The First International Gender and Elections BRIDGE held in Kenya

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The UNDP’s Global Programme for Electoral Cycle Support and UNDP Kenya Country Office organised a three day Gender and Elections BRIDGE, in Naivasha, Kenya, 28-30 November 2011. This was one of the pilot workshops using a model training agenda developed earlier by the UNDP based on the BRDIGE Gender and Elections Module to be used for country offices and EMB training. The idea is to have a ready-made package of activities put together and adapted to the local context. This package is organized into three and five-day agendas, with specific activities identified for each session. A 3-day agenda was piloted in Nepal in October 2011. The workshop in Kenya was a pilot 3-day agenda held for the first time in Africa.

The objectives of the training packages are for participants to understand the electoral process and electoral administration and develop strategies to promote women’s participation – less as candidates and more as voters. The training aims to explain the role of Electoral Management Bodies (EMBs) and how they can better integrate gender equality into their work; and to provide tools for all participants to look at elections from a gender perspective. The specific areas covered include electoral systems, voter registration, polling day, civic education, electoral training, post-election activities, voter information and electoral management.

The West Africa, New York and Kenya Offices; which collaborated in putting together the workshop, worked tirelessly and in close consort to ensure the success of this event.

Objectives of the workshop

(i). To sensitize electoral administrators about the importance of women’s empowerment and entry points for gender mainstreaming in the electoral process;

(ii). To inform civil society organizations and women’s advocacy groups about strategies to promote women’s participation in electoral processes;

(iii). To provide tools for all participants to critically assess elections from a gender perspective; and,

(iv). To offer a networking opportunity for women’s advocacy groups.

Facilitation team

The following BRIDGE Facilitators participated in the preparation and delivery of the course:

1. KOKI MULI (Kenya) – Lead Facilitator

2. JULIE BALLINGTON (Undp New York) – Workshop Facilitator

3. UTLIOLE SILAINGWANA (Zimbabwe) – Workshop Facilitator

3. MARIE MANONO (UNDP Senegal) -Semi-Accredited Facilitator

MARIE MANONO assisted the facilitation team and was able to facilitate a few sessions under guided by the lead facilitator and supported by the other facilitators, as is the custom of the BRIDGE Project. Although Ms MARIE MANONO IS semi-accredited, sadly, she could not be fully accredited as she was not able to arrive on time to participate in the preparations for the workshop and only begun facilitation itself on the second day; this being only a three-day workshop, I was not able to determine and provide the necessary support to her to facilitate her upgrade to a workshop facilitator.

Nevertheless, the team of facilitators, coming from 4 countries greatly enriched the facilitation process and the participants were particularly grateful and appreciative of the expanse personal experiences shared by the facilitators. Also, a combination of professional, in-depth election experiences and knowledge resident with the facilitators whose diverse country backgrounds and broad experience on gender and elections greatly enhanced the quality of the workshop. The facilitation team kept participants mesmerised by the various approaches, activities and lively examples in delivering the course material, which created a positive adult learning environment.

The Participants

A total of twenty-nine (29) participants drawn from thirteen countries in Africa participated in the workshop. The participants were drawn from UNDP country offices, EMBs, Women’s organisations and other civil society organisations. Of the twenty-nine participants, six were male.

The participants expressed their gratitude in the manner in which the course was delivered including the relevance of the content. What excited them most was the way in which varied experiences were integrated into the sessions and the adapting of gender and elections concepts into local and specific contexts and situations as was necessary to explain and create broad understanding of the sessions. They committed to be BRIDGE ambassadors and to incorporate gender mainstreaming in all their work and interventions following the electoral cycle approach. All participants expressed enthusiasm and demonstrated commitment throughout the training sessions.

Course Agenda and Content

The workshop agenda was broad yet focused and custom-made to suit the objectives of this workshop. It begun with welcome from UNDP and closed with a very moving and appropriate speech from the Kenya Director of UNDP. A specific and customised three-day agenda was followed adhering to the BRIDGE curriculum and methodlogy. This greatly suited the needs of the participants and was appropriate to the context. The content was enriched by examples from both the facilitators and participants experieinces and their country stories.

Lessons learnt and recommendation

The UNDP approach of customising activities and agendas from the rich and comprehensive BRIDGE Curriculum is an interesting and focused. This approach minimises the number of activities used during each session to the ones already pre-determined and identified. This is a very focused and less time-consuming approach. In some cases it worked very well. For this pilot three-day agenda in Kenya, the package was very well selected and was rich enough in terms of variety to enable the facilitators choose and pick what they were comfortable with. While a commendable approach, one needs to be careful not to be too prescriptive in determining the specific activities each country or local context should have. This is because the circumstances and the challenges experienced in each situation and local context vary from country to country or even from region to region within each country.

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