Congolese women have been thwarted in their ambition to improve their showing in the National Assembly after the first round in the Congolese legislative elections.
The results of the 24 June vote show that only one woman has been elected and it is unlikely the numbers will improve in the upcoming second round.
“It is a shame because we were hoping to do better after all our work,” said Suzanne Somboko, permanent secretary of the Centre for the Promotion of Women in Politics (CPFP). “I think we will have to work harder and maybe adopt new strategies,” she added.
The organisation worked hard to raise the profile of its women candidates in the legislative elections, said Somboko. “We have also organised sensitisation and awareness sessions in Brazzaville [the capital] in order to increase the number of females in high position, by bringing women into public life,” she said.
The programme, led by Emilienne Raoul, minister of health and social affairs, was assisted by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in a bid to boost female political leadership.
Even though the status of women has improved, there are few women in top positions. In the two chambers in parliament, with 188 seats, there are only 20 women.
Certainly it is not the law that is stopping women from playing a much bigger role.
“Even if the world is changing, we women continue to have problems to reach and stay in positions of authority because many people carry on thinking that woman is not the equal of man,” said Anasthasie Ongantama, general secretary of the Talangai district of Brazzaville.
Chanel Loubaky Moundele from the human rights agency, Association des droits de l’homme et l’univers carcéral (ADHUC), and member of the Association des femmes juristes du Congo (AFJC), believes poverty is the biggest obstacle to women gaining better posts.
“Most Congolese are poor despite the resources of the country and there are more women and girls than men. They do not benefit from good access to communication, education, healthcare and good salaries and thus do not have the tools to start political careers,” she said.
She believes Congo must adopt quota laws, as apply in Rwanda, to give significantly more women access to top positions that would enable them to improve their condition.
“Thanks to the quotas,” she said, “some countries have seen the number of women increase in their parliament; it is a form of positive discrimination favouring women implemented by many countries in the world. A representation of 30 percent would improve the situation of the women.”
Congo, in line with many African countries, has more women than men, with more than 70 percent living below the poverty line.