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Posts from the ‘Nepal’ Category

International Women’s Day in Bhutan – The fight for gender equality transcends international borders

The struggle for gender equality in Denmark dates back more than a century; in other parts of the world the fight has just begun, but what remains common across the globe is that gender equality is an urgent issue worth fighting for. The transcending character of International Women’s Day is apparent in Thimpu, Bhutan, where DIPD is co-hosting a regional conference on how to improve female representation in politics.

 

Firm determination for change

International Women’s Day symbolizes what has been achieved in regards to gender equality across the globe. And there is much to celebrate. But the 8th of March is also an opportunity to discuss what is yet to be accomplished.

This is exactly what is happening today in Thimpu, where politicians from Myanmar, Nepal and Bhutan are gathered at the 2nd National Conference on Women in Governance, Leadership and Politics, co-organized by the Danish Institute for Parties and Democracy (DIPD). And the goal is crystal clear: the political parties express firm determination to bring more women to the forefront of politics to be given political opportunities and to take political responsibility.

As Dorji Choden, Minister of Works and Human Settlement in Bhutan, says:

“Women can no longer stand at the sideline – CSOs, Government, political parties and private companies must work together to bring positive change.”

The commitment to deliver on gender equality and bring change is reinforced by Bhutan’s Prime Minister, Tshering Tobgay:

“When you die, what happens? We believe in rebirth. Would you like to be reborn as a women or as a man? In this light we all better ensure that gender equality prevails,” says the Prime Minister.

 

The parliament of Bhutan, where only 7 percent of MP’s are women. But there is a strong will in the country for this to change.

The Danish experience

Also attending the conference in Bhutan is former Danish MP Gitte Seeberg, ready to share experiences from the Danish struggle for gender equality:

“The development has been ambiguous in Denmark, where we for example have seen a parliament without women in important councils, and where women still are underrepresented in the business world and have lower salaries than men.”

Although the fight for equality is still underway in Denmark, Gitte Seeberg believes that the experiences from Denmark can contribute to the democratic development of one of the world’s youngest democracies, Bhutan:

“It has taken Danish women 100 years to get to where we are today. It is absolutely necessary that we help women in Bhutan in  gaining the tools to move faster than we have done.”

And much suggests that Bhutan’s political development will move at a much faster pace than in Denmark. Democracy was not introduced in Bhutan until 2008. Since then the positive development of democracy has been confirmed with free parliamentary elections in 2013 and local elections in 2016.

Yeshey Choden from the People’s Democratic Party of Bhutan is encouraged by the latest elections, but there is still a long way to go – only 7 % of the elected MPs are female.

“We hope that the debate and renewed attention to gender balance on 8th March during the 2nd National Conference on Women in Governance, Leadership and Politics in Bhutan will provide a drive for more fundamental change in the future,” says Yeshey Choden.

DIPD Director Rasmus Helveg Petersen on his way to a meeting together with the leader of the political opposition in Bhutan.

Real change takes place 360 days a year

As important as the 8th of March is in creating awareness of the urgent issue of gender equality, DIPD Director, Rasmus Helveg Petersen, stressed that the day should never stand alone:

“Although it is great to be celebrating the achievements made today, it is important to remember that the real change takes place 360 days of the year.”

 


The conference on women in politics from March 8th – 11th is organized by Bhutan Network for Empowering Women (BNEW) in partnership with DIPD with participation by DIPD Director Rasmus Helveg Petersen and DIPD Senior Adviser Hanne Lund Madsen. Professor Drude Dahlerup and former MP Gitte Seeberg are also attending.

 

More information

Read more about DIPD’s partnership with Bhutan Network for Empowering Women and DIPD’s work in Myanmar and Nepal.

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

 

Women lining up for democracy

In anticipation of the celebration of International Women’s Day on 8th March the political parties, participating in the multiparty dialogue in Thimpu, the capital of Bhutan, expressed firm determination to bring more women to the forefront to take political responsibilities.

Maran Ja Seng Hkawn, MP from Kachin Myanmar (KDSP), is eager to share experiences with colleagues from Myanmar, Bhutan and Nepal and expresses commitment to make more women line up for democracy:

“Today there are many different types of barriers – some changes require firm action from current political party leadership, but other changes are in the hands of women themselves to initiate”.

