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DIPD supports gender equality inside Nepal’s political parties

Nepali Congress Party, the largest party in Nepal’s Parliament, has initiated a campaign for endorsing women friendly Constitution during the upcoming 13th General Convention of the Party to be held in March 2016. DIPD has started to support this initiative in collaboration with UN Women.

By DIPD Team in Nepal

Background

The Women Cell of the Party has been leading the campaign for gender equality inside the party since November last year, aiming to influence the proceedings during the upcoming General Convention – the supreme decisive body of the Party. A small group of women leaders as well as a few progressive male leaders formulated strategies to pass the necessary amendments in the party’s Constitution to make the party’s Constitution gender equal during the Party’s General Convention.

As the Convention neared this year, the Nepali Congress party requested DIPD to provide technical support relating to the constitutional amendments. Immediately, DIPD supported in conducting gender audit of the Party’s Constitution. The findings of the gender audit were shared with the members of the Women Cell which conducted further activities on this agenda.

High-Level Workshop in Kathmandu

Member of JOMPOPS Steering Commitee from Nepali Congress, Chitra Lekha Yadav with chair of the workshop, Meena Pandey and spokes person from Nepali Congress, Dilendra Badhu.

Member of JOMPOPS Steering Commitee from Nepali Congress, Chitra Lekha Yadav with chair of the workshop, Meena Pandey and spokes person from Nepali Congress, Dilendra Badhu.

On 27 November 2015, the Women Cell of the Party conducted a meeting to share the findings of the gender audit of the party’s Constitution as well as to discuss the way forward to ensure the success of the overall campaign. The Deputy Head of UNWomen shared international experiences on the campaigns for gender equality in political processes. DIPD Representative highlighted the necessity of gender equal party structures for overall empowerment of women.

As the way forward, the participants of the meeting agreed to conduct meetings at local level to share the gender audit report as well as to collect feedback for the reforms on the party’s Constitution from local level.

Local Level Meetings

As agreed in the central level consultation, the Nepali Congress party conducted meetings in the five regions covering most of Nepal’s districts. These interactions were also used to sensitize local level members on gender issues as well as on the importance of gender equal party structures.

Over 400 Nepali Congress grass roots members (ward, village/municipality, districts) attending these meetings have been sensitized on gender issues. Moreover, grass roots members of the Nepali Congress also got an opportunity to present their views on the gender audit report as well as on the necessary constitutional reforms inside the party.

This campaign has so far been successful in establishing women’s issue as one of the central issues for the National Convention as well as in strengthening voices for reforms to ensure more gender friendly party structures.

Way Forward

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Former Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba committed to advocate for reforms inside the party to make it gender equal.

The campaigners have submitted a memorandum comprising of recommendations from central and regional interactions to the Constitution Amendment Committee of the Party. Soon, the Committee will forward these demands for necessary reforms to the Central Committee and General Convention of the Party for further discussion and its final endorsement.

The Women Cell has already endorsed a plan for second round of activities at local level under its strategy to lobby National Convention representatives to ensure passing of the forwarded recommendations during the Convention.

The main recommendations that came out of central and regional interactions are as follows:

  • Revise the Constitution of the Party to ensure representation rights of women including other marginalized social groups at least in line with the new Constitution of Nepal.
  • Introduce a special provision for women to get active membership at grass roots by reducing the number of years of involvement in the party as the general member vis-à-vis men.
  • State disciplinary provisions (code of conduct) for the Party leaders and members to ensure women friendly environment in the Party structures and functioning.
  • Ensure a provision that gives women a share of their demand in budget formulation and operation following the GESI principles.
  • Ensure that the Party implements adequate capacity building initiatives for empowering women at local level, in order to increase their entrance in the Party politics through grass roots.
  • Ensure at least 33% representation of women in all structures of the Party at village, constituency area, district, region and national level through explicit provision in the Constitution. However, mechanisms to ensure equal participation of women (50:50 shares) at the entry level at grass roots would promote women in the party to get 33% share.
  • Ensure provision of women’s proportional participation in the decision-making positions of the party structures.
  • Include provisions that ensure women’s share in the roles, duties and functions based in the principles of Gender Equality and Social Inclusion.
  • Ensure by provision that at least 33% women are nominated or elected in the state positions including in the Parliament.
  • Ensure that at least 33% women be nominated or elected in the chief positions of the state, such as, President, Vice-President, Prime Minister, Chief Justice, Speaker and Vice-Speaker of the House of Representatives.
  • Mention provision that explicitly favors the rights to proportionately inclusive representation (by population) for different social groups within women, recognizing the caste/ethnic, regional, religious, disability and minorities variations.
  • State provision that ensures effective implementation of all the provisions concerning women’s inclusion included in the Constitution of the Party.
  • Void or reform provisions that block the system of mobility by giving opportunities to one or few persons from women and marginalized communities in the name of inclusion.
  • Mention that women of physically and mentally disabled community are specially treated by provision in terms of their participation.
  • State provisions that the Party will launch cultural campaign to mass sensitize cadres at grassroots on women’s concerns and discriminations against them.
  • Introduce a provision in the party’s Constitution to ensure that perpetrators of violence against women are barred from securing party’s membership and if the existing members commit such acts then put a provision to cancel their membership immediately.

