Women are still underrepresented in all areas of decision-making in Guinea-Bissau

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15 April 2015 – Bissau-Guinean women are still facing many obstacles to achieve gender equality in Guinea-Bissau. Despite being more than half of the population, and although after last elections there was a slight increase of the number of women elected in the Parliament -14 over 102-, women continue to be underrepresented in decision-making processes.

This situation may change if the law to impose a quota of 40 percent of women in decision-making bodies - contained in the recent Canchungo Declaration, - is approved by the National Assembly. The current Government is made up of 60 Ministries. Of those five are led by women. Out of the 15 Secretaries of State,one is woman.

The United Nations system has been giving technical and financial support to the Government, the National Assembly and women's organizations in drafting legislative packages that protect women.

"Over the last four years, the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS), has been working to empower women's organizations, build their capacity, deepen their knowledge of human rights/gender issues in order for them to face future challenges" said UNIOGBIS Gender Officer, Caterina Gomes Veigas.

In the Defense and Security sector, gender equality is far from being a reality. There is little female representation in key positions in the army or in the higher rankings. For example in the Police there are only four women colonels and in the armed forces there are just two colonels.

Justice Melisiana Rodrigues Diasso, from the Bissau Regional Military Court explains: "The issue of equality between men and women has a lot to do with the socio-cultural aspects of our society. In our society it is not easy to accept that women can occupy decision-making positions, for example in the different cultures of our country, you will never see a woman régulo (traditional regional leader). In decision-making positions you will always find men”.

Bilony Nhama Nhasse, Minister for Women, Family and Social Cohesion has set the implementation of gender equality policy and the empowerment of women for the next five years, as one of the priorities of her Ministry: "We want to raise the status of women, by promoting training for women's organizations, because only with training women may be able to occupy decision-making positions", she said.

The absence of a legal framework that protects women's participation in political, economic and social life contributes greatly to the inequality between men and women, even though in recent years there has been some improvement in the status of women and development of laws in their favor.

For the full story, listen to last week’s UNIOGBIS weekly radio programme available on the website.