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Karina Pultz has joined DIPD

Karina Pultz joined DIPD in October 2011. Her responsibilities include website editing, research and arranging conferences and seminars. She will assist on DIPD projects in Egypt, Myanmar and Nepal and support the political parties with their projects in Palestine, Bolivia and Honduras.

Before joining DIPD she was research assistant at the Danish Institute for International Studies, where she made research into Danish public diplomacy and partnership programmes in the Middle East.

She holds a MSc in Political Science from the University of Copenhagen, where she specialized thematically in democratization and relations between religion and politics and geographically in the Middle East. Furthermore she holds a Bachelor in Science of Religion and Middle Eastern Studies.

Observing Democracy in Action: Report from a Visit by an Egyptian Delegation to the Danish Elections 15 September 2011

11 representatives from political parties, civil society and media were invited to Denmark to observe and learn from the Danish Parliamentary election on 15 September 2011. This report describes the purpose of the visit and introduces the participations from Egypt and their expectations. It summarises the experiences that the participations had and what lessons they have learned observing the Danish democracy in action.

Download the report (PDF 2,2 MB) Read more

DIPD Releases Egyptian Delegation Report

Read about the experiences of the Egyptian politicians and civil society actors during their stay in Denmark during the parliamentary elections in September of 2011. In this report the participants in the delegation reflect on how the Danish experience can be translated into and made useful in an Egyptian context. How they can use the methods of their Danish political colleagues in an Egyptian electoral campaign and their daily political work.

The delegation members participated in a seminar on Danish democracy and parliamentary politics; they were hosted by Local Communities, observing the election process at the local level. Before returning to Egypt they had a two-day closing seminar, discussing the most noteworthy lessons learned. The report is an attempt to bring together an overview of what took place during a very hectic week.

The major purpose of the delegation was to share the Danish model with our Egyptian colleagues; to provide them with an opportunity to observe the election process at the level of the ordinary citizen; and then offering the Egyptian delegates space to reflect on their experiences and discuss among themselves what they can benefit from in their own process of democratizing Egyptian society.

The delegation is part of the larger project entitled “Towards a dynamic and participatory political party environment”, which supports capacity development of political parties in Egypt. The delegation was undertaken in close cooperation with the Danish-Egyptian Dialogue Institute (DEDI), and it was only made possible through the active participation of the Danish political parties.

Women in Politics: The Elephant of Patriarchy

The need to go beyond formal political rights and address patriarchal attitudes took centre stage when civil society actors and researchers from Egypt, Tunisia and Zimbabwe gathered in Copenhagen to discuss how to strengthen women’s political participation.

“We need to address the elephant of patriarchy”, Rumbidzai Kandawasvika-Nhundu from International IDEA stressed as a response to how to support the voice of women in political decision-making.

While 95 percent of the world’s countries have granted women the right to vote and stand for election, the perception of women as vulnerable and without the stamina for politics is still widespread and thus excluding women from political life.

The need to go beyond formal political rights and target cultural barriers to the political participation of women resonated well with discussions among the 50 participants who participated in the conference arranged by Africa Contact, Gendernet and the Danish Institute for Human Rights with the support of DIPD and KVINFO.

Family or Politics

In Zimbabwe, women are expected to take care of children and family. This position is often exploited to silence the demand for democracy in the country, Lovemore Madhuku, chairperson of the National Constitutional Assembly, explained.

Lovemore Madhuku

Lovemore Madhuku addressing political violence against women in Zimbabwe. Photo by Africa Contact/Donatella Calabro

Women taking part in the struggle for democracy have become a key target for the political motivated violence that has characterized the political landscape in recent years. They face sexual violence and other physical abuse simply as their role as family caretakers make them extremely vulnerable vis-à-vis men. In the words of Madhuku: “If you target the woman, you target the family”

Political violence targeting women is thus both a tool to defend the position of the regime as well as a “weapon to defend a male dominated political scene”, Madhuku explained. A tactic, which often forces the woman to make a choice: family or politics?

Egypt – Democracy without Women?

Egypt  is presently undertaking its first democratic parliamentary elections since Hosni Mubarak, President of more than 30 years, was toppled in February. There is, however, still a lot to be desired in terms of the inclusion of women, Marwa Sharafeldin, co-founder of Network for Women’s Rights Organizations in Egypt and the Young Arab Feminist Network, argued.

Marwa Sharafeldin

Marwa Sharafeldin speaking on the case of Egypt. Photo by Africa Contact/Donatella Calabro

As in the case of Zimbabwe, women in Egypt are expected to take care of children and family. Cultural norms which over time have become intertwined with religion. People who wish to preserve a male dominated political scene thus often refer to religious concepts as basis for their position, Sharafeldin explained: “people say: ‘this is religious. You can’t argue against it because it is from God’”.

Sharafeldin pointed to the current elections as an example of how women continue to be excluded from politics. While the political parties abide by a recent law requiring them to include at least one woman on their party list, both religious and liberal parties have shown reluctance to place women at the top of their lists thus limiting their chances of election.

Sharafeldin urged for a distinction between cultural norms and religious concepts and called for a need to reclaim religion used by some “as an alibi to escape dialogue and escape being criticized”, thus opening up discussions on how to address the cultural norms still excluding women.

Change the Mindsets

Women are vulnerable, in need of male guardianship and unsuited for political life. Perceptions such as these continue to pose a major barrier for the recognition of women’s participation as an integral part of democracy, the participants agreed.

There is therefore a need for actors who wish to support the political participation of women to go beyond formal political rights and address the question of culture.

As Kandawasvika-Nhundu argued at the end of discussions:“an essential element for creating an enabling environment for women’s political participation is changing the mindsets – we are not short of conventions and agreements”.

Democracy workshop for Danish Political Parties Launched

The active involvement of Danish political parties is an important part of DIPD’s work. In November, the parties met at Christiansborg, home to the Danish Parliament, to discuss how best to support political parties and multiparty systems abroad. Read more