Much attention has gone into increasing the number of women elected to office at the national level and numbers are slowly rising. Yet in local government, percentages of women remain dismally low, although statistics are hard to track. When they do participate, it is often the women who are connected to the political sphere or the elite that emerge victorious.
To give grass-roots women – largely without money, education or political connections through family or marriage – greater access and opportunities to enter politics or have a political say, two new Fund for Gender Equality  grantees in Georgia and Nigeria are implementing programmes to give these women a voice in governance.
“The potentially powerful voices of grass-roots women as a pressure group for women’s agendas are completely unharnessed in both local and national political processes,” says Alla Gamakharia, chairperson of the Cultural-Humanitarian Fund “Sukhumi” in Georgia. She believes that women’s local-level voice and agency in politics and governance is even more important than national-level engagement, because the local level is the frontline of public-service-delivery and the space where an immediate and direct impact on women’s lives is made.
Ngozi Iwere, Executive Director of the Community Life Project (CLP) in Nigeria agrees that access to these services sets the foundation for life-changing futures: access to water will free up girls’ time to allow more years of education, which will impact health and income potential. “Giving women a voice is therefore the first building block to attacking the big-picture issues of poverty, gender violence, and social vulnerability,” she says.