The Election Commission of Nepal (ECN) conducted a two-day BRIDGE Workshop on Gender Equality and Elections in Dharan Municipality, on 24-25 Feb 2019 with the support of UNDP Electoral Support Project (ESP), which is funded by the European Union. The ECN has selected Dharan Municiaplity for the program because the by-election for the post of Mayor of Dharan Municipality is likely to take place soon following the death of the representative elected in 2017.
The program was inaugurated by the Chief Election Commissioner Dr Ayodhee Prasad Yadav and attended by 25 participants (14 male and 11 female). The participants included elected local representatives, district heads of political parties, former candidates on the proportional representation list and for the indirect Constituent Assembly elections, potential candidates for the upcoming by-elections, media persons, party cadres, representatives from different civil society organisations, people living with disability, electoral management staff as well as representatives from the NGO Federation.
During the opening remarks, the Chief Election Commissioner requested the participants to gear up and create a favourable environment in Sunsari district for the upcoming by-election for the post of mayor. He appealed to women participants to take a leadership role and highlighted different measures that ECN has undertaken to make elections more inclusive. The District Electoral Officer of Sunsari, Mr. Bhakta Bhattarai, welcomed the participants and highlighted the objectives of the program.
The main objective of the workshop was to raise awareness among election stakeholders, including political parties, media, and potential women leaders about the upcoming by-elections, and in particular to encourage political parties to increase meaningful participation of women in politics and decision-making processes. It also aimed to develop a network among political party women groups and help the District Election Office (DEO) staff to develop a stronger relationship with the election stakeholders.
The two-day workshop was customized and tailored according to the participants’ level. The workshop on Gender Equality and Elections, version 3, was conducted using different adult learning and BRIDGE methodologies. All the participants actively participated in every session, which used methodologies like – brainstorming, quiz contest, role play, debate, group work, presentations. The major topics covered were: introduction to BRIDGE, national and international legal framework on gender inclusion in elections, the ECN gender equality and social inclusion policy, women participation in all three tiers of elections held in 2017, diversity of women, the electoral cycle, electoral systems, political finance and women , the role of political parties in increasing women’s participation in politics, quota systems, and gender balance at polling places, among others. Ice breakers and energizers were conducted in between the sessions.
All the participants, including the current elected local leaders, highly appreciated the workshop. A Dalit women elected members particularly welcomed the workshop for educating them about legal provisions that are mentioned in the constitution and electoral laws. Likewise, two other potential candidates for the upcoming by-election appreciated the issues and contents put in the workshop. They also thanked ECN, UNDP ESP and the European Union for helping them to reestablish their relationships with stakeholders and develop networks for future elections. Similarly, representatives from all party women’s groups said it helped them to collectively speak up for women.
The team of facilitators included:
The program was concluded with the distribution of participation certificates by ECN Under Secretary and Facilitator Chandra Bahadur Shiwakoti to all the participants. At the end of the program, Pushpa Kumari Jha and Ram Krishna Aryal were awarded Workshop Level Facilitators accreditation.
Following this BRIDGE program, ECN now has two additional BRIDGE Workshop level Facilitators, Mr. Ram Krishna Aryal and with Ms. Pushpa Kumari Jha. Ms Pushpa is the only female workshop level facilitator that ECN has at present.
Since the beginning of 2019, UNDP and European Union support has allowed for the accreditation of four additional BRIDGE Workshop level facilitators in ECN, which brings the total number of BRIDGE facilitators among ECN staff to six Workshop level Facilitators and one Accrediting Facilitator and which makes an important contribution for ECN to sustain its professional capacity-building programme in the future.
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