The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has been actively supporting the Electoral Administration of Rwanda since 2001, including large-scale professional, technical and training assistance.With the project, Developing Capacities of democratic Institutions for Fair Electoral Processes and Active Civil Participation, UNDP aims to developing long-term capacities for fair and well-organized electoral processes.
The internationally recognized BRIDGE curriculum was selected for professional development purposes. BRIDGE is the most comprehensive professional development course available in election administration. To date, it has been conducted in over 30 countries for more than 2,000 people. It improves the skills, knowledge, and confidence both of election professionals and of key stakeholders in the electoral process, such as members of the media, political parties, and electoral observers. As part of this initiative, the Rwanda National Electoral Commission (NEC) organised a national BRIDGE Train the facilitators Course in English from 6-17 August 2012 which was held in the capital, Kigali.
The opening ceremony was attended by all Directors from the NEC. The Executive Secretary of the NEC, Mr Charles Munyaneza opened the workshop and encouraged participants to make full use of the opportunity through full time attendance and active participation in order to facilitate the institutionalisation of BRIDGE within the NEC in particular and Rwanda in general.
Two BRIDGE facilitators participated in the preparation and delivery of the course:
1. Rindai Chipfunde-Vava– Accrediting Facilitator, Lead Facilitator- (Consultant; Zimbabwe- Zimbabwean)
2. Harris Potani– Workshop Facilitator – (Consultant; Malawi- Malawian)
The facilitation team consisting of one female facilitators and one male was balanced by a good combination of professional experience and diverse country background supported by the efficient administrative team. The team provided a positive environment and established very good professional relationships with the participants and the positive spirit was maintained throughout the programme.
Seventeen participants (4 Females and 13 Males) all drawn from the NEC participated in the workshop. The participants who are employed in various positions in the Electoral Management Body were selected on the basis of their experience and expertise as electoral administrators and as trainers. They could not articulate enough how impressed they were with the uniqueness and flexibility of the BRIDGE curriculum and methodology and how useful it will be in assisting them in conducting future training programmes. One participant noted: “Before attending the course I thought I knew adult learning requirements. As a trained Teacher but I realized I did not know and BRIDGE is rich in training techniques and the material is so massive its a memorable experience”.
The experience, content knowledge, commitment, hard work and enthusiasm demonstrated by all participants throughout the workshop contributed to the achievement of the aims of the training.
The mixture of different experiences and diverse cultures on the part of both the facilitators and the participants also tremendously contributed to the success of the workshop. Participants exchanged information, experiences and practices among themselves and with the facilitators. The positive spirit amongst the team also assisted those with any barriers especially language and public speaking to overcome their challenges.
The participants, many coming from a training and/or teaching background, quickly caught on with the BRIDGE methodology and excelled in facilitation of sessions and delivery of ice-breakers and energizers most of which were local. The facilitator team had the pleasure of watching every participant develop and progress during the two weeks of the training. All seventeen participants graduated with a well-deserved semi-accredited status and with two of whom were to get full accreditation through conducting a BRIDGE modular workshop that was being organized by the NEC soon after the Train the Facilitator workshop.
Participants clearly appreciated the training, many of them referring to it as a very comprehensive and relevant to their work. One aspect that clearly came out was the importance of positive feedback, which helped to boost confidence and improve facilitation skills of the participants. One participant said “the feedback and comments made me realise that I would become a very good facilitator and that I would work towards perfection when I return to my duty station” and another stated that “in addition to the skills acquired, it was also another English perfection opportunity since a good number of the participants were French speakers.
The workshop ended on day 10 with a speech by Mr Charles Munyaneza the NEC Executive Secretary. He congratulated the participants for the dedication and commitment during the two-week course. He also committed that he will do everything within his power to ensure that all those that attended the TtF progress to the other levels and also institutionalize BRIDGE in the NEC. The certificate ceremony was shifted to the following Wednesday in order to combine with the completion of a modular workshop which would facilitate the advancement of two semi-accredited facilitators to advance to full accreditation and also allow for the presence of the sponors UNDP who would be represented by the Country Director. Three certificate categories were therefore planned Semi-Accreditation, Full Accreditation and the Module completion.