In  Nepal, a stronger position of women is both due to the prolonged political struggle that has made the crucial role of women visible, the efforts of the women’s movement, the joint and concerted efforts of the multiparty platform JOMPOPS, as well as legislative measures such as quotas.

DIPD director, Rasmus Helveg Petersen, held a key note speech stressing the need for cooperation and not just competition among political parties to bring about changes.

Colleagues from Bhutan are encouraged by the increase of female representation in the last local elections in Bhutan, but the overall result was still too low to ensure gender balance in the governance of Bhutan.

“Many of the agreements made by political parties and related stakeholders in 2014 still await implementation – including mentoring programmes for women candidates and MP’s, gender reviews of party manifestos and an increase in party nomination of women for political positions,” as expressed by Yeshey Choden, Peoples Democratic Party, Bhutan.

Maran Ja Seng Hkawn, MP from Kachin Myanmar (KDSP) and Yeshey Choden, Peoples Democratic Party, from Bhutan in talks with DIPD Senior Adviser Hanne Lund Madsen

“But we hope that the debate and renewed attention to gender balance on 8th March during the 2nd National Conference on Women in Governance, Leadership and Politics in Bhutan will provide a drive for more fundamental change in the future,” says Yeshey Choden.

The multiparty dialogue seminar was organized by Bhutan Democracy Dialogue and Election Commission Bhutan in partnership with DIPD with participation by DIPD Director Rasmus Helveg Petersen and DIPD Senior Adviser Hanne Lund Madsen. Tomorrow at the 8th March celebration Drude Dahlerup and Gitte Seeberg will also share their experiences with Women in Politics.

 

 

 

 

More information

Read more about DIPD’s partnership with Bhutan Network for Empowering Women and DIPD’s work in Myanmar and Nepal.

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

Promoting leadership of women at local level

JOMPOPS has started a new partnership with the Election Commission of Nepal (ECN) to promote leadership of women at local level with technical support from DIPD and the Governance Facility.

On 30 and 31 January 2017, a preparatory orientation programme for the local level training of women political leaders was held in Kathmandu essentially to finalize the content as well as to develop implementation plan for a series of multiparty local level training for women.

Political Context: Local Elections in the Offing

The new Constitution declared in September 2015 stipulates that three new elections viz. national, provincial, and local need to be held by February 2018. Given the long gap in holding of the local elections (the last local elections were held in 1997), political parties have decided to prioritize the local elections first.

In this situation, JOMPOPS felt that empowering women to contest local elections is crucial because the new Constitution guarantees around 40 % representation of women in the elected local level bodies. To achieve this objective, JOMPOPS decided to partner with the Election Commission of Nepal because it is a constitutionally mandated body to ensure representation of women in the elected local bodies as per the provision of the new Constitution.

Empowering Women to Contest Elections

One of the reasons why women political leaders at the local level hesitate to contest the local elections is because they are not fully aware about the technical processes of contesting an election. Most often, they are also not updated about the new legal provisions regarding women’s representation at the local level. Therefore, JOMPOPS designed a training programme for women leaders at the local level that would orient them about the necessary technical processes about contesting an election such as filing of candidacy.

Accordingly, JOMPOPS requested the Election Commission of Nepal to implement multiparty training for women at the local level focusing on those technical processes about the elections. ECN and JOMPOPS also agreed to cover necessary legal information and practical tips for succeeding in the elections from experienced political leaders in the planned training.

To start with, JOMPOPS and ECN agreed to conduct a pilot programme selecting seven districts from the seven federal provinces. The main objectives of the training were outlined as – inspiring women at the local level to contest elections and providing them with key technical/legal knowledge to contest the elections.

Participants with senior politicians and senior ECN officials.

Preparing for the Local Level Programme

In preparation for these local level training, on 30-31 January the ECN organized an orientation programme to finalize the content of the pilot local level training as well as to draw up an implementation plan. Three participants including the district’s top election official, the District Election Officer, as well as Gender Focal Person and one additional person came from each district from the seven provinces.

