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Fostering issue based political dialogue in Kenya

Kenya will have its general elections in August 2017, where the people of Kenya from the country and in the diaspora will vote to decide the next political leaders for 5 years. This is presented as a once in a lifetime opportunity for a project that will foster issue based political dialogue in the country towards the elections, and build the capacity of political parties and civil society organizations to collaborate to improve the policies created and implemented to be more inclusive of the people.

African Students for Liberty Kenya was invited by Liberal Alliance Denmark to represent the interest of the young Kenyans in the project that aims to generally improve the political environment in Kenya to be one based on issues, and not its usual tribal based politics.

Kenya has a devolved system of governance where the country is divided into 47 counties. However, the project did not have the capacity to host forums in all the 47 counties and therefore chose 7 select counties for the project. These counties list as the busiest in the country and are as follows:

  • Nairobi
  • Mombasa
  • Kisumu
  • Eldoret
  • Nakuru
  • Machakos
  • Kiambu

The project was divided into two phases in which the first phase was reserved for laying the structure for the project by selecting civil society organizations and political parties to work with and further to invite them for capacity building sessions to introduce the project and its objective for their consideration and support. To get a sense of non state actors, the project selected civil society organizations to work with which advocate for:

  • Professionals
  • Women
  • Youth
  • Business

ASFL Kenya invited CSOs to the capacity building forums in the seven counties. ASFL Kenya also made presentations about the organization, which is an International Non-Profit Organization with presence in all inhabited continents, that educates, develops and empowers the next generation of leaders of liberty and its model of operation which is to identify future leaders, train them online on the ideas of liberty and on graduation who then set up students groups for liberty on campus, host libertarian events and mentor other future leaders with support from the organization. ASFL Kenya also presented an overview of the project including the project objectives.

The second phase was reserved for capacity building sessions of the youth in Kenya from the select counties by hosting campus forums targeting young people to discuss about issue based political dialogue, good governance, rule of law and an open discussion forum for participants about underlying issues in Kenya affecting young people. ASFL Kenya selected universities within the seven counties to host the “Campus Caravan on Issue Based Dialogue” forums.

Students around the country were very eager to receive us, and were grateful for the opportunities to discuss their opinion on the current situation in Kenya and more specifically in their counties and further to discuss youth involvement in leadership in leadership and politics in Kenya. The youth from all the counties agreed that there was dire need for creation of better policies by political leaders and also inclusion of young people in politics and governance.

ASFL Kenya was able to reach out to over 700 young people from the seven counties who agreed to take the challenge of empowering their friends and members of their society and educate them about their rights, the issues at hand and the importance of improving the political environment in Kenya.

In 2007/2008 Kenya experienced the most violent post election violence ever witnessed in the country where in select areas people fought due to the results of the said elections, violence being between supporters of the then government and the opposition party. Thousands of Kenyans were displaced from their homes, hundreds killed, many women raped, houses torched and many more injured and scarred for life. The youth in Kenya have vouched to denounce such violence, which was perpetrated by young people, and also have denounced the act of being used by politicians for their own selfish interest of promoting violence.

Out of the participants of the various forums, the project has selected 30 youth ambassadors from the seven counties who shall be trained on a two day training session set to be hosted in Nairobi, Kenya where they shall learn from the partners of the project and a delegation of the Liberal Alliance Youth on various issues that will in turn build their capacity in creating a youth agenda which they shall then advocate for during the political debates to be hosted by Kenya Association of Manufacturers on behalf of the project in the select counties. The aspirants for the position of governor in the select counties shall debate on various issues, and be questioned by the select civil society organizations and youth ambassadors on various issues which will in turn assist the people of Kenya to decide who shall be their representative based on the policies they shall promise to implement if elected into office. African Students for Liberty is grateful for this once in a lifetime opportunity to make an impact that will go a long way in improving the political environment in Kenya, to connect with the political leaders in Kenya and to gain momentum in sharing the ideas of liberty.

Positive Results on Empowering Women in Politics at Local Level

In the run-up to the local elections in Nepal, DIPD has supported training of potential female candidates. The training has been implemented by the Election Commission of Nepal (ECN) in partnership with the Joint Mechanism for Political Party Strengthening (JOMPOPS). Many of these women succeeded in being selected as candidates and some of them got elected to office in the recent first-phase of the local elections.

