1st Ever BRIDGE Workshop for Vanuatu Voter Registration Officers

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A first of its kind weeklong BRIDGE Gender and Elections workshop aimed to gender sensitize Voter Registration Coordinators (RCs), Registration Officers (ROs) and Assistant Registration Officers (AROs) for three SANMA Province constituencies of Santo, Malo/Aore and Luganville before registration commenced in preparation for October 2012 General Elections.

The workshop, partnership of UN Women Gender Equality in Political Governance Programme–GEPG and the Vanuatu Electoral Commission and Office was attended by 30 participants comprising 18 men and 12 women. Only one of the 12 women is a Voter Registration Coordinator while 11 others are active ROs and AROs.

In his opening remarks, the Town Clerk, Mr Sakita on behalf of the Lord Mayor of Luganville acknowledged UNIFEM/UN Women continued assistance in building capacity of its residents since early 2010. He also expressed the Lord Mayors sincere gratitude to UN Women and the Vanuatu Election Management Body (EMB) for the timely conduct of the workshop highlighting that through history the three constituencies have always been implicated for electoral fraud and voter registration irregularities that resulted in election disputes and by-elections. He related that such has also been one of the many reasons why very few women have contested and became councilors and also why no female has been elected from the three constituencies into Parliament.

The workshop was closed by Honourable George Andre Wells, Minister of Internal Affairs who is also responsible for Elections and Provincial and Local Governments and Member of Parliament of Luganville Constituency. The Minister outlined several measures the Ministry is developing in preparation for October 2012 general elections including penalties for RCs, ROs and AROs misconduct on polling day in each respective constituency. The Minister on behalf of Vanuatu Government had further requested UN Women GEPG partnership for five similar workshops in the remaining provinces before October 2012 general elections.

At the end of the workshop participants reflected on their appreciation to be trained, their improved understanding of the linkages between Voter Registration, elections, gender equality, human rights, leadership and good governance in a democracy, better understanding of the importance of fair and accurate voter registration (gender sensitized voter registration roll), the opportunity to develop their realistic Voter Registration plans and budgets and also shared their personal, group/organization and the overall workshop participants’ action plans for advocating for gender equality and focusing on fair voter registration at the personal level from home, extended family and to their community.

16 – 20 January 2012, Luganville, Santo- Vanuatu

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