FACT N°5 – Women face limited representation and participation in decision-making spaces

FACT N°5 – Women face limited representation and participation in decision-making spaces
Paper author: 
Aurore Mathieu
Paper publication date: 
Thursday 30 July 2020

From the study: West African women facing COVID

FACT N°5 – Women face limited representation and participation in decision-making spaces

Whether at the community or national level, women do not seem to take part in the decision making spaces about crisis management even though they are at the front line in the operational management of the crisis, as health workers, mothers, or household leaders. Response committees are mainly composed of men and the domestic tasks of women have increased, leaving them no time to get involved in the crisis’ management bodies. Women still have an influence within the household, where in some cases they jointly take decisions about the management of the available resources for the household, but their representation and participation are weak within the official bodies set up for the management of the crisis. As an example, in Senegal, out of the 30 members of the force COVID-19 response committee, only 5 are women.

Caught up in their domestic role, providing education for children and the urge to find alternative income, women’s voices are not being heard and they do not succeed in taking part in the crisis’ management spaces. This means that the response to the COVID-19 crisis could not take into account their specific needs. Once again, women’s participation in the crisis is limited to an implementing role. Moreover, the recurring use of online meetings, in order to respect the physical distancing measures are discriminating against women who do not always know how to use technologies or do not own the needed equipment or do not have the financial means to get it.

Women's participation in peace and security initiatives in the region is also limited. Movement restrictions and the ban of public gatherings, as well as the redirecting of funds towards the pandemic response mechanisms, created additional obstacles for the implementation of social cohesion and peacebuilding activities by civil society organizations. As a result, the Women Peace and Security Agenda implementation is running late.

Naomie Ouedraogo Bicaba is fighting for peace in Burkina Faso, through the Faith Women Network for Peace (REFFOP). According to her, there will be no sustainable peace without the inclusion of women into the national dialogue: “We have to put women at the heart of peacebuilding because they can bring a lot as mothers, daughters, sisters”.


In order to make sure that women can be represented and take part in the decision making spaces about crisis management, various steps could be implemented by local authorities, civil society organizations, and regional governments. First of all, a quota could be put in place when selecting members of the decision-making bodies, or, when they are already in place, women should be included in existing bodies. It is however necessary to keep in mind that quota is not a solution in the long-term to change the patriarchal way of working of institutions and that would require rethinking the decision making spaces and processes as a whole. Second, the decentralization of the COVID-19 crisis decision making bodies, if not already happening, could ease the participation of women, which is always more important at the community level. If the decision making bodies are already decentralized, it is important to make sure women are taking part in it. Women organizations should be automatically listened to before making any decisions and they should be financially and technically supported. Women need to be trained on digital tools to make sure they can benefit from new ways of working (online meetings). Finally, the Peace and Security Agenda in West Africa needs to be more dynamic, through the funding of the peace and social cohesion initiatives of the qualified organizations.

FACT N°6 – Women and girls face a lack of access to information (READ MORE)

FACT N°7 – Women and girls face the burden of social norms (READ MORE)

FACT N°1 – Women face disruption to their economic activities (READ MORE)

FACT N°2 – Women and girls face limited access to social services (READ MORE)

FACT N°3 – Women and girls face an increase in their vulnerability and gender-based violence (READ MORE)

FACT N°4 – Women and girls face the food crisis (READ MORE)

Introduction to the study "West African women facing COVID"