As the elections results are starting to come in, a number of women trained by DIPD have reportedly won various elected positions at the local level. Many of these women attribute their success to the training, as this was the only training they received prior to the elections, equipping them with necessary knowledge on contesting the elections successfully.

DIPD talked to one such elected, female official – Kalpana Tiwari from the Nepali Congress party in Syanja district. Tiwari has been elected as the deputy mayor of the Warling municipality and is also the chairperson of the District Women’s Wing of the Nepali Congress Party.  When asked about the key factors for her success in the local elections, Tiwari refers to a combination of her continued commitment to politics and the training she received with support from DIPD:

“I would say my continuous involvement in politics and in public service for around 25 years got me elected. People trusted me to take responsibilities because they have seen me work with dedication for all these years. So, the key to success for these elections is my commitment to the public service. “

Tiwari goes on by explaining how the training, she received, helped her in the recent elections:

“I have attended several other trainings in the past. But they were not election-related trainings. We got the training from ECN/DIPD at the most crucial time during the elections, learning about the necessary legislations of the local elections. That is very helpful.”

Kalpana Tiwari, newly elected deputy mayor of the Warling municipality

Need for further training

As the job for newly elected politicians only begins with a successful election, Tiwari highlights that, by having an increase in female candidates elected to office, a need for further training arises:

“I would say that DIPD should support newly elected women. Many of us don’t know what our actual role and responsibilities are. Therefore, DIPD should support such programmes now. “

As for fulfilling her own new role as deputy mayor, Tiwari’s priority is clear:

“My main priority is to establish a just society. It’s not just about women – I want justice for men too. But since many women have faced many types of injustices, my priority would be to change that… One of my immediate priorities would be to ensure that no woman is a victim of gender-based violence in my municipality. The deputy mayor serves  also as the chair of the legal committee in a municipality. That would give me an opportunity to work on this priority. “

Be fearless and win the world

After being elected in the first-phase local elections, Tiwari has one piece of advice for female candidates running in the second-phase of the elections, which also holds for women in general:

“Women should be fearless. If they fear then the battle is lost. If they are fearless then they can win the world. Due to various socio-cultural factors, women are generally made fearful. They should overcome that.”

Full results of the first-phase of the local elections have yet to come out. As the ECN is occupied with the election process, information about the total number of participants, who got selected as the candidates as well as who have won the local elections, is not fully available. Nevertheless, the reports in the newspapers have indicated that many of the participants of the training have been selected as candidates and a few of them was elected to office.

(See Tawari’s story covered in Nagarik http://www.nagariknews.com/news/20302/ and http://www.myrepublica.com/news/20433/)

More information

Visit our country page to read more about DIPD’s work in Nepal.
Contact DIPD Country Coordinator in Nepal, Shristi Rana: shrishti@dipd.org.np

Policy Advocacy and Budget Monitoring in Myanmar

The Myanmar Multiparty Democracy Programme (MMDP) conducted a two days capacity building session on “Policy Advocacy and Budget Monitoring’ for the political party youth in Kachin State on 3-4 May. The event supported political party youth to understand how to advocate on Myanmar’s National Youth Policy, raising awareness on budget processes at regional and state level including how to monitor it make the budget process more responsive to youth demands. Youth representatives from the National Youth Policy drafting committee also briefed the participants on the current process of making the Myanmar National Youth Policy. The event was held from 3rd to 4th May 2017 at Myitkyina, Kachin State.

A total of 43 youth from 14 political parties attended with 36 percent of the participants being young women. U Zaw Win, member of parliament form the Kachin State Parliament and the Chairperson of Public Finance and Accounts Committee shared the process of how state budget allocations work and the political party youth had a chance to asked questions and reports on their local issues. Local partners Naushawng Development Institute (NDI) and Kachin State Youth Network (KSYN) facilitated a discussion among the participants on their role in budget advocacy.

According to U Zaw Win, Budget monitoring is everyone’s responsibility. The member of national youth policy drafting committee and the youth coordinator of DIPD shared the process of National Youth Policy and the local youth policy timelines and drafting process. “Who will be effectives from National Youth Policy and is it only for one Ethnic group? asked by Maran Bran Shawng from Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). That is the main concern from ethnic group on adopting process of Myanmar National Youth Policy. They have a chance to be raising their feedback on consultation process of youth policy in coming June to July.

