Winning more seats in elections
In her coastal fishing village in Timor-Leste, Barbara Garma Soares campaigned hard during the 2016 local elections. Going door to door, she tirelessly rallied her neighbours around a programme of working together to improve their community. When voters went to the polls, they readily elected Soares as their village chief, marking the first time ever that a woman could claim that position.
Soares made an effective case for her candidacy on the back of training provided by UN Women. She was one of 300 women who took part in sessions that prepared them to stand for the elections, one element of a concerted advocacy drive called 100% Hau Prontu (100% I’m Ready). The campaign also successfully pushed for a reform of the national electoral law, so that each of 442 villages must now field at least one woman candidate for local polls.
Local village councils, which make decisions with far-reaching consequences in people’s daily lives, have long been some of the most conservative political bodies in Timor-Leste. In 2016, women took only 21 seats as village chiefs—yet this was double the number in the 2009 election. Stories abound of villages where a single woman fearlessly competed against 10 men. With the electoral quota having cracked open the door, women have proved they have the strength and skills to push it wide open.
Until 2016, Haiti ranked on the list of countries without a single woman in the legislature. But when the polls closed at the end of the year, four women had broken the impasse and captured seats in both chambers of Parliament. UN Women supported their successful runs by informing women candidates of their legal rights, and training electoral authorities and political parties on the importance of respecting previously agreed gender quotas for candidates.