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Inspiring young women at local level

Joint Mechanism for Political Party Strengthening (JOMPOPS) supported an intra-party programme on promoting young women in politics last week in the eastern part of Nepal in Illam district.

Around 66 local members of the Federal Socialist Forum-Nepal party were sensitized on gender issues including on the current constitutional provisions on women. Local women members were also inspired to take up leadership roles in the district.

Following the programme, the local leaders of the party including the district chairperson have signed a public declaration committing to work towards promoting women in leadership roles inside the party in Illam district.

Ongoing JOMPOPS Campaign on Gender Equality

JOMPOPS has been working together to promote gender equality inside political parties since April 2013. In addition to the multiparty initiatives, the platform also supports intra-party activities at local level. These intra-party activities help to meet specific needs of the JOMPOPS member parties; all these parties have different historical backgrounds and organizational structures.

Comparatively, the representation of women is better in older parties like the Nepali Congress and the Unified Marxist Leninist party.  Three JOMPOPS members including the Federal Socialist Forum-Nepal which are ethnic-based regional parties have low inclusion of women. This is also because these parties are based in the Tarai region dominated by the Madhesi-ethnic community which is still largely conservative about women’s role in society.

Inspiring young women

The participants, including eleven male members, were informed about the provisions of the new Constitution; this Constitution has secured many important rights for women such as citizenship through mother, equal property rights for women and men, and increased representation of women in decision-making bodies.

SAM_5052JOMPOPS Steering Committee member Renu Yadav, who is currently the Chair of JOMPOPS, shared her personal story to inspire local women party members to take up leadership roles. Yadav has been elected as parliamentarian twice and also served as the Minister many times. She talked about the challenges she faced during her political career as well as shared her insights on dealing with them. She emphasized that confidence is the key to excel as the political leader.

Young women participants shared their challenges inhibiting them from taking leadership positions. They shared that after listening to Yadav’s story, they realized that such challenges were common and they could overcome them by organizing together.

JOMPOPS Steering Committee member Arjun Thapa talked about skills necessary to succeed in politics, especially to take up leadership roles.  He also pointed out to the local men leaders that it is their duty to train young women politicians. He said that since there are not many women members in leadership positions, men leaders have to take up the responsibility to groom emerging women leaders.

Way Forward

The participants discussed about the plan to increase women in leadership roles inside the party in Illam district. They also requested the JOMPOPS Steering Committee members – senior position holders inside the party — to facilitate support to their local initiatives from the central level.

The participants have agreed that they should focus on increasing female party membership at local level. They have also emphasized on the need to conduct regular training on party policies for women as well as on creating a strong fund-raising mechanism to support women membership.

Malawian party leaders and young Malawians call for youth wings

Report by Kristian Lausten Madsen, Venstres Ungdom, VU (Danish Liberal Youth) and Anja Katrine Søndergaard, Socialistisk Folkepartis Ungdom, SFU (Socialist People’s Party’s Youth).

The democracy of Malawi is just about as old as us: it was born in 1994, and most of the 5 parties in parliament are even younger. When meeting the party members – old as well as young – you sense an eagerness to develop and build capacity, especially when it comes to involving the Malawian youth in party politics in a meaningful way.

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Kristian Lausten Madsen, Danish Liberal Youth, with members of Malawi’s youth wings.

The Danish Socialist People’s Party & the Liberal Party only agree on few things, but the fact that youth wings are valuable and meaningful is one of them. Now the two parties have joined forces in a partnership with the Malawian Centre for Multiparty Democracy, together with their respective youth wings. The focus of the partnership is on youth and the involvement of young people in Malawian politics in a constructive way.

The Malawian political parties at a pre-appraisal seminar unanimously pointed out involvement of youth as the key issue in 2015, where an assessment of needs within the political parties was carried out. Now the project has started in Malawi with a visit by representatives of the Danish Liberal Youth and Socialist People’s Parties Youth.

We took part in bilateral discussions with each of the respective five parties on youth involvement and facilitated two workshops: one with the party leaders and one with the young members of the parties. Among other issues, we introduced young party members to “How to build” and “How to run a youth wing”.

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Anja Katrine Søndergaard, Socialist People’s Party’s Youth, discussing involvement of youth in politics.

