Training and Empowerment

17 posts / 0 new
Last post
Training and Empowerment

Below are a few questions to begin this conversation thread:

What kinds of training programs have been successful in increasing women’s leadership, political knowledge, etc. (countries, contexts, and situations)?

What factors are important for an organization to consider when deciding between a focus on efforts towards gender mainstreaming or women specific efforts?

What is the role of women’s organizations’ in increasing women’s political participation?

Practice Parliaments for Women + Women's Candidate Training

When i was working for UNDP, i was very proud to design and implemt the first ever Mock Parliaments for Women in Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Palau and Papua New Guinea. We made a quick video of our efforts to show other activities what we did - see The key idea for us is that rather than just training women but then not giving them an immediate pratical opportynity to aply their new skiills, we would train them in both political process, campaigning and substantive policy issues - and then give them a chance to demonstate their capacities in a pretend parliamentary setting. Our experience showed that it worked really well - (1) many women reported that they felt much more confident about trying to be an MP and talk about policy issues and (2) we broadcast the mock parliaments on the radio, with the result that voters were able to hear them in our mock parliament - anedotally we heard that people were very impressed and it built voters confidence in the capacity of women to be their political representatives.

I also had experience running straight up women candidates training. Such training covered off a number of issues - developing media skills, helping candidates to design their campaign (including their target audiences, their key policy priorities) and building their knowledge of key national and local policy issues to enable them to better engage with such issues during the campaign (and ideally if/when elected). A key lesson was to make such trainnigs as pratical as possible - use expressons of interest to identify participants who sinerely plan to run for election. run the training prior to an election being called but close enough to that date so that women can actually use the oppournity to desigh their campaign. Use political party leaders and officials in key political institutions (eg electoral management body parliament) to help with the training to get their support ad to also extend the networks of allies the women candidates can access.

 I completely agree with

 I completely agree with Charmaine that working with the leaders and officials in key political insitutions is very useful. Also from my experienc eof  working on the Democractic Governance for Development Project of UNDP in Nigeria around the 2015 April elections women were trained and empowered with the involvement of the electoral management body, the Independent National Electoral Commission.  In November last year the Commission completed its Gender Policy which will guide its intervention in ensuring the relaisation of a gender responsive commission which will ultimately impact on the electoral process and also contribute to it becoming a gender responsive process.

It is important to note that the various political leadership training organised for women supported by the UNDP Democratic Governance for Development Porject Nigeria has strengthened them to work across political parties lines. In essence the women are united in their action towards enhancing their political participation and are not divided along party lines. There is a platform of women working across party lines. It is the Women in Politics Forum run by very experienced women politicians.

The men used to enjoy reminding the women of their political parties just to continue to divide them up but now  are being careful now as it is no longer working!

successful training programs

One of women’s empowerment advocates has once said, “we must be ambitious, strategic and pragmatic as we must recognize that today we have more women educated in political processes.” I would argue that one way to do it is to apply the bottom up pressure. To assist women to achieve the goal of women’s advancement in politics IRI’s global initiative, the Women’s Democracy Network (WDN), targets three steps of women’s political empowerment.
1. Motivate women to pursue political activism by building their confidence and raising their awareness of the importance of political participation;
2. Empower women who aspire to run for office with skills to run effective campaigns which reflect the concerns of their constituents;
3. Advance women elected to office by providing them with tools to govern democratically and effectively. As a result, these elected officials have the opportunity to change the public perception of women’s leadership capabilities.
Every step requires a separate approach based on the identified needs on the ground. However, it is also important to identify approaches that transcend boarders. In other words, approaches that are applicable in many environments. One of the tools WDN has been using in Step 1 is Women’s Leadership Schools (WLS). It is a series of eight workshops to build the capacity of women to lead in their communities and to prepare them to lead in public life; implemented by women coming from the same community/country; utilizing women role models as keynotes. The WLS curriculum was developed by Rachel Woods, Founder and CEO of Leadership Trek® Corporation (LTrek®). It was piloted by WDN members in Bangladesh, Cameroon, Georgia and Guatemala through the funding of UNDEF in 2011. Today WLS are implemented in more than 15 WDN countries around the world, including through support by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and local funding opportunities. The key here is the local ownership of WLS in addition to the impactful WSL curriculum. You can read more about WLS
Steps 2 and 3 encompass campaign trainings, strengthening the voices of women’s wings within political parties and enhancing the effectiveness women’s caucuses in the legislature.

