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Burkina elections: Judge my competence not my gender, says female candidate Sereme
Campaigning is wrapping up for Burkina Faso’s landmark presidential and legislative elections - these are the first polls since the ousting of former strongman Blaise Compaore, who ruled the country for 27 years. Two women feature on the list of 14 presidential candidates in a country where rights groups say women are frequently considered as second-class citizens.
“The best choice isn’t guided by sexism, or by regionalism, ethnicity or religion, but simply by recognising competence,” said female candidate Saran Sereme during a campaign rally in Ouagadougou on Thursday evening.
Sereme, head of the Party for Development and Change (PDC), has been involved in Burkina’s political scene since 1983 and was a previously a member of Compaore’s ruling Congress for Democracy and Progress party.
Attendance at her rally in Ouagadougou demonstrated that she is not a frontrunner in Sunday’s presidential race. The municipal stadium was at best only a quarter full, in contrast to the Union for Progress and Change party rally at same venue the day before, which attracted many more potential voters.
However, her candidacy could be seen as recognition of the importance of women’s rights and the push for equality. Burkina Faso suffers from a “nationwide crisis”, according to Amnesty International. In a July report, Amnesty said the country must urgently tackle forced and early marriages, unwanted pregnancy and lack of sex education, which all together affects women’s equality in Burkinbé society.
Sereme took a stand against Compaore’s attempt to modify the constitution during the October 2014 uprising which led to his ousting. She notably led a march of women brandishing spatulas.
Women at the rally in Ouagadougou on Thursday said they had chosen to support Sereme because she understands the challenges Burkinabe women face. “She knows how women suffer here in Burkina,” PDC supporter Aicha Ouedraogo told RFI. “She knows the pains women go through. We support her.”
Some 50 per cent of Burkina’s 17 million people are women, according to 2014 statistics cited by the World Bank. But despite the protection of gender equality under Burkinabe law, some men in Ouagadougou still say “the woman must walk behind the man”. It remains to be seen if Sereme’s efforts ahead of 29 November polls will help bring to the fore the fight for equality.