As the programme covered all the seven provinces, participants reflected rich ethnic diversity of Nepal. Out of these seven districts, two (Bajura and Kalikot) are geographically backward with low ranking in all the indicators of human development. The six participants from these districts had to travel for days before reaching the capital for the programme.

The opening session of the programme was attended by senior politicians and parliamentarians from JOMPOPS parties and high-level officials from the ECN including the Chief Election Commissioner. All the speakers during this session emphasized on the importance of the training for women at the local level particularly in the context of the upcoming local elections.

Former UNIFEM Director Chandni Joshi took a session on gender, explaining the importance of the representation of women at the local level to the participants.  Participants also worked together in groups to finalize the content for the local level training on the election-related issues such as introduction to elections, gender and elections, filing of candidacy, contesting elections, and practical election session.

The entire session plans for all the five election modules were presented the next day in a plenary session; these session plans along with the corresponding presentations had been finalized with inputs from Gender Coordinators from the JOMPOPS parties.  The participants were also trained by a facilitation expert on how to deliver these modules effectively.

On the final day of the two-day programme, the participants finalized the programme for the local level training as well as agreed on the necessary details for its implementation. Given the early possibility of the local elections, participants agreed to conduct the local level programme as early as possible.

According to Navaraj Dhakal, the Joint Secretary of the ECN, tens of thousands of women need to be elected in the local bodies as per the provisions of the new Constitution for which, depending on the parties that will join the fray, hundreds of thousands of potential female leaders need to file their candidacy. All major parties admit that they do not have enough women inside the party trained to contest the elections. Therefore, series of training like the one planned is considered crucial in ensuring representation of women in leadership positions at the local level, which is the political base at which leadership gets nurtured, and grows and emerges for the upper tiers.

Participants from remote districts of Nepal who had to travel for days to reach Kathmandu.

More information

Contact DIPD Country Coordinator in Nepal, Shristi Rana: shristi@dipd.org.np

DPNS and SNLD join forces to develop peace policy

As part of the Danish Social Democratic Party’s (SDP) partnership with the regional network SocDem Asia, a three day seminar and workshop session on policy-making was held in Yangon, Myanmar, from January 18-20, 2017.

This article is written by Iben Merrild, International Consultant at the Danish Social Democratic Party, as a report on their ongoing partnership with SocDem Asia.

A social democratic partnership

The partnership between the SDP and SocDem Asia seeks to bring the social democratic values, themes and processes from the regional network of SocDem Asia to the national level of the participating political parties. As such, the partnership works directly with the Akbayan Citizen’s Action party in the Philippines, Nepali Congress in Nepal and the parties Democratic Party for a New Society (DPNS) and Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) in Myanmar.

The political parties in each country have chosen a specific theme to develop a policy on during the project which runs until the end of 2017. Nepali Congress opted to work on social inclusion in the newly ratified constitution, Akbayan selected universal healthcare and in Myanmar DPNS and SNLD decided to work towards developing a policy that could feed into the ongoing peace process in the country. According to the DNPS leader, the topic was chosen due to the fact that it is impossible to have democratization without peace and vice-versa.

Narrowing the focus on peace

Drawing on input from local resource speakers including the SNLD representative and second secretary in the Union Peace Dialogue Joint-Committee, Sai Kyaw Nyunt, regional speakers on the peace processes in Nepal, Basu Gautam, and the Philippines, Rechie Tugawin, as well as the Danish social democratic experience of inclusive policy making presented by the Danish social democratic, MP Lars Aslan Rasmussen, the participants from the DPNS and SNLD embarked on three days of issue analysis and agenda setting, as well as policy formulation and development on the topic of peace.

Lars Aslan Rasmussen (SDP) giving a presentation during the SocDem Asia seminar in Yangon.

Working on the issue of peace is no simple feat and the ongoing peace process in the country is complex to say the least. As such, the participants, who ranged from the leadership of the two parties, female state and union MP’s, youth wing leaders to ordinary members, were inspired by the Social Democratic Party’s method of using debate tablecloths to identify what they considered sub-themes and challenges to achieving peace. The sub-issues that need to be dealt with to achieve peace were identified as being the following: lack of democracy, inequality, lack of self-determination for ethnic groups, role of the military, national disunity, lack of political leadership, the 2008 constitution and issues around culture/caste.

