International conference: Options for women's political participation.



International conference: Options for women's political participation.

Thursday, December 8, 2011 - 08:15




At the beginning of the 21st century, over 95 per cent of the world’s countries have granted women the two most fundamental democratic rights: the right to vote and the right to stand for election. However, universal suffrage has not guaranteed equal access to, or participation in political and decision-making processes.

Alongside these developments, a large number of countries are undergoing various processes of transition, including countries in Sub-Saharan and North Africa. New futures are being defined while internal processes of political, governmental and system change are taking place. During these processes of unrest and turmoil, women tend to be left out of the political and democratic space, where future governance structures are negotiated. Their participation is often hindered in multiple ways. Obstacles include discriminatory legislation, restrictive patriarchal attitudes towards female participation in governance issues, and political violence.

This conference will focus on the challenges related to developing an enabling and democratic political culture for women in such transitional periods.

Leading civil society activists from Zimbabwe and Tunisia will present case studies and engage in discussions with international practitioners and researchers on barriers to women's political participation and inclusion in democratic processes.

The conference will be a platform for the development of recommendations and action points for civil society, donors, governments and the international community.

The purpose of the conference is to:

Identify challenges facing women, such as politically motivated violence and exclusion from decision-making processes.

Discus best practices of how to develop an enabling political culture and strategies for mobilising women to seek influence.

Give recommendations to donors, civil society and human rights activists.

The outcome of the conference will be:

A conference brief with recommendation for how civil society and policy makers in Denmark and internationally can address political violence against women.

Establishment of a working group to further the agenda.

Speakers include:

Bjørn Førde (main facilitator): Director of the Danish Institute for Parties and Democracy. He is a former Director of the UNDP Oslo Governance Centre, Representative of UNDP in Botswana and member of the Board of Danida. He is educated as a political scientist from the University of Copenhagen, and from 1975 to 2002 he held various positions with the Danish NGO Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke, including that of Secretary General 1995-2002. He has also published more than 25 books on a broad variety of development issues, mostly for educational purposes, but also fiction for children and youth.

Rumbidzai A. Kandawasvika-Nhundu: Senior Programme Manager, Global Programme (Democracy and Gender) at International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), is a multi-disciplinary gender and development practitioner with several years of hands-on professional experience on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment initiatives at national, regional and international levels. She has among other functions participated in the SADC region Gender Experts Reference Group for the “Gender in Southern African Politics” research. Competent in the area of knowledge transfer and training on gender mainstreaming in institutions including Parliaments, democracy and governance processes and systems, management of electoral processes from a gender perspective and Additional Empowerment Strategies design and facilitation for women in politics. She joined International IDEA in 2008.

Lovemore Madhuku: Chairperson of the grass-roots movement National Constitutional Assembly (NCA). He has a long history in the struggle for a democratic constitution in Zimbabwe. With strong roots in the labour and democracy movement, he was one of the founding members of the NCA in 1997. In spite of numerous violent, legal and verbal attacks from the authoritarian regime, he has fearlessly pursued his vision of a democratic Zimbabwe and has never diverted from the NCA’s vision of a genuinely people driven constitution. Topic: Political violence against women during elections in Zimbabwe

Munjodzi Mutandiri: Coordinator of the NCA’s International Office in Johannesburg. He has been active in human rights and political issues in Zimbabwe for more than a decade. He is the driving force behind NCA’s international campaign “ACT NOW against political violence, torture and rape” and has been involved in research on mining, development and politics. With a history in the Zimbabwean student movement Zimbabwe National Students Union and Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network he plays an important role in civic and political activism for democracy in Zimbabwe.

Lylia Ben Hamida: Co-founder, member of the board of directors as treasurer, and project manager for a number of projects with TAAMS, a Tunisian Community Development Organisation focusing on social and financial development. Lylia has a background in international business and banking studies, and is engaged in a broad spectre of TAAMS work, including, internally, the development of TAAMS business plan and its financial reporting, and, in its development work, in community needs assessments, micro-credit schemes and now TAAMS citizenship and women’s rights awareness program, with the immediate aim of mobilising women to vote.

Marwa Sharafeldin: Marwa is currently reading for the degree of PhD in Law in the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies. She researches Egyptian NGOs’ efforts to reform the Muslim family law using both Islamic law and international human rights law at one and the same time. Marwa looks into the process of interaction and re-interpretation that takes place when these two bodies of law come into contact in NGOs’ work. Before and during her time in Oxford, Marwa has been the co-founder of several individual NGOs in Egypt, as well as the Network for Women’s Rights Organizations in Egypt and the Young Arab Feminist Network. She also works with the international Musawah movement for Muslim family law reform, and is active on issues related to women and gender in the Middle East.

Soulef Guessoum: Regional Project Manager, Parliaments and Crisis Prevention, BCPR-BDP-Project, Regional Centre in Cairo, UNDP

Piyoo Kochar: Project Manager at International Knowledge Network of Women in Politics, iKNOW Politics, an interactive network of women in politics from around the world who share experiences, access resources and advisory services, and network and collaborate on issues of interest.Piyoo Kochar has profound experiences working on communication for development using emerging technologies to develop programs with focus on women's issues, young people, public health - specializing in developing programs and implementation.

Martin Rosenkilde Pedersen: International Advisor at DanChurchAid, a large Danish NGO that aims to strengthen the world’s poorest people in their struggle for a life in dignity. Martin advises a range of programme countries on Good Governance and Democracy and has extensive knowledge of working with civil society organisations, the shrinking political space dilemma, as well as position and participation in development processes at global and national levels. Martin is actively engaged in the aid effectiveness debate for DanChurchAid and its international network, the ACT Alliance (Action of Churches Together).