„And when you look a little closer, women are invisible!” – a campaign to strengthen the women’s political participation in BiH

Although the Election Law of Bosnia and Herzegovina requires that a minimum 40% of underrepresented gender must be on electoral lists, the reality is that on average only 20% of women participate in BiH parliaments/assemblies. Gender gap in decision-making is even more gaping in the executive power structures, where women participation is almost negligible, even though they constitute more than half of BiH population.

There is a number of obstacles that women in BiH political life encounter on their path to equal participation, both as defined by the relevant laws of Bosnia and Herzegovina and by the simple principle of parity. The factors that affect the political participation of women range from the prevailing stereotypes and prejudices against women in public and political life, the weak commitment of political parties to provide adequate opportunities and affirmative support to female candidates that would enable their equal position in political life, to a series of structural reasons such as the burden of caring for children and the elderly, and unpaid work.

The proportion of women who turn out to vote is the same as men, according to the data from the 2018 General Election, when women made up 50.1% of voters, but they made up only 27.41% of all the elected representatives. Even though they constitute half of all the voters, women continue to be overlooked as equally worthy of attention and opportunities for legislative and executive roles within governments.

The plan for implementing measures under the 2021-2025 EU Gender Action Plan at the BiH level stipulates as one of its specific thematic goals, to be achieved through activities and dialogue, the creation of conditions for equal participation of women, men, girls and boys, in all their diversity, in decision-making processes. Without the participation of women and the female perspective in political life, we will not be able to reach the social development that takes into account different starting positions of women and girls compared to boys and men, and equal outcomes for both in the areas of education, employment and work, health, sports and culture. Also, without the equal participation of women and the female perspective in political life, we cannot expect adequate solutions to issues such as prevention and holistic response to gender-based violence, gender wage gap, period poverty, access to sexual and reproductive rights and services, and all other social issues that disproportionately affect girls and women, limit their opportunities in public and private life.

Through the campaign “And when you look a little closer, women are invisible”, we invite the citizens, when voting in the General Election, to take into account all the factors that contribute to the still low level of political participation of women, to reconsider any of their own prejudices, help overcome all current structural obstacles that impede women’s equality in politics through their reasonable support to female candidates in the General Election on 02 October 2022.

Campaign “And when you look a little closer, women are invisible” is implemented by the Sarajevo Open Center in cooperation with Communis, with the support of the European Union in Bosnia and Herzegovina.