 

For more information contact DIPD Representative Shrishti Rana: shrishti@dipd.org.np or project coordinator Susanne Adelhardt Jensen: suad@dipd.dk

Nepal still in dire straits

During the recent visit to Nepal of DIPD Director Bjørn Førde and Project Coordinator Susanne Adelhardt, they were given an overview of recent political developments:

 

 

After repeated lapse of self-set deadlines, Nepal’s constituent assembly finally promulgated a new constitution on 20 September 2015. While many Nepalese citizens welcomed the new statute, it was heavily criticized for failing to protect the rights of women and marginalized communities. The constitution was drafted on the basis of agreements by four major political parties: Nepali Congress, CPN (Unified Marxist Leninist), UCPN-Maoist, and Madhesi People’s Right Forum-Democratic (which are also members of Joint Mechanism for Political Party Strengthening).

Many historical monuments were destroyed under the earthquake in 2015.

Life continues in the capital city following the distruction by the earthquake in 2015.

Polarization over Federalism

While many aspects of the new constitution were popularly deemed to be flawed, including the clause that ensured that Nepali citizenship could be based only on patrilineage, something that caused a great deal of outrage was the proposed framework of federalism. Federalism has been one of the most hotly contested issues in Nepali politics in the past couple of years, and one of the major reasons why the constitution was not promulgated much earlier was the inability of political parties to agree on the best way to demarcate provincial boundaries. The current constitution proposes eight provinces, “five on the criteria of identity and four of capability”, but a major marginalized community in Nepal, Madhesis (people from the southern plains) believe that the proposal of the federal states fails to address the historic marginalization of the Madhesi community and does not ensure inclusive representation.

Agitations in Tarai

Many Madhesis took to the streets in various cities and towns across the nation to express their discontent over the failure of the government to protect their rights in the aftermath of the promulgation of the constitution in September, and three months later, the protests continue. The state, however, has reportedly relied on repressive apparatuses to suppress protests and over fifty people have died with many more injured during demonstrations. An October report by Human Rights Watch states that there is “compelling evidence of criminal attacks on defenseless police by protesters, and abundant evidence in several cases of serious crimes by police against protesters and bystanders, including disproportionate use of force and extrajudicial killings. In addition to the deaths, hundreds of people have been injured, some of them grievously.”

India’s involvement

Nepal relies very heavily on imports from India, and one of the strategies that Madhesi protesters have used to try to get their voice heard by the government is to block the flow of goods at key customs ports along the border with India.
This has led to a scarcity of consumables including fuel and medicines throughout the country including the capital city. While the Indian government has continued to deny the fact that it has imposed a blockade, it is clear that the Indian government has been intentional in constricting flow of goods to Nepal in solidarity with Madhesh.

With the government unwilling to make compromises to address Madhesi grievances and talks between protesters and ruling parties being largely fruitless, there appears to be a real danger of the protests turning violent. Scarcity caused by the blockade has led to lives of people across the nation to be negatively impacted, and if a solution to the crisis is not sought soon, the coming months are likely to be bleak for Nepalese citizens.

Meanwhile, victims of devastating Gorkha Earthquake continue to suffer in makeshift shelters of hills and mountains as political squabbles continue unabated in Kathmandu Valley. Even after nearly eight months of tremors, the government hasn’t been able to provide any succour to the people in need of food, clothing and shelter.

Prognosis for the political-economy in the near-term doesn’t appear to be very encouraging as nepal enters 2016 tired fromt he trials of the previous year. The best hope for now is that a political solution to the constitutional imboglio will soon be found and normalcy will return in the life of the people.

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Monuments and buildings destroyed by the earthquake in 2015.

For more information contact DIPD Representative Shrishti Rana: shrishti@dipd.org.np or Project coordinator Susanne Adelhardt Jensen: suad@dipd.dk

Charting a New Course: Political Parties in Transition

In the aftermath of the November elections, political parties in Myanmar face a new reality. The composition of the incoming Parliament represents a dramatic shift from the previous one. The size of the electoral victory provides the newly elected government with considerable legitimacy and opportunity to make important changes. Those parties that performed poorly will need to reconsider their meaning and role in the new dispensation.

