The United Nations Development Fund for Women or UNIFEM recently held three successful BRIDGE workshops in the Sanma Province from 15 February to 5 March 2010. These workshops marked the first of a series of workshops planned for all the five provinces of Vanuatu in 2010 and beyond by UNIFEM Gender Equality in Political Governance (GEPG) Programme.
UNIFEM GEPG is committed to delivering its capacity building activities using BRIDGE (Building Resources in Democracy, Governance and Elections) methodology to assist women know their rights and responsibilities as active citizens and leaders to promote democratic governance in Vanuatu and the Pacific. BRIDGE is a well designed professional course and its modules are delivered only by accredited BRIDGE facilitators.
The weeklong workshops on Gender and Elections were conducted in three different areas, Kisule Village in Tasmalum in South Santo, Luganville and Avunatari in Malo. The workshops were attended by chiefs, pastors and elders, women and political leaders and youths. 58% of the participants in Malo were women, Luganville had 54% and in Kisule – Tasmalum 38% out of the total 44 participants were women.
Lady Mayor, Irene Masanga of Luganville was the guest speaker at the opening of the workshop. The participants also later in the week were invited to share her experiences on the challenges she faced in the lead up to her election and in her current role as Lady Mayor. The workshop on Malo was opened by Honorable Havo Moli, MP for Malo Constituency and in Kisule by the Area Secretary, Rosey Kolomule. Chief Ailolo from Kisule Village on the other hand expressed gratitude that Tasmalum was receiving its first workshop.
Topics included introduction to democracy, elections, gender and women’s participation, understanding the existing legal framework for women political participation, access issues for women to register and to vote, representation by and for women, Vanuatu electoral system and quotas, women voter education and the media, the role of election management body in enhancing women’s political participation, the role of Election Observation missions in promoting gender equality. On the last day, participants developed their personal, organizational and workshop participants’ action plans to advance gender equality and women’s increased political participation.
The workshop was an eye opener. It helped participants understand gender better as compared to sex and hence the recognition of the vital need to advance or increase the political participation of women. Recognizing the current inequality of men and women as a national development issue rather than a womens’ issue as so often portrayed participants formed committees to advocate for gender equality in politics in Vanuatu. Four (4) ni Vanuatu were awarded full accreditation as BRIDGE Workshop Facilitators to roll-out BRIDGE related as well as GEPG activities in Vanuatu.