My recent scoping mission visit to Buka and Arawa in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea on behalf of the Commonwealth Local Government Forum Pacific project focusing on gender and local government allowed me to catch up with some of the 2011 BRIDGE facilitators in the region.
Mid 2011 saw GEPG (Gender Equality in Political Governance) based within UNWomen conduct the first TtF for 21 participants across various regions and sectors in Buka. Since then, they (TtF facilitators) have conducted various workshops on Gender and Elections Module, the focus of which has been to increase women’s participation at all levels of decision-making and to help change attitudes of both men and women to fair representation at all levels of leadership. However facilitators continue to use other modules, in particular Civic Education and those related to Candidates and Election to help provide capacity building support toward intending women candidates and voters for both local and national elections.
So far more than 400 participants, both male and female have attended Gender and Elections Module. Until June this year, GEPG had been supporting BRIDGE programs in the region, however with its transition, Facilitators have continued to find other ways of holding workshops. This has ranged from holding a half-day to one day programs, as well as in partnership with other stakeholders. The network of these BRIDGE facilitators in Bougainville immensely assisted in my work as a consultant and in the area of gender and local government.
Located close to the equator, the Autonomous Region of Bougainville has a population of 246,789 (PNG Census 2011), nearly half of which comprises of women and girls and who are largely in low-income level bracket. The geography of Bougainville is divided into three regions – South, Central and North, which is further divided into 13 districts and 33 constituencies, 40 Council of Elders with about 550 members, and 300 Village Wards or Assemblies, made up of villages/clans. It is a post conflict country.
Meanwhile, GEPG also assisted Fiji’s Ministry of Women, Social Welfare and Poverty Alleviation to undertake a TtF in August 2012 allowing for increased number of BRIDGE facilitators in Fiji. BRIDGE was first introduced in Fiji in 2005. Later, the Suva-based University of the South Pacific had been the host for many BRIDGE programs for the Pacific Island countries. BRIDGE is now known in more than 10 countries in the Pacific. Whilst the nature of activities is unknown due largely to lack of communication and isolation, it has been noted that there has been a general increase in the number of women standing for local and national elections and associate voter turn-out.
BRIDGE Workshop Facilitator, Ms Hamidan Bibi, who helped co-facilitate the TtFs in Fiji and Buka said, Fiji, through the Women’s Ministry is already rolling out Gender and Elections Module within the four Divisions – Western, Eastern, Northern and Central using the 20 TtF graduates. Its focus is also to help increase women’s participation as candidates and voters during the 2014 National Elections and beyond.
Since BRIDGE introduction to Fiji some eight years ago, more than 1000 participants have attended BRIDGE Gender and Elections, as well as other Modules namely Media and Elections, Civic Education and other ABRIDGE workshops in Fiji. Fiji has a population of more than 870,000 of which nearly half are women and girls.
Ms Bibi said that both Buka and Fiji facilitators were also able to attend a Gender and Elections Module for gender sensitization and greater comprehension of the module itself. “It also allowed them to understand the whole of the BRIDGE Modules approach in way of content, methodology, application and adaptation better, she added.
She said that BRIDGE has allowed trainers to be creative with bringing about change, be innovative in delivery of sessions, better adapt to local situations and or environment due to its adaptive methodologies and being value-based and practical. It has also allowed trainers to self develop and find various means of tackling issues and or problem solving due to adult learning and participatory approaches of the BRIDGE programs.
However, Facilitators, who intend to be better also need to keep up to date with advancing learning tools, subject matter, and continuously utilize BRIDGE in various ways allowing for improved presentation, communication skills and comprehension of Modules.
“Funding is seldom available to conduct a full workshop in the Pacific Islands countries, thus self initiation and motivation to use the BRIDGE program in various ways across sectors and audiences is something facilitators could take up on their own. It’s a challenge and an opportunity at the same time,” says Ms Bibi.
Ms Bibi is currently an independent capacity development consultant in the areas of leadership, governance, democracy, gender, media and communication, community development and monitoring and evaluation.
“I am able to use BRIDGE methodology in various aspects of life and work. It’s such a practical tool. Its relevance and application is much desired and needed in the Pacific and in the world of capacity development,” said Ms Bibi.
by Hamidan Bibi, BRIDGE Workshop Facilitator