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On April 7, 2011, Mahamadou Issoufou of the Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism (Parti Nigérien pour la Démocratie et le Socialisme – PNDS) began his presidential term in office after having defeated 10 other candidates for the position. This is Niger’s third transition from military to civilian rule since 1993. However, according to the National Democratic Institute, “Niger’s nascent institutions face a number of challenges that could undermine the consolidation of recent democratic gains.”i Niger is ranked as one of the poorest nations in the world despite its large revenue from natural resources such as mining and uranium production.

In the legislative elections, Issoufou’s party won a majority of the seats (34) while the opposition party saw a drop in their number of seats due to an election boycott. The ex-prime minister’s party, Nigerien Democratic Movement for an African Federation (MODEN/FA Lumana, won 23 seats. The European Union mission declared the election, despite some technical problems, relatively free and fair.ii

Niger is ranked 88th for women in parliament with 13.3% of seats held by women, electing 8 women in 2011iii Despite this low number, the highlight of this year’s election was the campaign of Niger’s first female presidential candidate, Mrs Bayard Mariama Gamatié, winning .38% of the vote in January. While this may seem like a poor result compared to female candidates in other countries in West Africa, given the status of women in Niger and a history of politics dominated by men, her campaign made great strides. When asked about her intent to run for president despite all odds, Mrs Gamatié’s response was determined: “You have to love your country, be a democrat, possess a political vision and, above all, be driven by the desire to succeed.”iv Mrs Gamatié also happens to be the founder of the Democratic Assembly of Nigerien Women (RDFN) and former minister under the Fourth Republic.


Niger has a long way to go in the promotion of women’s empowerment. Family law still dictates legal matters perpetuating discrimination and often violence against women in the public and private sphere. Women make up more than 52% of the population in Niger which has a population of 14 million. Yet they are poorly represented in the state legislature. Women in Niger face many obstacles such as sociocultural barriers, high illiteracy rates, discrimination within parties, forced and early marriage and poverty.v

 

Women’s Political Participation Recent Statistics

Political Representation

Number as of 2010

Number Elected in 2011

Legislative

N/A

8

Presidential Candidates

0

1

Total percentage (%) of women in government

N/A

13.3%

Total Percentage (%) of candidate lists headed by a female candidate

0

1

 

vibid.

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