NDI Changemaker: Through the Barbed-Wire Fence Toward Democracy

I grew up in the capital of what is now Slovakia, right on the river that borders Austria. I remember being near this very river, peering over to see what was on the other side. A barbed-wire fence sat between the two countries, a literal and figurative separation between democracy and the “Iron Curtain” that laid itself across Central and Eastern Europe at the time. The presence of the fence is something that I have since held in my mind; it was and continues to be a part of my daily reality - something continuously propelling me toward democracy.

Read More…

Democracy 101: What is democracy? (not a rhetorical question)

“Our democracy is dead.”

I’ve heard this phrase uttered all across the world after the passage of a restrictive voter law, the closure of an independent news outlet or the results of a questionable election. Friends and acquaintances over the years have lamented: Because of x, my country is no longer a democracy.

Is it not? Was it ever?

Read More…

Supporting Nepal’s Post-Conflict Transition from the Bottom-Up

A political party participant casts his vote during a mock election exercise on April 25, 2017 in Nepal. Through mock elections, candidates familiarized themselves with the voting process in order to conduct more effective voter outreach.

Since the end of its brutal decade-long civil war in 2006, Nepal has undergone a rocky, but peaceful democratic transition. The country has transitioned through the dissolution of its monarchy, the restoration of parliament, a devastating earthquake, the adoption of a new constitution, and the establishment of a federal republic. However, persistent poverty, the geographic isolation of many villages, and the marginalization of certain ethnic communities pose severe challenges to the nation’s economic and political development. Since the adoption of a new constitution in September 2015, significant progress has been made to improve government effectiveness, increase social inclusion and cohesion, and increase the responsiveness of the country’s representative institutions such as parliament and its political parties. Through on-the-ground engagement at each step in this time of change, NDI has worked to ensure that Nepali democracy reflects what matters to citizens, most recently in the country’s watershed local elections.

Read More…

Myanmar MPs Strategize on Consensus and Ethics Reform

How to get to YES: a venn-diagram can be a useful tool to formulate areas of agreement among opposing sides during intense negotiations.

Ending ethnic conflict, opening up the economy, creating jobs and adopting constitutional reform are very large tasks looming in Burma’s future. Building consensus with minority parties also will be critical for the big changes that the Burmese must enact. But it would be a mistake to bet against a country of such beauty and tremendous natural resources, which welcomes you with a warm mingalaba (how are you doing!) greeting in each encounter.

Read More…

Lebanese Youth Leaders Unite to Advocate for Reform

A young Lebanese activist participates in a discussion during the Youth Activism Academy

 

Youth in Lebanon have not had much opportunity to learn about democracy or how they can be involved in democratic governance. NDI conducted a survey in April 2017 suggesting nearly one-third of the electorate has never voted in parliamentary elections—not because they do not want to, but because parliamentary elections have not been held in the eight years since they became eligible to vote. Yet, despite the challenges they face, many young Lebanese men and women are highly motivated to act to improve their living conditions and basic rights.

Read More…

Naija Women on the Rise: Making Every Voice Count

2017 Andi Parhamovich Fellow, Ashley Dauda, with NDI Chairman and former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright at NDI's annual MKA Luncheon.

I recently attended a conference on ‘the Political Economy of Gender and Women’s Empowerment in Africa,’ organized by the School of Advanced International Studies at John Hopkins University. Gretchen Bauer, a Professor of Political Science and International Relations from the University of Delaware, held a presentation on the global ranking of women’s representation in national parliaments.  As Bauer passed through the slides of her presentation, I didn’t bother to look for Nigeria since I already knew where we stood on the list globally:  181 out of 191—the lowest in Africa.

Read More…

Grounding Theory in Practice: Youth programs in Jordan and Kosovo

Usharek+ participants in Jordan launch their advocacy campaign with the goal of improving traffic safety. 

NDI’s new theory of change unifies important elements of youth political participation programs and depicts how they can interplay to change practices of youth participation. This theory, which I blogged about last month, was not merely academic exercise from the “ivory tower.” It draws on discussions with young politically active women and men across Africa and Latin America, collaborative discussions with democracy and governance practitioners from around the world, and deep reviews of effective youth programs NDI is conducting in Jordan and Kosovo. The Jordan and Kosovo programs show how the theory of change can play out in practice.

Read More…

Women’s Political Equality in Pakistan: Not an Impossible Mission

Sehrish Naseem gives a speech at NDI's annual Madeleine K. Albright Luncheon in 2016.

How did I come to understand what has become my mission in life? Well, I come from a social context in Pakistan where, like in all developing countries, women’s vision and committed approach to a practical life goes through tough challenges. It can even start within a woman’s own family. Fortunately, my family stood by my ambition of joining social work as a profession.

Read More…

Make Sure You Aren’t the Last

I come from a long line of tough, trailblazing, phenomenal women. My grandmother would go into villages in India with a bullhorn, telling poor women how to access birth control. My mother came to the U.S. at the age of nineteen to study endocrinology at University of California-Berkeley and eventually became a leading breast cancer researcher. There’s no way I could have begun my political journey without strong role models like them to inspire me.

Read More…

Needing A Longer Runway: Inspiring Young Women’s Political Engagement

Participants in NDI Kosovo's 2017 Week of Women discuss citizen concerns with political leaders.

Take a moment to reflect on what you wanted to become when you were eight years old—which, if you are a woman, was when you were at your most confident. How did that change by the time you turned eighteen? For those who were (or are) aspiring politicians, you might be interested to know that research in the U.S. says girls are equally politically confident—for example, in running for class president and student councils—as boys until high school, when it drops by half. NDI’s Gender, Women and Democracy team has taken on the task of finding out what this political confidence gap looks like on a global scale and, more importantly, how to address it.

Read More…

Pages