The trainer Pyae Phyo Aung from the Way partner of DIPD explained the meaning of advocacy and tools for political party youth with good examples, the process and type of advocacy. The female participant, Taung Alay Mie from Lisu National Development Party said” The training is really effective because we got a lot of advocacy tools, knowledge and information.

The DIPD will continue to support political party youth to increase their meaningful participation concerns in the Myanmar Youth Policy process and in the budget monitoring. This support will contribute to enhancing the abilities of parties to ensure that youth policies and government budgets reflect the concerns of their youth constituents throughout the country.

Reporting on Peace and Conflict in Kachin

Is there press freedom under the new government? Are the media and political parties able to channel the voices of citizens living in conflict situations? These questions are very crucial for the media and parties wrestling with such challenges in Myanmar today.

To understand these questions, and to promote dialogue between parties and the media on these issues, DIPD and the Myanmar Press Council (MPC), jointly organized a dialogue on “Reporting on Peace and Conflict: Enhancing People’s Voice and Accountability” in Myitkyina, Kachin State, one of Myanmar’s conflict-affected regions, from 30 April-1 May. During the course of the two days, representatives of the MPC shared information on press freedom, the media law, and the role of media in reporting on conflict. The group of media and parties identified the challenges and discussed possible solutions to generate more effective and people-centered reporting on the peace process and ongoing conflicts.  As U Thiha Saw of the MPC explained, “The media has to raise the public’s voice to increase accountability.”

During a panel discussion on the second day panel discussion, Lamai Gum Ja, a member of the Peace Talk Creation Group, U La Seng Aung, Senior Research and Lecturer of Naushawng Development Institute, U Kyaw Swa Min, co-secretary of Myanmar Press Council and Maran Seng Mai, the Chief Editor of Myitkyina News Journal held an open discussion on accountability in reporting on peace process and ongoing conflict situations. The participants raised questions on the Kachin peace process to the panelists and discussed their view on the talks of panelists.

Media in Kachin State highlighted that the regional government has seldom communicate with media in one year of their term. So Media and parties discussed the way to strengthen relationship between media and regional government in this workshop.

A total of 47 persons from 13 political parties and media groups participated in the event. In response to the issues discussed, participants committed to provide more publicity for the voices of members of the public affected by conflict. The participants also resolved to hold more regular dialogues on issues affecting different communities in Kachin State in order to promote public discussion of priority demands of the public.

Local Elections in Nepal

The first-phase of the local elections in Nepal took place on 14 May 2017, with enthusiastic voter turnout of around 71 per cent. These elections are considered as an important step towards implementing the newly drafted Constitution of Nepal; the new Constitution stipulates all three elections namely local, provincial and national need to be held within February 2018.

Around 300 women politicians in the seven provinces were trained to contest the local elections by the Election Commission of Nepal in partnership with the Joint Mechanism for Political Party Strengthening (JOMPOPS) and with technical support from the Danish Institute for Parties and Democracy and the UNWomen. Many of them were able to secure nomination as candidates in the elections and have contested the recent elections.

Context

After the restoration of democracy in 1990, Nepal held local elections for the first time in 1992. Once its five-year term got over, the second local elections took place in 1997. However, the next elections could not be held as due in 2002 as a result of the ongoing protracted “People’s War” started by the Maoist party in 1996.

In effect, there has been a vacuum of elected representatives at the local level since 2002. The civil servants had to carry the burden of the responsibilities of the elected representatives. The delivery of public services at the local level was also understandably affected. People at the grass-roots could not experience democracy directly.

In the new Constitution, local elections as mentioned above were stipulated to be held within February 2018. Therefore, local elections are an important part of implementing the new Constitution of Nepal. There were many challenges to holding these elections. The notable one being insistence from the Madhesi-based parties to address their demands for the constitutional amendments before they agree to go for the elections. This was challenging because the second largest party in the Parliament was opposed to the proposal and without its support it was difficult to get a two-third majority required to pass the constitutional amendments as demanded by the Madhesi-based parties.

When the effort to pass the constitutional amendments did not seem likely to get the required votes in the Parliament, the government decided to hold the elections in the two-phases. The first-phase covering provinces 3, 4 and 6 were scheduled for 14 May 2017 and the second-phase covering provinces 1, 2, 5, and 7 are scheduled to be held on 14 June 2017.

