As more women candidates in Liberia strive for effective and competitive legislative campaigns, it becomes increasingly important to promote opportunities for growth and connection throughout the campaign process. NDI, with funding from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), is implementing a campaign boot camp training program entitled Promoting Women’s Political Participation in the Elections Program in Liberia. Through this program, NDI will provide technical assistance to aspiring women candidates and foster opportunities for connection among candidates, mentors and experts as they navigate the campaign process. To kick-off the program, NDI implemented a three day Candidate and Campaign (C&C) Boot Camp in April with a cohort of 29 women aspirants. 20 of the participants are members of 12 political parties, while 9 of them are independent aspirants.
As the October elections draw near, the issues of security and safety are becoming a major concern for women. Some of the violence faced by women in Liberia includes rape, sexual assault, physical abuse and online harassment. The training materials are designed to mitigate the risk of women encountering these forms of violence during and after the elections. Prior to the training, NDI conducted a Think10 assessment survey which showed that all of the women aspirants are at elevated risk. The women acknowledged their growing fear of participating in political activities due to this feeling of elevated risk. To bolster the confidence of the participants and propel them to eagerly participate in the political process, the assessment survey provided each participant with their own unique safety plan. The results of the Think10 assessment survey, coupled with the threats faced by the women, informed the development of uniquely designed training materials used during the sessions.
The training covered: an introduction to understanding risk; de-escalation and conflict management; self protection and self defense; and psychosocial support and stress management. In the self-protection/self-defense portion of the training, participants learned about the difference between self-protection and self-defense. The participants were also taught basic self-defense techniques to defend themselves in the event of unavoidable danger. The presentation focused on identifying signs of anger or aggression, learning basic de-escalation techniques and using effective communication skills to resolve conflicts peacefully. This approach involves active listening, empathy and effective communication. It provided important guidance for aspirants in a political campaign on how to protect themselves and resolve conflicts peacefully, which can help ensure a safe and successful campaign. The training also provided valuable guidance for participants on ways to prioritize their mental wellness and manage stress in a demanding and potentially stressful context. Some self-care techniques provided to participants were: journaling, physical exercise, breathing, sleep and meditation. All of these techniques will help keep aspirants grounded and mentally stable during stressful periods.
At the end of the training, participants expressed gratitude to the National Democratic Institute for the dynamics of the training, and how relevant it was to them during and after the elections period. Siah Hare, an aspirant in District 11, Montserrado County shared, “National Democratic Institute NDI, you have done it. You have set us on fire with the information you have shared with each and every one of us. I personally want to say thanks very much for this support that is an eye opening for me that will go a long way with me and the next generational lines of leaders who I will have the opportunity to educate as I implement each of the focused points that I have learned. Thanks very much also for the shared material which is my tool to becoming the next Representative of District 11 Montserrado County on October 10 by the grace of God and the will of the people who will be motivated through all of the skills learned.”
“National Democratic Institute NDI, you have done it. You have set us on fire with the information you have shared with each and every one of us.”
Through the NDI program, participants completed the safety and security training with the ability to assess risk, de-escalate potentially dangerous situations, protect their physical well being, as well as their mental wellness. Participants engaged in group exercises, as well as individual evaluations during the training, and gained invaluable skills and knowledge in their pursuit of public office.
Author: Beulah Nimene, Program Officer, NDI: Central and West Africa
NDI’s engagement with this program is implemented with the support from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) program.
NDI is a non-profit, non-partisan, non-governmental organization that works in partnership around the world to strengthen and safeguard democratic institutions, processes, norms and values to secure a better quality of life for all. NDI envisions a world where democracy and freedom prevail, with dignity for all.