Sharing lessons from the elections

To support a dialogue whereby parties can reflect on their role in the recently concluded elections, DIPD convened a forum in Yangon on 17-18 December for political parties to share the lessons they learned during the campaigns and elections. At this forum, 57 leaders from 38 parties reflected on how they performed and also on their relations with the Union Election Commission, the media, election observers, and women and youth constituencies.

One of the surprises of the elections was the limited number of seats won by ethnic parties. Outside of two states, Shan and Rakhine, ethnic parties did not win a significant number of seats. During the dialogue, ethnic parties discussed reasons for why they won fewer seats than expected, including lack of effective alliances across ethnic parties, unequal access to resources, campaign strategies, youth participation, and public demand for broad political change among the voters. “To be successful parties in the future, you should reflect on the reality of your parties’ situation and learn lessons from the previous election”, noted Salai Isaac Khen, Executive Director of Gender and Development Institute, in his comments to the party leaders during his presentation assessing the performance of ethnic parties.

Panel discussion on the role of the media

Panel discussion on the role of the media

The role of the media

Parties also discussed the importance of their relationship with other stakeholders during the campaign and electoral process. Of particular interest to parties was the role of the media. Many parties expressed concern over perceived media bias and why their parties received so little coverage relative to the two largest parties. Parties recommended regular interaction with media houses and increasing party access to television and radio during the campaign period to create a more conducive environment in future campaigns.

Improvements for future elections

Through their discussion, parties were able to identify a number of areas that might improve party performance in future elections. Parties identified the development of more compelling policy messages as one avenue to attract voters. To provide more equal access to campaign finance, parties identified both public funding and more effective party fundraising drives as potential sources to fund their campaigns. Finally, parties recognized the need for extensive negotiation and compromise to build effective pre-electoral alliances, in a context where party leaders were reluctant to compromise.

Group discussion of future communication stratgies of CSOs and political parties

Group discussion of future communication stratgies of CSOs and political parties

In the post-election period, DIPD will continue to work with parties on developing proposals for electoral reform, holding dialogue on issues of common interest, and supporting the development of parties as effective representatives of the people in a democratic system. The recommendations from the inter-party dialogue will help provide a baseline for this support, and will also feed into other ongoing dialogue and reform processes.

“I gained some useful insights to improve party sustainability and future campaign processes from this seminar, and I will propose the ideas discussed to our party”, remarked Daw Zar Chi Lin of the Union Solidarity and Development Party.

For More information

Khin Thazin Myint, Myanmar Country Coordinator, +95 9 421 009 560 (ktzm@dipd.dk) or

Hanne Lund Madsen, Senior Adviser, +45 38402802 (hlm@dipd.dk)

Read more about DIPD’s partnerships in Myanmar here or at the MMDP website.

Read more about DIPD’s work in Myanmar, where we are part of the EU supported STEP Democracy Programme.

Political Parties Active in Ending Violence Against Women In Nepal

On 9 January 2015, the Joint Mechanism for Political Party Strengthening (JOMPOPS) that is comprised of the six major political parties in Nepal hosted a seminar in Kathmandu as part of their ongoing campaign on ending violence against women, which was launched in March 2014.

New important legislation in Nepal

As part of their campaign, JOMPOPS members have been taking several initiatives within their respective parties, while they have also been collaborating with each other for ending violence against women in Nepal. JOMPOPS members in the Parliament also took initiatives to pass the necessary legislations relating to ending violence against women. As a result of their efforts combined with other committed parliamentarians, Nepal’s parliament recently passed two important legislations: the Anti-Witchcraft Act 2072 and the Sexual Harassment in Workplace Act 2071.

JOMPOPS members felt that political parties at local level should be aware of the laws so that they could support their effective implementation at local level. JOMPOPS members also decided to link the program with the Federation of Women´s Entrepreneurship so that victims of violence against women are aware about economic opportunities available for them along with legal remedies. Accordingly, workshops to disseminate the laws were organised in five regions covering all the districts. The participants at local level also talked about challenges on the ground and provided recommendations to the central level leaders. The seminar in Kathmandu was conducted to share the findings of the regional level discussions as well as to discuss the laws for the central level leaders.

IMG_6547Seminar: Working towards ending violence against women

The seminar was opened by JOMPOPS Co-Chair Khimlal Devkota, who explained the background of the JOMPOPS campaign on violence against women, as well as about the five regional level events specifically on the laws. He also highlighted that men should be involved in solving issues related to ending violence against women because it affects their respective daughters, wives or mothers.