Through subsequent workshops participants conducted a mock stakeholder analysis and attempted to narrow the policy focus further by identifying actions and measures that need to be brought about to deal particularly with the three issues of self-determination for ethnic groups, inequality (in various forms) and the role of the military. Going forward the project team in Myanmar will use all the documentation and input provided to by the participants to settle on a single sub-theme and concretise it further to ensure that it can be made into a draft policy ahead of sectoral consultations later in the spring.

An inclusive peace dialogue

With the new government under Aung San Suu Kyi, the chance for peace is the highest in almost 70 years of conflict. Indeed at the 21st Panglong Peace Conference in August 2016 nearly all armed groups attended. The next bi-yearly peace conference is expected to take place next month. This process is however faced by many challenges. While a very positive step, so far only eight ethnic armed organisations have signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement in 2015, while other major armed organizations have yet to join the agreement, and armed conflict is still escalating among some groups. Moreover, some feel that there can never be real peace as long as the military occupies 25 per cent of the seats in government in accordance with the 2008 Constitution.

For parties liked the DPNS which only returned to Myanmar as a party in 2014, after having been banned since the 1990s, with members and leaders imprisoned or forced into exile at the Thai border, an inclusive peace process and dialogue is alpha omega. This can be a difficult task to ensure as there are an estimated 90 political parties in Myanmar. Currently the Panglong Peace Conferences and the Union Peace Dialogue Joint-Committee only involve parties in Parliament. Therefore, the DPNS and SNLD, the latter of which does have representation in Parliament, are advocating for a more inclusive peace dialogue that will involve all interested political parties, ethnic groups and civil society organisations. Until this happens the intention is that the policy developed will be used by SNLD MP’s and feed into the UPDJC via the SNLD to the extent possible, and that former DPNS members that are now NLD members in Parliament will take note of the policy when they participate in the peace process.

The partnership between the Danish Social Democratic Party and SocDem Asia is funded through DIPD’s Political Party Support Window.

More information

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

Contact International Consultant at the Danish Social Democratic Party, Iben Merrild: iben@socialdemokratiet.dk

Contact Project Coordinator at DIPD, Mathias Parsbæk Skibdal: maps@dipd.dk

Nepali leaders look to Denmark ahead of local elections

With the 2017 Local Elections approaching, leaders of JOMPOPS member UML seek inspiration in the Danish experiences with political parties at local level.

Thirteen kilometres outside Janakpur city – one of the cultural, administrative and political hubs of Nepal’s southern plains – local-level leaders of Nepal Communist Party-Unified Marxists-Leninists (popularly known as UML) gathered on 12 January 2017 to brainstorm for the next two days on “Sambidhan Karyanwoyanma Rajya Samrachana” (State Restructuring In Implementation of Constitution) following the passage of Nepal’s new statute in September 2015. UML is the second biggest party in the parliament.

In a first such gathering since the new constitution, some 77 key leaders braving the cold winter had come from 34 districts – some of which were as far away as two days of bus travel –  from three of the seven provinces that the new constitution has laid out the federal country that the 75-district Nepal now is.

Elements from the Guide

In drawing up the agenda for the two-day event, the organising unit of the party – Federal Affairs Department – had integrated some elements of modules of the Guide on “Political Parties at the Local Level: Danish Experiences for Inspiration”. The Guide was prepared jointly by Danish local politicians and Nepalese politicians in the six-party Joint Mechanism for Political Party Strengthening (JOMPOPS), DIPD’s partner in Nepal, with support from both Danish and Nepalese political consultants.

State restructuring in Nepal’s present context also means party restructuring because of provincial and local level geographic demarcations to be followed soon by much anticipated first elections under the new constitution; therefore, in providing inputs to the agenda of the interaction, JOMPOPS Steering Committee members of the party decided to include elements of management of a political party, election campaign and gender considerations, based on the developed modules of the Guide.

By a coincidence that JOMPOPS Steering Committee member Parshuram Meghi Gurung termed “happy”, the venue happened to be a local organisation known as Life School Centre, built by Danida in 2010 as part of a watershed and natural resources project, and which now functioned as a resource and meeting centre.

