UNIFEM’s Gender Equality in Political Governance Programme in the Pacific – Moving Forward

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November 19, 2008

UNIFEM’s Gender Equality in Political Governance Programme in the Pacific – Moving Forward

Within two months after setting up office, the United Nations Development Fund for Women’s (UNIFEM) Gender Equality in Political Governance Programme (GEPG) in the Pacific has already started making waves. UNIFEM’s GEPG Programme is a 5 year initiative co-funded by AusAID under its Pacific Leadership Programme (PLP).

The programme will contribute to advancing gender equality in political governance in the Pacific region at both national and local levels with the main purpose of increasing the participation of women as active citizens and leaders. Housed at UNIFEM Pacific Regional Office in Suva, Fiji, the GEPG team has since September, 2008 been able to win the support of key stakeholders from around the region including parliamentary bodies, Non Governmental Organisations representatives, electoral bodies and women’s departments of pacific island countries that UNIFEM supports.

While the whole GEPG team has yet to come on board, Regional Programme Manager Rita Taphorn and Research, Monitoring & Evaluations Officer, Dr Priya Chattier have already made progress, working with respective stakeholders and raising the profile of GEPG. GEPG was launched at the “Sub-Regional workshop on Special Measures for Women” held in Port Moresby, PNG in September 2008.

The workshop was a fitting occasion for the launch of GEPG as it brought together reputable and highly skilled experts in the area of electoral reform and women’s participation in political processes who worked on illustrating best practices and models on use of special measures for women to suit the Pacific Islands’ various electoral systems. It aimed to raise awareness on special measures such as reserved seats and quotas with the goal of addressing the issue of increasing women’s representation in parliaments in support to pacific countries’ commitments to eliminate discrimination against women and increase women’s representation in national parliaments.

The GEPG Programme manager facilitated the Gender-based Election Cycle Workshop hosted by Fiji Elections Office in October and acted as resource expert regarding electoral systems and quotas. Participants at the two-day workshop came from the elections office, former parliamentarians, political parties NGOs as well as from the office of the Supervisor of Elections. UNIFEM- GEPG Programme Manager introduced GEPG programme at the “Asia Pacific Campaign School for Women Workshop” in Cairns, Australia last month. The five day training program was organized by Australian Labour Party for women political party campaigners, candidates and legislators from Asia and the Pacific. It focused on the campaigns required to get women elected to office.

The “2008 Conference of the Pacific Parliamentary Assembly on Population and Development” and “Forum Presiding Officers and Clerks Conference” in Honiara, Solomon Islands this month saw the placing of gender issues on national parliamentary agendas. The conferences aimed to discuss population and development issues as well as the importance of independence of the legislature in promoting good governance and sustainable human development.

GEPG received positive feedbacks from parliamentary representatives for its commitment to support parliaments to adopt policies that lead to increased women’s participation and representation in legislative bodies. As a follow up to the sub-regional workshop on “Special Measures for Women” held in Port Moresby, PNG, a workshop was held in Solomon Islands in support for developing a national agenda to achieve increased women’s political participation. The workshop discussed technical aspects of temporary special measures in the context of the Solomon Islands political framework.

A national task force was formed, a time-line for action agreed, and it was agreed to work on a strategy to present to parliament for discussion in the future. Last week, the GEPG research framework was presented and discussed at Pacific Leadership Programme Research Committee Meeting in Nadi, Fiji with prominent academics and researchers from the region. The framework was well received and applauded for its detail and ambition in capturing people’s perception to women’s political participation and leadership skills and assessing how barriers of women’s political participation can be overcome.

This week GEPG jointly began a two week “Train the Trainers” BRIDGE workshop along with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community and the University of the South Pacific. The 20 participants from the region represent various sectors such as women’s groups, NGOs and various government ministries. BRIDGE (Building Resources in Democracy, Governance and Elections) is the most comprehensive professional development course available in election administration. It improves the skills, knowledge, and confidence both of election professionals and of others in the electoral process, such as members of the media, political parties and parliamentarians, and electoral observers and civil society organizations.

The workshop will help stakeholders from participating countries engage in training relevant national audiences including women’s groups, government and electoral officials to increase national capacity of key players supporting women’s political participation.

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