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Posts tagged ‘Nepal’

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.

Regional Collaboration Asia

A Progress on Regional Collaboration

The Joint Mechanism for Political Party Strengthening (JOMPOPS) hosted sixteen delegates from Bhutan, four from Denmark and ten from Myanmar last week in Kathmandu.

In addition to the members of Parliament and influential political leaders from Bhutan and Myanmar, the visiting delegates comprised of the Hon. Lyonpo Dorji Choden, Minister for Works & Human Settlement, the Hon. Tshewang Jurmi, the Chairperson of National Commission for Women and Children, Bhutan, Mr. Manu Sareen, the former Minister for Equality, Denmark, Ms. Lone Loklindt, former MP, Denmark, and the Hon. Mya Thaung, Chair of Women and Children Rights Committee, Myanmar.

The main purpose of their visit was to attend the second regional conference on promoting women in politics; the first regional conference was held in Myanmar in March 2016. The visit also focused on strengthening overall collaboration among three DIPD’s partner countries in the region.

Informal Interactions

A number of informal interactions were planned by JOMPOPS during the visit in order to foster a deeper connection among politicians from the three countries. After the introduction meeting on the day of arrival on 19 September 2016, the visiting delegates went to a local resort outside Kathmandu for further interaction.

In the resort, the visiting delegates from Bhutan and Myanmar along with JOMPOPS members participated in the presentation sessions on Communication Skills by Mr. Manu Sareen and on Leadership by Ms. Lone Loklindt. These presentations were based on the practical insights from the Danish leaders thereby the participants said that they found them useful and asked many questions which had immediate relevance to their day to day political work. The delegates also attended a session on Moderation Skills by a local expert; this session was focused on preparing the moderators for the conference.

Former Minister for Equality, Mr. Manu Sareen speaking at Conference Nepal 2016

Former Minister for Equality, Mr. Manu Sareen speaking at Conference Nepal 2016

Similarly, the visiting delegates were invited to the Steering Committee meeting of JOMPOPS. That occasion was used to update each other on the political situation as well as to explain DIPD’s supported activities in all the three countries. The intention behind these sharing was to inspire and encourage each other.

On the eve of the conference, a dinner was organized by JOMPOPS attended by the high-level political leaders and other prominent national and international guests. It was also the opportunity for the visiting delegates to meet with the members of the Social Justice and Human Rights Committee of Nepal’s Parliament – the host of the two-day regional conference.

On the final day of their visit, again all the delegates along with JOMPOPS members came together in a local restaurant to reflect on their visit, to share their inspirations and their insights.

Parliament Tour

The Social Justice and Human Rights Committee of Nepal’s Legislature-Parliament invited the visiting delegates from Bhutan, Denmark and Myanmar for a tour in the Parliament and hosted a small interaction event.

The Committee took the delegates to the old Parliament building in Singha durbar, Kathmandu. The staff members explained that the Parliament was shifted to a new premise in Baneshwor because of the space constraints. After the Constituent Assembly elections in 2008, the number of parliamentarians increased from 205 members in the lower house to around 601 members. Since the old Parliament could not accommodate the additional members, the Parliament was shifted to a new building.

In a brief interaction event presided by the two Secretaries of the Parliament Secretariat, the participants got to know about the history and background of Nepal’s Parliament. The Secretaries explained that the first Parliament of Nepal was elected in late 1950s so Nepal’s Parliament now has a long history of nearly 50 years.

JOMPOPS Steering Group member, guests including Former Member of Danish Parliament Lone Loklindt

JOMPOPS Steering Group member, guests including Former Member of Danish Parliament, Ms. Lone Loklindt

 

A Progress

Coming together of the three countries in Myanmar for the first regional women’s conference in March 2016 was a beginning of the regional collaboration. It was the first opportunity for the three countries to be introduced and to get to know each other.

The second regional conference gave further opportunities to understand each other and deepen the regional connections. All the three countries have now signed the Kathmandu Declaration together through which they commit to work towards promoting gender equality. Therefore, the Kathmandu visit should be considered as a progress in the regional collaboration.

Regional Conference on Women in Politics & Social Justice, Nepal 2016

Regional Conference on Women in Politics & Social Justice, Nepal 2016

The success of this regional collaboration will be tested in the third regional conference in Thimpu, Bhutan. This success would depend on if the three countries are ready to work together on implementing their commitments to practice. As aptly said by Henry Ford:

Coming together is a beginning;

Keeping together is progress;

Working together is success.

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