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.

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Helping Women Parliamentarians Wage Peace in East Africa

Hodan speaking on the role of women in peace and development processes in Somalia at the Peace, Security and Development in the Horn of Africa Conference on December 8, 2016 in Nairobi, Kenya

Somalia has been at war with itself since 1991, and my family fled the country at the peak of the civil war that year. Over the course of the following decade, I lived and studied in India. The civil war has left the country with many scars: political instability, insecurity, a dysfunctional government, no functioning public and private institutions, economic destitution, clan disputes and violence, the formation of terrorist groups, and piracy. So after my studies, I decided to return to Somalia to contribute to the rebuilding of the nation. But arriving in Mogadishu in 2003, nothing prepared me for the shock at the level of destruction and the suffering of my people, especially women and children.

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It's Their World, As Long as They're Not Online. Young Women and Politics

Young women are the future of politics, but we have to protect them from violence, including online.

Communication technologies are having a significant impact on the way we practice democracy around the world. Online platforms are an exciting and expanding space for citizens to gather information and voice their opinions. They offer new opportunities for politicians and their constituents to connect, and for young women and men and other new entrants to politics to cost-effectively find a voice and build their political networks. However, these platforms can also be a forum for misinformation, hate speech, abuse and harassment.

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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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