Women for Election is a not-for-profit, non-partisan organisation whose vision is of an Ireland with balanced participation of women and men in political life. Our mission is to inspire and equip women to succeed in politics.
Women for Election offers a tailored training and support programmes to women seeking to enter public life; and provides and facilitates a cross-party network of political women, committed to gender equality in Irish political representation. We believe that a diversity of voices in our politics will lead to more robust decisions, and help create a fairer, more inclusive and dynamic society.
Stemming from Women for Europe, an organisation established to provide a platform for women’s voices during the 2009 Lisbon treaty referendum, Women for Election is the response to demand we met, across Ireland, for an organisation wholly focused on providing practical supports for women entering politics.
Evidence shows that to bring about real change a combination of hard measures (quotas) and additional supports, such as training programmes and women’s political networks, is required. Women for Election provides a number of programmes designed specifically to empower women and to help them overcome challenges the may face when considering a career in politics.
Through our tailored programmes we aim to:
- INSPIRE women to consider a career in politics
- EQUIP women with the tools and techniques necessary to successfully get elected
- INFORM women of the benefits of becoming more politically active
Our programmes provide high quality political training focused on supporting women to win. Delivered by a variety of experts our programmes cover all aspects of political campaigns, including building committed campaign teams, effective planning and administration, fundraising and budgeting, message development, presentation skills and managing the media.
THE FIGURES TELL THE STORY
Since the foundation of the State in 1918, just 114 women have been elected in the Republic of Ireland; our Dáil has never been less than 78% male.
The General Election in February 2016 was an important step towards achieving gender equality in Dáil Éireann. 35 women were elected as Members of the 32nd Dáil, an all- time high, 1 in 5 TDs is now a woman. This is a significant increase on the results of the 2011 General Election when just 25 women were elected to the 31st Dáil. Now, with women making up 22% of the 32nd Dáil Ireland ranks 75th in the world, which is both a cause for celebration and a reminder that we still have work to do.
Between 1977 and 1992 the percentage of female TDs increased by 8% from 4.1% to 12%, but this progress has since stagnated: only 5 more women were elected in 2011 than in 1992.
At local level the story is similar: women make up 16% of elected representatives, an increase of just 1% in ten years, despite comprising about one third of the membership of the main political parties. At this glacial pace of change it will be 2250 before we can claim balanced political representation. Internationally Ireland fares poorly, ranking 78th of 190 countries in the Inter Parliamentary Union’s world classification table of women in parliaments.
Ireland is failing to tap into its greatest resource: its people. While accounting for 52% of the population, women make u
p just 16% of elected representatives. Their skills and experience remain on the outside as the country’s future is decided. This is despite universal acknowledgement that balanced participation by women and men in political decision-making leads to more truly representative and effective democracies; and better and more inclusive societies.
RESEARCH CLASSIFIES THE REASONS FOR WOMEN’S UNDER-REPRESENTATION AS THE ‘5 CS’:
- Confidence: women are less likely to go forward for selection
- Cash: women have less access to financial resources than men
- Candidate selection: how political parties select candidates is often hard to navigate for outsiders
- Culture: political culture tends to be dominated by men including within political parties
- Childcare: women are more likely to have this primary responsibility
2009 research by the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI), found that women candidates had very negative experiences, and over 80% of those surveyed claimed that to overcome this, a critical mass of women in politics is imperative.
OUR UNIQUE ROLE
Women for Election is the only non-political organisation that works solely on identifying and supporting women committed to public life. There is no other organisation offering the holistic package of support for candidates that we propose. Parties have commissioned training for women on an ad-hoc basis in the past, without significant long-term impact. Organisations, including the 50:50 group, lobby parties for increased female representation. The NWCI, the representative body for 160 women’s groups across Ireland, promotes women’s rights and women’s equality and focuses on a number of key policy areas. Women for Election supports but does not duplicate the work of these groups. US based organisations providing similar training and support for candidates, including the White House Project and EMILY’s List, are supportive of our venture and committed to share their expertise and experience with us.