The Bangladesh Election Commission Secretariat (ECS), in partnership with UN Women and UNDP organized its first BRIDGE workshop on Gender and Elections under the framework of the project “Support to the Bangladesh Parliamentary Elections 2018-2019 (SBPE)” on 10-11 November 2018 at the RDRS in Rangpur.
The implementation of the BRIDGE workshop was proposed as part of a holistic approach the ESC had initiated in 2018, to enhance gender-sensitive electoral management at the central and local levels, through identifying and reducing the existing barriers to women’s effective participation through proposing strategies that can be undertaken to achieve the full and effective participation of women in the 11th Parliamentary election and in the different phases of the electoral cycle. This was also an opportunity for the current pool of Bangladeshi BRIDGE facilitators from the ECS and civil society organizations who had received full accreditation in recent years through initiatives of UN Women and other organizations, to apply their knowledge and skills for the benefit of the key stakeholders working in the field, while at the same time gain further experience as BRIDGE facilitators.
Taking into consideration the limited time before the electoral operational period, the SBPE Project in agreement with the ECS adapted and tailored the standard BRIDGE gender and elections module into a two-day workshop, focusing principally on promoting women’s participation in elections and specifically on preventing violence against women in elections. The main topics covered were: International Standards and Principles for Democratic Elections, Sex and Gender, Electoral Cycle and Gender, Women in Politics, A Level Playing Field, Preventing Violence Against Women in Elections, Voter Outreach Messages and Methods, as well as the role of the Election Commission Secretariat and Political Parties in enhancing women’s participation in elections.
The workshop in Rangpur, which was the first of a series, was inaugurated by the Election Commissioner Mr. Md Rafiqul Islam along with senior officials of the ECS. He also intervened on several sessions, emphasizing the need to transform traditional perceptions and expectations based on gender that still prevail in Bangladeshi societies. He also underscored that the transformations must start within families, which are the foundation of constructing gender roles and in empowering women in order to strengthen women’s participation in the society as a whole.
The workshop was attended by 31 participants, including 7 women. 12 participants represented the ECS Regional and District Offices of Rangpur, and 19 represented the media, CSOs promoting women’s rights, election observation organizations and universities. The discussions by the participants clearly indicated the strong will and desire to promote equal participation between men and women in elections, while they also shared the challenges they faced in doing so, due to existing laws, institutional cultures and perceptions rooted in the society.
Comments received from the participants:
The workshop was conducted by the following BRIDGE facilitators: