Women’s rights activists, electoral administrators and advisors and women in elected office from around the Caribbean braved Tropical Storm Isaac to gather in Kingston last week for a rousing exploration of gender issues in elections.The first BRIDGE Gender and Elections training for participants from the Caribbean region was held in Kingston, Jamaica from Monday August 27 to Friday August 31, 2012. The five day workshop was attended by participants Antigua, Barbados, El Salvador, Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago. The workshop was a joint initiative of UNDP/BDP Global Programme on the Electoral Cycle (GPECS), the UNDP Regional Service Centre for the Latin American – Caribbean, and the UNDP Jamaica Country Office.
The BRIDGE Gender & Elections module aims at (i) sensitizing electoral administrators about the importance of women’s empowerment and entry points for gender mainstreaming in the electoral process; (ii) informing civil society organizations and women’s advocacy groups about strategies to promote women’s participation in electoral processes; (iii) providing tools for all participants to critically assess elections from a gender perspective; and (iv) offering a networking opportunity for women’s advocacy groups. Over the past year, GPECS has invested in tailoring and adapting the module to enrich the content. The new materials and activities, including on gender quotas and electoral systems, candidate recruitment and selection and on gender and election violence, have received strong positive feedback during the pilot sessions.
Workshop participants brought a wealth of diverse experience and backgrounds and included a former Attorney General, several women elected to political office, technical advisors to parliament, a university lecturer, officials of regional electoral commissions and ministries, UN Women, the Assistant Resident Representative and Governance Advisor of UNDP-Jamaica, as well as the strong voices of women’s rights activists and civil society leaders from across the Caribbean. The participants acclaimed the workshop as a unique and much-needed program in their region and left the workshop eager to apply the training to their work in their home countries. The BRIDGE project was new to the majority of participants and all expressed a hope that more BRIDGE courses would be run in the Caribbean in the future.
The workshop was opened by Mr. Arun Kashyap, Resident Coordinator, UN System in Jamaica and UNDP Resident Representative. Remarks during the opening were also made by Mrs. Faith Webster, Executive Director, Bureau of Women’s Affairs, Jamaica, Mrs. Carmen de la Cruz, Gender Practice Leader, UNDP Regional Service Centre for LAC and Ms. Julie Ballington, Gender Advisor, UNDP’s Global Programme for Electoral Cycle Support (GPECS), Democratic Governance Group, UNDP. Ms Gabrielle Bardall, consultant UNDP moderated the opening. Julie and Gabrielle also served as facilitators for the workshop along with Samia Mahgoub and Ancil Adrian-Paul. Additional highlights of the event included a participants’ dinner held at the famous Usain Bolt MarketPlace restaurant in Kingston and the closing ceremony on Friday, August 31 where the participants presented the facilitators with books on gender issues in the Caribbean. During the Closing ceremony, facilitator Ancil Adrian-Paul received her full accreditation as a workshop facilitator.