"Success without democracy is improbable;
democracy without women is impossible."
- Former U.S. Secretary of State and
National Democratic Institute Chairman, Madeleine Albright
When women are active in politics, communities prosper: women bring new perspectives, raise issues that others overlook and listen to those that others ignore. Their full and equal political participation in democratic processes — such as elections — brings real benefits to their countries. Yet despite the significant gains women have made in recent years, they still face significant and stubborn barriers to their participation in the political arena, including violence targeting them specifically during electoral cycles. Violence against women in elections is not only a grave threat to women who choose to raise their voices or exercise their civic rights. It also has a chilling effect on the potential of women at large and is a dangerous challenge to democracy itself.
Election monitoring, whether by citizen observation groups or international observers, can assess the quality of women’s participation throughout an election cycle, and identify barriers to their ability to participate and exercise their political rights as citizens — including violence.
Citizen observer groups can play a key role in first identifying violence against women in elections, and then monitoring and mitigating it. With gender-sensitive assessment tools and training on how to identify and record VAW-E, citizen election monitors can raise awareness of the issue, and have the potential to produce much needed data on the phenomenon. Violence against women in elections has historically been underreported and hidden, but observers have an opportunity to bring it to light.
The Votes Without Violence methodology, developed by the National Democratic Institute and its Gender, Women and Democracy team, serves as a guide to monitoring electoral violence through gender-aware citizen observation. It is designed to help nonpartisan citizen election observer groups assess and mitigate the impact of violence against women throughout an election cycle — a first step to stop that violence for good.