Gender mainstreaming & WPP

This is in response to Brent's last discussion question - regarding whether to focus on gender mainstreaming or women-only activities. Obviously,the best appraoch is a balance of both, but i would stress that gender mainstreaming does indeed need to be pursued as a tactic. In my experience, a lot of the WPP discourse becase women FOR women and WITH women (only) - which meant that male politicians and voters were not actively involved and engaged. i thkn this is a big missed opportunity.

While i was a parliamentary specialist for UNDP i was at pains to make sure that trainings for MPs - including post-eection inductions in partiuclar - included sessions on gender equality, gender sesitive law-making and temprary special measures to promote women's political participation. The idea was to try to engage male MPs from the outset - especialy noting tat i most of the parliaments i worked, men held 90% or more of the seats such that their buy-in was going to be essential for any gender political reforms we wanted to push.

Note also then the importace of maintsreaming gender into political party manfestoes - to ensure that all candidates then start taling about gender issues (including temporary special measures, for example). Likewise, gender should be mainstreamed into trainnig for male candidates as well (for example, training delivered by an electral maagemrent body on campaigning and ethics). Such traiings could also be used as an opportnity to discuss gender issues (including those issues of relevance to women candidates).

Successful approaches

At Womankind we have supported women's rights organisations in a number of countries to work with women aspiring to take on leadership positions both in the civil and political arena. In Ghana we are implementing a 4 year programme funded by the Dutch govt. What we have learnt is the need to have ongoing training, mentoring and accompaniment of women. That's why over the last 3 years we have worked with the same 45 women from 3 districts.  Affirmative action has created opportunities for women but what they were telling us was that they did not feel prepared, and that the one-off traditional training offered by NGOs was not sufficient to build their confidence and skills.  We also support change at the very grass roots level, enabling women to take on leadership positions in a number of decision-making fora, such as school, market or church associations. This, we found, is an important training ground which helps prepare women for entering the political arena.  

Long-term mentoring

I just wated to say that i very much agree with Catherin regarding the importance of investing in a cohort of trainees/beneficiaries over time. My experience of traininhg in the pacific was also that it was much too ad hoc - one-off traiings just arent enough to make a differnce. Identifying a group of women (ideally thogh an open EOI process) and then accompanyig them throughout the electoral cycle can be crucial. 

Again from the Pacific - the Pacific Women Parliamentary Partnerships Project ( has developed longer-term partnerships with women MPs across the Pacific region, as well as trying to facilitate a network of women MPs across the region. (This regional network is particularly useful because the numbers of women MPs in the region are so small that they need to look outside their national parliamentary for partnerships)

What is the role of women's organizations

International and local women's organizations play a substantial role in increasing women's participation. Just one example from Ukraine context. Women's Democracy Network is a global network of individual women in more than 60 countries around the world. WDN's structure encompasses WDN country chapters, which are volunteer groups of women in a particular country who coalesce under one umbrella of women's political advancement. What is unique about WDN country chapters is that they come together regardless of their religious and political affiliations.
WDN Ukraine country chapter and the Women's Consortium of Ukraine ( have partnered to conduct Gender Monitoring of Elections 2014 Project (GMEP). The project sought to monitor the country’s elections through a gender perspective and to create greater awareness of women’s participation in the political process in Ukraine. The 2014 GMEP report reveals low gender equality during 2014 parliamentary elections and provides valuable recommendations regarding measures that can be taken to increase women’s political participation in Ukraine.
This initiative not only launched public discussion in Ukraine about women’s participation in election processes and elevated the issue for the Ukrainian public and political parties. By urging political parties to respond to their questionnaire, the Project in essence drew the attention of political parties to the gender equality gaps within their organizational structures.
In 2012, multiple civil society organizations around the country had also conduct gender monitoring of elections and had provided a baseline for future studies. WDN provided the base methodology to carry out the gender monitoring activities, the local women’s organizations united to implement the project, and USAID and NED provided funding to 2014 and 2012 respectively. The synergy between local and international partnership provides more and opportunities for local initiatives to promote women’s empowerment. You can find the 2014 report here:
and Ukrainian

women's rights orgs supporting women & accountability

Another area which women's rights organisations are able to make a vital contribution in is around supporting women to organise collectively, which in turn can lead to their substrantially increased political participation - both individually and as a collective. Something when we have not touched upon yet in detail here relates to supporting women's political participation in terms of holding decsion-makers to account, and advocating for policy and practice change in line with their needs, priorities and interests. Womankind has many examples from the work of our partners of the ways in which women's rights organisations (WROs) have worked, including in coalition with other peer WROs to carry out this work.