On 14 May 2017, the first-phase of the elections have been successfully held, participated by all the major political parties of Nepal. Voters also turned up in large numbers, surpassing the turn-out in the last national elections.

DIPD’s Contribution to the Elections

When the draft of the local election bill stipulated 40 per cent women’s reservation at the local level, political parties felt that they do not have enough women willing to contest elections. Participation of women in politics in Nepal is generally low. Male dominated leadership structures and a lack of gender friendly practices inside political parties of Nepal deter many women from joining politics. Women who join politics are perceived negatively in most places in Nepal which equally discourage women. Hence, it was difficult for political parties in Nepal to find enough women willing to contest elections.

In this context, the platform of Joint Mechanism for Political Party Strengthening (DIPD’s partner in Nepal) conceived of a local level orientation programme for women essentially to inspire them to contest local elections and also provide them with necessary technical knowledge related to standing in the elections.

JOMPOPS chose a different modality of implementation for this orientation programme. Instead of implementing directly, it decided to request the Election Commission of Nepal (ECN) to implement the programme. The ECN is the constitutionally mandated body to implement such programmes. Equally importantly, ECN has fully functioning local offices in all the 75 districts of Nepal which meant that the local level orientation programmes could be smoothly implemented in all the 75 districts.

Once the ECN agreed to the request, JOMPOPS requested DIPD to provide technical assistance to the planned orientation programme. Following the request from JOMPOPS, DIPD secured the partnership from other relevant international organizations namely the Governance Facility and UNWomen on the project and moved ahead with contributing technical support to the potential women candidates for the elections.

Multi-Party Training for Women at the Local Level

As the first-phase of this programme, the Election Commission of Nepal conducted an Orientation Programme for its district election staff in Kathmandu in January 2017. The main objective of this programme was to sensitize the ECN staff on gender and also to provide them with the necessary training skills so that they are willing and competent to implement training programmes for women at the local level.

Around 30 ECN staff participated in this Orientation Programme with 21 from seven districts representing the seven provinces. In addition to attending sessions on gender and facilitation skills, the district level ECN staff also formulated action plans for the local level training with inputs from the Gender Coordinators of the JOMPOPS platform.

In the run up to the elections, the district election staff trained in Kathmandu implemented multi-party training for women at the local level in the seven districts (Panchthar, Bara, Nuwakot, Palpa, Syangja, Kalikot, and Bajhang) representing all the seven provinces of Nepal. Around 300 potential women candidates were oriented on various crucial information about the local elections such as the local level structure (the legislative and executive branches of the rural  municipality and municipality, and the functions of district assembly and district coordination committee), roles and responsibilities of the elected officials who will be exercise 22 powers at the local level unlike the mandate exercised by previous local bodies, how to file a candidacy;  the training not only provided them with necessary understanding but also all the necessary reference materials that could be used to further enhance their understanding.

What was most remarkable about the programme was that women turned up investing their own money on the logistics costs such as transportation. Equally remarkably, the majority of training participants were from remote villages, not just from the district headquarters, and many of them had to travel long distance, by bus or foot, to reach the training venue. In many cases, the participants had to juggle with their house work and political party work in order to be away for the training for nearly two days. Despite these challenges, local women politicians came for the training and committed themselves to both the days because, as they shared, this was the first training that offered them knowledge about contesting in the upcoming local elections. No such training had been earlier conducted either by the Election Commission or any international or national organization in all the seven districts.

The following conclusions can be made drawing from the evaluation forms, direct interviews with the participants as well as comments from the participants during the training sessions: 1) Most of the  nearly 300 local women trainees felt inspired to contest the upcoming local elections, even to stake their claims over important leadership positions at the local level 2) Almost all of the participants – most of whom were at least a member of the district committee – did not have any knowledge about the crucial information related to the local elections 3) Nearly 300 women got trained to file their candidacy in the local elections and felt confident about tackling all the necessary technical processes related to the local elections.

Currently, the counting of the votes is going on and the preparation for the second-phase elections have started. The Prime Minister of the current government representing the third largest party in Parliament has already announced his plans for resignation to make a way for the new government. This has been part of the agreement among the major political parties before the new elections. Once the new government comes into power, the main challenge would be to conduct the next-phase of the elections with broader participation of all the political forces in the country. DIPD will continue to support multiparty dialogue and promotion of women in politics through JOMPOPS in this given political context.