The resource persons for the Janakpur event had travelled from Dang the day before after a two-day interaction there on January 9 and 10 on the same broad theme for some 65 top local leaders from districts covering the provinces 4, 5, 6 and 7.

In Dang, Mr. Gurung, who is a politburo member of the party and Head of the Federal Affairs Department, sought to familiarise his colleagues about Nepal’s federalism which has unique specialities and about what is the way ahead for the party in making federalism successful. The form and contents of Nepal’s future local governments was the topic on which federalism expert Mr. Krishna Prasad Sapkota spoke in detail. Dr. Deepak Prakash Bhatt, a security expert, gave a presentation on international relations, including regional security. Ms. Dhan Kumari Sunar, the party’s gender focal person who works closely with DIPD on various issues around one of JOMPOPS’ key areas of work i.e. women in politics, gave participants a tour of Nepal’s constitutional provisions on women’s rights, and discussed women’s participation and representation in politics and the challenges that the party should deal with in this context.

Awaiting Local Elections

Another resource person Federal Affairs Department Secretary Mr. Shiva Gurung – who is one of the trainers trained in the contents of the Guide at the four-day Training of Trainers that JOMPOPS had organised in April 2016 with participation of a group of politicians from Danish municipalities as resource persons – talked about how to be effective in local election campaigns and presented different aspects of Danish experiences and practices that he had learnt at the ToT. With the impending local elections occupying the minds of district leaders, Mr. Gurung’s presentation struck a timely chord with them.

Participants in Janakpur, 550 kilometres east from Dang, were equally interested in how the executive and legislative branches of local level units (now called Village Body/Municipality) would function, what new powers they had compared to now, and how the party should prepare itself for the upcoming elections, expected to be announced any day. They were eager to learn from the resource persons who seemed to have prepared well for the interaction to impress upon the participants how important it is for top local-level leaders to be oriented on how the federalism is unfolding at the local level.

So, when federalism expert Mr. Krishna Prasad Sapkota gave examples of how elsewhere the local governments function, including how Denmark’s local units have the authority to spend a large share of the national budget, it was clear the participants began to appreciate the road ahead where the local level units were going to have a number of powers in diverse fields like education (up to high school), health, cooperatives, local tax and a number of other services. They also heard from Ms. Sunar how they had the onus of preparing women to be effective in local politics and run for office, after she gave a rundown on constitutional provisions on women’s representation from the bottom to the top of state structure.

For Janakpur interaction, the organisers had asked DIPD Senior Adviser Murari Shivakoti to conduct the session on “Chunabma Safal Huna” (Winning Elections), also based on his experience as a media expert. Mr. Shivakoti in his presentation drew from the Danish way of tackling local elections, as contained in the Local Guide, starting with how a systematic planning, well in advance, was vital to build a political strategy. But he focussed mostly on campaign activities and communication means as employed by the Danish parties for local elections, contextualising them where possible with Nepal’s practicalities, and giving examples from the mediascape of Janakpur municipality.

Message and Medium

In a quick feedback later, participant Mr. Sudhir Shah, a local youth leader, said the message he took away from the session was how proper planning was key. “Competitive politics require meticulous preparations, step-by-step”, he said. “There were inspirations from Danish practices on how to do it, and do it creatively.” Mr. Sabin Bahadur Thapa, another youth leader, thought the session was interesting because he learnt of the elements of a successful election campaign. “I also saw how social media tools can be useful in targeting particularly youths, and dealing with media in general”, he said.

As the interactions came to a close, top provincial-level leaders like former minister and member of parliament from the district Mr. Shatrughan Mahato and Province No. 2 Deputy Head Mr. Nagendra Chaudhary in one voice said the two-day event was very beneficial and more such training needed to be conducted in different districts. That seems to be in the cards of the party. JOMPOPS SC member Mr. Gurung had earlier at the opening of the training on the first day had announced that the interactions in Dang and Janakpur also marked the initial launch of what he called a “School of Federalism” that the party will continue to work on for a formal establishment.

More information

Contact DIPD Country Coordinator in Nepal, Shristi Rana: shrishti@dipd.org.np