Women in Kenya, South Sudan, Uganda and Somalia continuously face obstacles for comprehensive participation in the political sphere, including: institutional blocks that inhibit them legally or financially from running for office; socio-cultural values grounded in traditional roles of men and women; and personal struggles with confidence and ability.
To collectively address these challenges and enhance their political participation, a number of national parliaments within IGAD member states have established women caucuses. Women’s caucuses help to consolidate women’s political power by organizing women leaders as a “critical mass.” These caucuses integrate female MPs into the policy development process by facilitating opportunities for them to introduce and monitor legislation that addresses priority issues for the achievement of gender equality.
NDI established a program to implement a series of training sessions and dialogues that would enable women’s caucus leaders to come together to build new skills, share experiences and lessons learned, develop advocacy plans, and establish a network of women’s parliamentary caucuses within the IGAD region.
NDI hosted four workshops in 2015 for representatives of women’s caucuses from Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and Uganda to discuss their policy priorities, challenges and successes in their respective parliaments. Participants at the workshops were introduced to the role of women’s caucuses regionally and globally, and were provided information on the caucuses’ legislative contributions, how they have been able to promote women’s needs and priorities and how they have overcome cultural and institutional challenges to be effective.
Participants were trained on how to manage legislative priorities, how to utilize regional and international declarations and conventions in advocating for their priorities and how to fundraise and build support for those priorities within parliament as a whole. The legislators also were encouraged to present the discussions with their caucuses upon their return to their home countries.
During the final workshop in December 2015, the legislators formally established a regional coalition to be known as the Women’s Parliamentary Association (WPA) in the IGAD region. Participants established their mission, vision and guiding values for the network, along with rules of procedure that will guide their work. After adopting the rules and the declaration, the group elected a caucus executive and developed a calendar of events for its activities. The WPA aims to be a united voice of women parliamentarians in the IGAD region, by promoting the economic, cultural, political and social development of women as a means of ensuring sustainable peace and security in East Africa.
NDI will work with the WPA by expanding their capacity to advocate for their regional policy priorities, as well as support their efforts towards increasing the number of women in parliament and enhancing women’s political engagement.
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