What We Do.
Democratic elections are significantly affected by the choices offered to the voter on the ballot paper.
Most modern democratic governments today fall into the category of representative democracies.
These systems typically elect political representatives, either individuals or through political parties, to direct the affairs of the government on behalf of citizens. Political representation has made significant progress in the past 20 years, with the inclusion and representation of a greater diversity of political formations, candidates and identities than at any previous stage in history. The election of women, youth and persons with disabilities into political positions has greatly improved, although this progress remains uneven and further efforts to enhance choices on the ballot paper remain necessary.
As part of its support to democratic and credible electoral processes, EISA supports the strengthening of institutions and individuals whose participation in electoral processes strengthens and broadens the scope and quality of choices available to the voter.
This support includes:
Across the African continent, EISA continues to support the following program areas in every country where it operates:
While there has been progress in the participation of women in all aspects of political life since adoption of the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa in 2004, women’s participation in many African states remains skewed in favour of male political representation at all levels of government and within political parties. This is despite the existence of 50-50 quotas and targets at both African Union and sub-regional levels within Africa.
Whilst quotas offer a useful measurement tool for progress towards gender equality, the discussion of political representation that results often reduces a set of complex societal and structural problems to a case of number counting.
Often, the barriers and impediments to full political participation of women begins at the local level, with societal norms, customs and stigmas limiting the full participation of women in the political life of their community. For example, during campaigning, which is often most effective after work hours to allow campaigning candidates to meet with their constituents, women face gender specific barriers as they are stigmatised for being “outside of the home” until late hours of the evening, when similar judgements are not applied to male candidates.
EISA continues to support political parties and legislatures to be more mindful of gender-specific barriers to the participation of women through its work on gender-inclusive policies and structures within political parties, and gender-supportive legislation for female candidates and contestants at all levels of the electoral process.
Africa has the youngest population globally. However, some of the world’s oldest – and longest running – leaders are found on the continent. The result of increasingly young national populations who are unable to identify with government leaders and feel unheard and unrepresented within the democratic system are left feeling apathetic about political participation.
EISA works with political parties and civil society groups to include young people in decision-making processes, creating a more knowledgeable and empowered future generation of democratic citizens and leaders.
Democratic governance is not only about credible elections and accountable representatives. The ongoing, proactive participation of citizens in the decisions that affect their well-being is a crucial component of a healthy democratic state. Organised civil society, in the form of non-governmental and civil society organisations can play a key role in supporting state efforts to improve the livelihoods of its citizens, highlight state areas of neglect and hold the state accountable to its constitutional and legal obligations.
EISA supports the work of civil society organisations across the continent to:
- Conduct citizen observation;
- Conduct parallel voter tabulation;
- Motivate and engage states on electoral reforms;
- Carry out civic and voter education;
- Conduct research into electoral and democratic issues;
- Share lessons and experiences with other like-minded stakeholders.