Violence and Intimidation Against Women In Elections Needs to Stop. Here’s How.

Voters at a polling station in Tanzania on October 25, 2015. Credit: Monika Emch

Democratic elections are a fundamental way to peacefully resolve political competition. However, they are also high-stakes games where power is won and lost that can result in conflict and descend into violence. Although such violence affects all citizens, it has a particularly sinister impact on women. Since January alone, the world has seen politically active women stripped publically by police on their way to political and election events, decapitated and stabbed. Their vehicles have been damaged and their campaign materials destroyed. They are denigrated as “eye candy” and accused of having made sex tapes. Election officials and observers have faced violence in their work, and women voters are dismissed by the very parties seeking their votes with sexist language and jokes, or are banned from voting at all.

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The Missing SDG Indicators: Accelerating gender equality and empowerment

Women leaders in India, where the constitution dictates that one third of seats in local entities are reserved for women. Photo by: Gangajit Singh Chandok / U.N. Women / CC BY-NC-ND

To achieve a world “in which every woman and girl enjoys full gender equality and all legal, social, and economic barriers to their empowerment have been removed,” will require political action — leadership, commitment and accountability. The U.N.’s “Transforming Our World” sustainable development framework, which will be adopted by the General Assembly in the coming days, is the latest call to action. We will all be judged on what we do over the next 15 years to make that ambition into an empowered reality for women and girls. Sustainable development goal 5 to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” expands significantly on the Millennium Development Goals by detailing in a single goal a full range of issues and actions that will drive success. However, in the proposed indicators, which anchor accountability for the new global framework, critical metrics for women’s participation in political life and public decision-making are missing.

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Financing Gender Equity: “Money Matters” in Addis Ababa

NDI’s Layla Moughari helps members of parliament log into a questionnaire about their role in domestic resource mobilization. (Photo credit: Aretha Francis, Women in Parliaments Global Forum)

NDI co-organized a panel on July 13, on the role of parliamentarians in using “domestic resource mobilization” to advance gender equality as part of the Post-2015 Development Agenda. Domestic resource mobilization refers to the use of a country’s public and private funds -- including tax revenues -- to finance development goals. Globally, significant domestic resources that could be spent to support gender equality and empowerment are lost every year through corruption, corporate tax evasion and inefficient tax collection systems.

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Cindy McCain Visits NDI in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Cindy McCain and NDI Resident Director Eve Thompson (right) meet with women political leaders in Kinshasha, Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

On July 8, the National Democratic Institute’s team in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) had the pleasure of hosting Cindy McCain in its Kinshasha office. McCain, a businesswoman, philanthropist and humanitarian, is also the wife of U.S. Senator John McCain, who chairs NDI’s sister organization, the International Republican Institute. Mrs. McCain asked to meet with a group of Congolese women politicians to discuss their under-representation in the country’s government as well as the difficulties they face in efforts to participate successfully in the political process.

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Testing City Limits: Women and Urban Governance

Shari Bryan speaks on a panel on urbanization and the challenges of local government and citizen engagement in New Delhi, March 2015.

Cities, for the first time in history, are now home to more than 50 percent of the world’s population. This is an incredible demographic shift, and in their rise to prominence, urban centers have begun to shape national and global-level discussions. After all, there are now megacities in Asia and Latin America with larger populations than some European countries. These megacities drive more than 70 percent of the world’s economic activity, and some of their local governments are acting across national borders to strike their own trade deals and address climate change issues.

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They Say ‘Why Women’s Political Empowerment?’ and I say ‘What Else?’

Credit: Davit Tomadzea

Georgia lags behind most European countries when it comes to women’s political participation. Only 12 percent of the members of the parliament are women and only 11 percent of those in local councils are women. That is a just a 5 percent and 1 percent improvement respectively compared to parliamentary and local council elections in 2008 and 2010 respectively. Out of 12 directly elected mayors of self-governing cities, not one is a women and all 63 directly elected governors are men. Women make up only 17 percent of the Cabinet of Ministers.

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Votes without Violence: Strengthening Electoral Integrity

NDI’s domestic observation partner in Nigeria, TMG, reported that 1 in 4 election officials for the 2015 presidential and legislative elections were women.  

There’s something new in the Gender, Women and Democracy (GWD) program at NDI. In evaluating existing programming within the democracy and governance community, the GWD team found a gap. As we examined the social, political, and economic barriers preventing women from participating fully in democratic governance, we found that one such barrier -- violence against women in elections (VAW-E) -- was absent from the conversation, largely because it had not been distinguished from wider studies of electoral violence. So, in partnership with NDI’s election team, and with funding from the National Endowment for Democracy, GWD is putting VAW-E on the map.

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Albright honors Afghan women changing status quo

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright greets Afghanistan's First Lady Rula Ghani at the National Democratic Institute's 2015 Madeleine K. Albright Luncheon. Credit: Chan Chao

Each year, NDI awards its Madeleine K. Albright Grant to an organization outside of the United States that defies the odds to give women the tools to participate and lead as equal and active partners in their communities.

At the Madeleine K. Albright luncheon this week in Washington, D.C., the former Secretary of State and NDI’s chairman presented this year’s award to the Worker Women Social Organization (WWSO) of Kandahar, Afghanistan.

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First Lady Rula Ghani to Speak at Madeleine K. Albright Luncheon on Afghanistan’s Future for Women

Rula Ghani, first lady of Afghanistan speaks at a Symposium on Women’s Rights and Empowerment. Credit: Norway MFA/ Kilian Munch

In the last 30 years, Afghanistan has emerged from Soviet occupation, fallen into a crippling civil war, and faced brutal and oppressive rule by the Taliban. During this violent period, women were barred from public life. They were prohibited from working, banned from running for political office, and even shot for attending school. But since the fall of the Taliban, Afghanistan’s women have made significant strides for equality.

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Senator Mikulski will give remarks on her 45 years as a trailblazer for women’s political participation

Senator Barbara Mikulski speaks at NDI's 2012 International Leadership Forum luncheon honoring former vice presidential candidate, Geraldine Ferraro.

On May 12, Mikulski will give special remarks at NDI’s annual Madeleine K. Albright Luncheon, which honors a grassroots women’s organization promoting the participation of women and girls in politics.

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