Furthermore, we went through the concept of having an organizational structure with local branches including having a general assembly and organizing an annual congress. Finally, we went through the issue of policy development. Here it struck us: Malawian party leaders and party members struggle to identify policies where their party could differ from the rest. Malawian parties are simply more geographically based and dependent on their respective history and powerful party leader. Ideologies and visions are hard to track, and it seems that many Malawians vote according to ethnicity, what their family do or where they come from. In fact, it was stated in the manifesto of the current government party (DPP), that “The DPP believes that we in Malawi will not resolve our economic and social development problems by using borrowed ideas and concepts. We must pull ourselves up by the boot strings” (From chapter 4: Creating New Wealth).

This is the reason we arranged a workshop with the party members in which they were given the task of reflecting on their ideology and political agenda. Additionally we conducted a simulation of a democratic policy development process, where every party member has the possibility of suggesting an amendment to a political position. It was very inspiring to experience, how the young Malawians were discussing and proposing amendments to the policy paper.

DIPD supports political party youth’s contribution to the National Youth Forum

On 11-13 June 2016, 400 youth participants from more than 30 youth groups and networks gathered for the third Myanmar Youth Forum in Monwya. DIPD’s Myanmar Multiparty Democracy Programme sent a strong delegation of political party youth to contribute to the forum.

“Not being assigned to any responsibilities and roles because of the worry that they would make mistakes is deterring youth. They will learn by doing. They will correct the mistakes. When the elders make mistakes, they do not have time to correct them. When youth do, they have time. The history of human development is about correcting and learning from mistakes” said U Ko Ko Gyi, a well-known political activist since the 1988 student uprisings. Hearing those inspiring words, applause soared among the 400 youth participants at the third Myanmar Youth Forum in Monwya from 11th to 13th June. The event was initiated by National Youth Congress and organized by a working group formed by the participation of more than 30 youth groups and youth networks.

Youth from all 14 states and regions were invited to the forum and the DIPD program in Myanmar sent a delegation of political party youth to contribute the forum, including representatives from five parliamentary political parties, namely the National League for Democracy (NLD), the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD), the Ta’arng (Palaung) National Party (TPNP), the Pa-Oh National Organization (PNO) and the National Unity Party (NUP).

Participants in discusisons

Sai Kyaw Thiha, who is a young member on the central executive committee of SNLD, appreciated being invited to observe at the forum: “Holding such a big forum is good. It provided space for youth to discuss and share their feelings and thoughts on important issues. As a member of an ethnic party, I learnt a lot about what youth in central Myanmar think and what their interests are. I am glad to see youth with disabilities, LGBT youth groups and youth from different religious backgrounds. ”

In the forum, five workshops were organized to discuss issues of fundamental importance to youth, including addressing the threat of drugs to youth, youth participation in the peace-making process, promoting human rights and democracy, the role of youth in environmental conservation, and the national youth policy. The participating youth identified underlying problems for each specific issue and youth participation in politics is one of the interesting topics for youth in political parties. They agreed that they should be given a role to participate in 21st-entury Panglong Conference, which is one of the important events in the peace making process, and promoted cross-political cooperation through issue-specific youth networks, such as a nation-wide network of youth peacemakers. Each workshop developed a follow-up plan such as regular meetings, campaigns, awareness raising trainings and advocacy workshops.

Myanmar to adopt a national youth policy

Myanmar plans to adopt a national youth policy in 2016. In 2012 and 2014, the first and second Youth Forums were held and here the participating youth started calling for the adoption of a national youth policy. This year, their prayers were heard. The policy formulation will be led by the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, and the Director of the Department of Social Welfare explained the process and timeline on the second day of the Forum. According to his presentation, the policy formulation process will be completed in October 2016 and the forum participants are supposed to nominate representative from the respective states and regions to participate in policy drafting committees.

The opening day of Myanmar Youth Forum

Building strong networks

The forum was also a great opportunity for party youth participants to network with youth from different parts of the country, hear youth voices and take updates and knowledge of the national youth policy to their parties.

Khun Soe Maung of PNO shared his reflections: “Attending the forum allowed me to see that we need a good youth policy in the party. And I would suggest that more party representatives should be allowed to participate.”

MMDP will continue to support youth in political parties and believe that supporting political party youth to participate in the national youth policy-making process will improve the inclusiveness of the policy.

Participation of youth with disablities in the forum

More information

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

Contact DIPD’s Myanmar Country Coordinator, Khin Thazin Myint: ktzm@dipd.dk

Contact Senior Advisor at DIPD, Hanne Lund Madsen: hlm@dipd.dk

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