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NDI

The National Democratic Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization working to support and strengthen democratic institutions worldwide through citizen participation, openness and accountability in government.

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As Nepal strives to move beyond years of armed conflict and political turmoil and build a stable and peaceful democracy, the foundation of such a democracy will depend largely on ensuring that the drafting process for the country’s new constitution is inclusive and representative. Women in Nepal face severe discrimination and have historically been marginalized and underrepresented in government. With training and support from NDI, the April 2008 elections ushered in a new wave of women leaders, with the election of 197 women (out of 601 total members) to the Constituent Assembly (CA), the constitutional drafting body.

NDI recently launched the Women’s Leadership Academy (WLA), a series of trainings to increase the capacity of these newly elected women CA members, members of parliament (MPs), government agency staff, and political party and civil society leaders to fully engage in the constitutional drafting process.

The Women’s Leadership Academy is targeted to women CA members, many of whom have little prior political experience and often lack confidence in their ability to effectively participate in the CA process. 102 women CA members, as well as 21 leaders from political parties, 22 government agencies and officials and 28 civil society members, participated in the initial workshops, which covered issues such as parliamentary culture, political communication, the constitution-making process, human rights , gender and social inclusion, and federalism.

Twenty-one women were selected to participate in the second set of trainings, which will focus on targeted skills building based on the participants’ interests, expressed needs and committee membership. In the first specialized workshop, “Judiciary and the Rule of Law,” female and male judges and legal experts from the United States and Nepal shared their experiences on judicial independence, rule of law and social inclusion. The experts and workshop participants then discussed how to incorporate these concepts into the constitutional drafting process.

The workshops have already yielded positive results. Several CA members are pursuing establishing women’s subcommittees on each CA committee, a technique learned from the WLA workshops. Another CA member reported using the technical skills she learned in NDI trainings to analyze the budget in committee hearings.

Participation in the WLA workshops also facilitated communication and networking and has helped to establish an increased sense of solidarity among the women. At the Academy graduation ceremony, women from different parties, civil society groups and government agencies pledged to support each other in the constitution-drafting process.

Pictured above: Nepalese women participate in a Women’s Leadership Academy workshop.

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Published on March 16, 2009