost of politics." This is true for women across political sectors, including as voters, candidates, activists and elected or appointed officials. While political parties in Côte d’Ivoire serve as critical pathways for women’s political participation and engagement, including for young or new politicians, they continue to be male-dominated institutions, which allows and enables violence against women in their ranks. Because women believe that speaking out will at best have no real impact, and at worst make their situations worse, the violence women face within political parties has also gone largely unreported.
In an effort to better address this issue in Côte d’Ivoire, and as part of its larger “No Party to Violence” program, NDI worked with the six political parties represented in the National Assembly to carry out its violence against women in political parties assessment. The assessment included in-depth interviews with party leadership, focus groups with women party members and surveys with both male and female party members.
To raise awareness and understanding about the issue of violence against women in political parties, NDI organized a #NotTheCost launch event bringing together men and women across political parties. The event included a training from an expert on the issue of violence against women in politics, testimonies from Ivorian women politicians about their experiences with violence in politics and a discussion of solutions and opportunities for action to stop violence against women in politics in Côte d’Ivoire.
Following the #NotTheCost event, NDI asked 45 men and women from six political parties to share their experiences with violence against women through questionnaires, focus groups and interviews. Many of the party members and leaders acknowledged that women face violence and sexual harassment when they participate in politics and that violence of many kinds occurs in political parties in Côte d’Ivoire.
One woman shared her conversation with a male party leader when she applied for a position as leader of the Women’s Wing: “My case is particularly humiliating. The Secretary had a friend whom he wanted to have the position. So he tells me, ‘If you want to be in charge of the wing, you must sleep with me…’ [She replied ]‘So you want me to sleep with you?’ ‘Yes, do you want to be in politics or not?!’”
Another woman described threats against her family: “I received death threats... [Ahead of a planned demonstration I was organizing,] at 4:30 AM someone knocked on my door. I open it and it’s a young man. I thought he had a sick relative because my husband is a doctor. I asked him who was sick, and he responded "No, I just came to say sorry but you need to cancel your event... Your children are still small. Don’t give me dirty looks like that, and don’t ignore what I’m telling you.”
The assessment also found that while there are disciplinary rules against violence in political parties, there are generally no specific rules for violence against women. The Disciplinary Council for Political Parties, which has jurisdiction in these rules, has never ruled on a case of harassment.
NDI brought together men and women from each party to share the results of the assessment and help them develop action plans. Political parties were presented with party - and country - specific findings on the levels and types of violence against women within political parties. Each party then identified the key actions they could take to prevent or mitigate such violence, both within their parties and through the legislative process.
Members from all six parties met in a cross-party exchange to discuss combating and mitigating violence against women in political parties. They shared key points of their action plans and developed recommendations that political institutions, such as political parties and parliament, could carry out to address the problem. Based on the discussions, parties finalized both their individual action plans and a full joint action plan to address violence against women in political parties.
To promote accountability for the action plans’ implementation, civil society groups led by the Coordinating Committee for Women’s Political Participation (2C2PF) -- a multi-sectoral coalition of representatives from parties, civil society, the women’s legislative caucus and the women’s ministry -- created their own action plan. This plan identified concrete measures to fight violence against women and monitor the implementation of parties’ action plans.
The political parties action plans were published with the permission of each political party in NDI’s full Violence Against Women Political Party Assessment Report from Côte d’Ivoire.
To see the full Political Party Assessment Report from Côte d’Ivoire, please go here. This report is currently only available in French.