Being Bold for Change in Guatemala

Guatemalan campaign 2015, TODOS political party candidates for Congress on the National List

In 2013, while I was working in partnership with NDI Guatemala, I became interested in encouraging more women to get involved in politics, so I applied for the Andi Parhamovich Fellowship. I proposed a project focused on increasing women's participation as decision-makers in Guatemala - a huge challenge for me considering my background was in the sciences and I was new to politics.

Through my APF project I worked on a training program to prepare female candidates, who defied gender stereotypes, for the legislative elections in 2015, but we never expected a year like that.

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Developing Democracy in Kosovo, Europe’s Youngest Country

A workshop on Gender Responsive Budgeting, held in October 2012, where women councilors developed an advocacy plan and timeline for their municipality’s priority issue.

Meaningful democracy means the equal participation of women and men in political and public life.

In 1999, just after the war, I found myself back in my hometown, having spent months as a refugee in Macedonia. As Kosovo recovered, the UN and many international organizations were present to help Kosovars build institutions and capacities and to reconcile communities. I started to run the youth center in my hometown, and I had the opportunity to talk one-on-one with young people while I worked there. We were a new generation and we had gone through difficult and different experiences during the conflict, so getting together in this way was a real challenge at first.

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Empowering Women in Nepal for a Better Tomorrow

Women welcoming party leaders and NDI staff in Humla, Nepal. 

Prior to my work with NDI, the term “democracy” in Nepal seemed to imply a group of leaders fighting for power, without regard to the norms and values of democracy. Democracy was not for the people, of the people and by the people, but for the leaders, of the leaders and by the leaders. This perception commonly held by political parties in my country made me think - did democracy really exist? Will future generations adopt and carry the same values that we practice in our daily lives or will they bring about changes?

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Continuing an Interrupted Legacy

Ferdos Majeed voted in the Iraq parliamentary elections in 2005, her first time voting in a free and fair election.  

Before 2003 Iraq was isolated from the world. The country possessed little knowledge of a democratic system, a functioning civil society, a multi-party political system or human rights, especially as they applied to women. As a lecturer at a large university in Iraq, I was speaking with young people every day who expressed their eagerness for freedom of speech. I kept hoping that we would have all of that one day, and I was looking to learn everything I could about democratic systems and human rights.

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The Andi Parhamovich Fellowship: A worldwide legacy of women's political empowerment

Ferdos Majeed was selected the first Andi Parhamovich Fellow in 2008. Ferdos worked with closely with Andi in Iraq so her selection was a fitting tribute.

January 17th, 2017, marks the 10th anniversary of the death of NDI Baghdad employee Andi Parhamovich and three security personnel during an ambush in Baghdad, Iraq. While there is no way to adequately respond to such a tragedy, the Parhamovich family hoped to find a way to continue one of Andi’s passions: increasing women’s participation in politics. The Andi Parhamovich Fellowship was created so that young women from all parts of the world would be able to take advantage of resources and connections in Washington D.C. that they could then take home to their countries and move forward Andi’s goals.

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Women Have the Power to Lead Differently

Susana Villarán (right) speaks with Anne Hidalgo, mayor of Paris, at the United Cities and Local Governments World Summit, in Bogota (October 2016).

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"The world is not built or transformed without half of humanity, and because it is so difficult for us as women to achieve power and at the highest level in our cities, our commitment is to transform them," said Anne Hidalgo, mayor of Paris, at the United Cities and Local Government World Summit. Our delegation -- composed of women mayors and social leaders convened by the National Democratic Institute -- had the objective to radically deepen the gender perspective and the policies in favor of the rights of women living in cities embodied in the 175 articles of the New Urban Agenda (NUA) approved in Quito by the member states of the United Nations.

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Put Us in Your Place: Integrating Women into Election Observation

In Côte d’Ivoire, the Plateforme des organisations de la société civile pour l’observation des élections en Côte d’Ivoire recruited significant numbers of female election observers in a post-conflict context. For many of these women, it was their first experience in political activism.

Election observation initiatives are most effective when their findings are not only valid but also—more importantly—accepted as such by the majority of citizens. Observation teams should reflect the diversity of the population so that observer groups can truly speak in the name of all citizens. Gender balance is an important consideration in the composition of observer teams and leadership structures, both of which influence public perceptions of the observer group.

Integrating women into an observation effort helps ensure a more comprehensive understanding of the different barriers to political participation that men and women face. It is also an important step to advance observation strategies that address the distinctive ways electoral violence affects citizens.

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Gender-Sensitive Governance: The Missing Ingredient for Resilient Cities

Rockefeller Foundation's Sundaa Bridgett-Jones listens to NDI's Sandra Pepera at ICLEI's Resilient Cities Forum in Bonn in July 2016. Photo Credit: ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability

More than half of the world’s population now lives in urban areas. As the forces of globalization rapidly draw more people to urban centers in search of socioeconomic opportunity, we must ask: How do we ensure our cities are safe, sustainable and resilient?
When considering city resiliency, we think immediately of physical necessities: will people have access to clean water, sturdy buildings, safe roads and public transport? Will the city be environmentally sustainable, and be able to weather and recover from natural disasters?
Resilience, though, isn’t only about civil engineering -- it’s also about politics and governance. Inclusive and responsive democracies minimize insecurity and help protect particularly vulnerable community members from potential shocks and stressors. Democracies based on these values guard against instability and conflict and work to address the needs of their populaces, especially in circumstances where the population is diverse and may have competing interests.

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Violence Against Women: A Threat to Participatory Democracy

A female election official in Nigeria marks the thumb of a voter on election day in 2015 to help prevent double voting.

For the first time in history, over half the world’s population lives under elected governments. Yet, even in the most established democracies, women continue to be widely under-represented as voters, political leaders and elected officials. As half the world’s population, women are a key part of any democracy and their full and equal participation is a human right, and a measure of democratic integrity. Furthermore, we now have evidence of the positive effects of women’s participation. This can be seen in peace processes, where women’s involvement in peace negotiations means that the settlements are 35 percent more likely to last at least 15 years. Equally, a study that tracked women’s increased participation in local councils in India, showed that more women councillors led to increased investment in public services such as water and roads, improved parents’ aspirations for their daughters, and “erased” the gap between the boys’ and girls’ educational achievements.

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Papa said: “Set a benchmark for the women in our community”

Sehrish Naseem, the 2016 Andi Parhamovich Fellow, at Marietta College Speaking about Young Pakistani Women Leading Transition in Their Society.

One day at breakfast when I was 23 years old I asked my father, “Papa, why is not aunty considering to contest the general elections, even though she is an active member of our community?” A smile appeared on his face and replied, “because if she does our community will stop considering her a woman.” My aunt was not a politician, but as an opinionated and socially active woman with a deep understanding of the issues facing Pakistan, I thought she should be. This was the moment I came to believe that democracy cannot exist without empowered women. And empowerment comes through women’s access to education, health, and employment because it creates space for them to play an active political role.

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