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.
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.
Contact DIPD Country Coordinator in Nepal, Shristi Rana: email@example.com