Elections and gender experts from across the world participated in a UNDP hosted, Gender and Elections workshop in New York City, USA from 31 October to 4 November 2011. The event was organized by the Democratic Governance Group (DGG) in the Bureau for Development Policy (BDP) in partnership with the Electoral Assistance Division (EAD) of the Department for Public Administration (DPA).
The 20 participants came from Asia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa as well as UNDP central office. This broad geographical range was noted by many who said that it was their first workshop that was broader than their region and that they appreciated the richness of the examples that were discussed. Having a breadth of experiences and many facing elections soon also meant that for many activities each table was able to select one of the participant’s country as the context for their brainstorm.
The workshop covered issues of increasing women’s electoral participation as candidates and as voters. One day was devoted to election systems, quotas and reserved seats for women. Another day focused on women as voters through activities on voter registration and polling day. Other topics covered were the International legal framework, the role of the EMB as a large public employer with responsibilities to mainstream gender, the need to work throughout the electoral cycle, and voter outreach. Debate was lively. The election experts learnt a lot about gender issues and the gender experts learnt a lot about election issues. One participant commented
‘I now realize that I had only a superficial understanding of gender mainstreaming before this workshop but now I have a profound understanding of the issues’.
The facilitation team comprised two experienced facilitators, Helena Catt and Skye Christensen, and two semi-accredited facilitators who gained accreditation, Julie Ballington and Revai Aalbaek. One experienced participant commented that having a team of four facilitators, rather than the normal two, added so much diversity to the workshop and should be the norm.