In her welcome remarks, former minister of Education, Chitra Lekha Yadav, stressed the importance of linking violence against women to the question of inequality and the fact that inequality grows from the household level. She emphasized the need to look at the root causes of violence and for politicians to carry forward this important agenda.

Project Coordinator at DIPD in Denmark, Susanne Adelhardt, praised JOMPOPS members for their hard work on the ending violence against women campaign and the important results in terms of improved legislation. She also stressed that statistics on women experiencing violence is often misleading, as women fear to report the cases of violence and are often not met with the respect, understanding and protection they need when they report cases of violence. Adelhardt continued explaining how violence takes place at many levels and that attention must be given to creating safer cities as violence in the public is growing. She linked this to the tragic incidents on New Year’s Eve in several German cities, where many women were sexually assaulted when they had gone to public squares to celebrate, thereby sharing that the problem of violence against women is global and its solution needs a global cooperation.

IMG_6657Local level challenges with violence against women

Asta Laxmi Shakya then shared findings from the five regional workshops organised by JOMPOPS in relation to violence against women. She stressed the importance of JOMPOPS regarding the bills endorsed in Parliament in relation to witchcraft and sexual violence and not least in relation to the new constitution. However, she also clearly stressed that the important thing is really changing people’s mindset. She still found Nepal to be dominated by patriarchal norms and practices. Khimlal Devkota presented the main highlights of the recently passed legislations. According to the law, if some accuses a woman of witchcraft then they would be punished and they have to also pay the compensation.

In partnership working to end violence against women

JOMPOPS plans to collaborate with other relevant partners such as civil society organizations and government institutions on their campaign on violence against women and these had been invited to the seminar to talk on their experiences with the recently passed laws.

The representative of Nepal’s Police, Mingmar Lama, pointed out that the main obstacle preventing them from taking effective action against the perpetrators of violence against women is the lack of funding for this area. The President of Federation of Women’s Entrepreneurship then highlighted that female politicians should be more engaged in entrepreneurship so that they do not have to rely on the male members of the family to do politics.

Finally, the program concluded with commitment from the representatives of JOMPOPS as well as other partners to continue working on ending violence against women.

DIPD assessment shows increasing participation of women in politics, but many challenges remain

Following the recent parliamentary elections and the landslide victory for the National League for Democracy, women now hold 13 percent of seats in the Myanmar national and state/regional parliaments. Female politicians are optimistic that women’s issues will receive increased attention with the increasing prominence of women in public life.

Representation of women in parliament and in political parties in Myanmar remains some of the lowest in the developing world. From 2011-2015, women held only 4.6 percent of seats in the parliament, and the representation of women in the most important decision-making positions is even lower at sub-national level than it is at national level. In the recent elections, 151 out of 798 women candidates were elected across the parliaments, accounting for 13 percent of all elected seats. Despite more elected women in parliament, many challenges still stand in the way of equal representation and gender equality in the political life.

“The very low rate of Myanmar’s women participation in parliament compared to the international results showed that women need more participation and empowerment, because equality is directly related to equal representation”, commented Daw Khin Ma Ma Myo, who is the lead researcher for the DIPD’s assessment on participation of women in elections.

Sharing experiences in Group discussions

Sharing experiences in Group discussions

To share the preliminary findings of the issue of participation of women in the recent election and generate feedback from participants in the campaign and election process, DIPD held a two-day roundtable discussion in Naypyitaw from Dec 11-12. Nearly 40 female leaders from 19 political parties, including incumbent female MPs, newly elected female MPs, female party leaders, and campaigners both from the national and ethnic parties gathered to discuss women’s engagement in the political process.

At the meeting, women discussed and shared their experiences and challenges of their participation in the 2015 campaigns and elections, the legislative process, the peace process, and in party leadership. Although women participated actively as candidates and campaign volunteers, most women candidates and party activists expressed very limited awareness of gender issues and the policies of their parties to address the key policy concerns of women.

DIPD is committed to support efforts of women party leaders to use networking and mentoring to enhance women in leadership and gender equality in Myanmar as the country moves forward.

Group Photo of Assessing Women's Participation in the Election Seminar

Group Photo of Assessing Women’s Participation in the Election Seminar

For More information

Khin Thazin Myint, Myanmar Country Coordinator, +95 9 421 009 560 (ktzm@dipd.dk) or

Hanne Lund Madsen, Senior Adviser, +45 38402802 (hlm@dipd.dk)

Read more about DIPD’s partnerships in Myanmar here or at the MMDP website.

Read more about DIPD’s work in Myanmar, where we are part of the EU supported STEP Democracy Programme.