For example, in Peru, one Womankind partner organisation has contributed to the implementation of two regional congresses that bring together women and women's rights organisations from five provinces in order that they prepare and submit input into institutional guidelines. They have carried out four public hearings with decision-makers around the Ica Region, during which these decision-makers report to constituents on progress in the implementation of public policies and actions developed in response to women's demands and priorities. They have also worked towards the creation of the the Regional Council of Women, a body attached to the Presidency of the Regional Government of Ica, which has been mandated to address women’s concerns and issues. This has been carried out in tandem with initiatives to support women decision-makers, including training and gender awareness-building. 

There is a body of knowledge examining how women's individual and collective leadership can challenge and change discriminatory gender norms, and the positive effects of symbolic representation - ie that women's presence in political fora (notably political office) can influence more positively the beliefs and attitudes held by elites and society about women's ability and role in leadership and decision-making.

However less is known about what enables women to participate in community groups and what individual and collective pathways women take as they participate in collective spaces. Womankind is currently undertaking research in four countries looking at this, which will be important to further nuance understanding in this area. 

Interested to hear the views of others re: role of women's rights organisations in supporting women's political participation and empowerment as constitutents, notably around decision-maker accountability. 


Women's NGOs lobbying for policy reform - Fiji example

Agree with Abigail that women's NGOs can be very useful in helpong brng together women to lobby for policy reform in relation to women's decision-making and policy changes in support of gender equality more generally. In Fiji for example, 4 women's NGOs came together during the period of the Bainramaram dctoratorship and in advace of the 2014 elections to hold a number of Women's Forums (, which were used both to support potential candidates to understand the upcoming electoral process, to develo their skills and networks, and also to help bring together women activitsts more broadly to help them strategise around the elections and the opporutnities to insert women's rights and gender equality issues at all stages, and with different taret audiences (eg. voters, political parties, government). 

Campaigning resources

I was just looking through the resources we collected on the Pacific Women in Politics website ( and found a couple that might also be of interest to those involved in this discussion:

Increase awareness, pol engagement, political knowledge

IRI's Women's Democracy Network (WDN) has used Women’s Political Education Forums (WPEF) to increase women's political engagement. WPEF can be conducted by women/men politicians or CSOs. The women who attend the Forums received information about:
• The political system in their country
• The importance of women’s participation in politics
• Avenues to actively participate in the political processes, i.e. to register with a political party either as a volunteer or a member; receive a voter ID, or ultimately register as a candidate.
To ensure that the Forums were more than just a one time event, we assist local partners to develop a handbook, as a leave behind, reinforcing the message of the Forums. One of good practices which has ensured the Forums are effective has been the inclusion of the representatives of political parties and government representatives/elections commissions in the Forums. This way, the women who attended the Forums had the immediate opportunity to meet with these representatives and sign-up for a political activity or receive their voter ID. Through the Forums women learned about avenues to increase their political engagement and were provided with an immediate opportunity to sign-up for a political activity. For example:
• Of the nearly 400 women who attended the three Forums in Zimbabwe, almost 200 had never had a voter ID and 200 had never heard from a politician prior to the Forums;
• After the Forums, 200 registered to vote;
• 133 registered with a political party either as a volunteer or as a members.

WPEF can be successful before elections as a voter education tool or GOTV. They also can be a useful tool for the recruitment of new women members to political parties. The Forums have served as “a one stop shop” for political activism.

Finally, as funds are always an issue for civil society and political parties, one of the important issues to note is that, GPEF are not expensive to implement. As opposed to trainings, they can take place in a similar way as meetings with constituents, which politicians conduct anyway.

NGOs lobbying for Policy

NGOs lobbying for Policy Reform: the Nigeria Example

Like Fiji, Nigerian women NGOs have been key to relevant laws/policies around women  and their fundamental human rights. Although, it is tough difficult and frustrating, the achievement of the laws is an historical reference point. Just 3 days ago, as a result of the efforts  of Women NGOs, the Violence against Person Phohibition bill was signed into law after more than 10 years of advocacy and campaigns. there is so much hope that the law will assist and protect women form experience vionce agaisnt their persons. Also a good fall back for women from electoral violence and intimidation.

Trainings in Lebanon

Each country has its own context as we see and involving women in decision making processes and raising their social and political participation varies in methodologies and practice from one region to another according to existing culture, policies, laws and interest.

In Lebanon, there are two kinds of trainings that are done for women. We have one level that is highly engaged, skillful and all what wqe work on with is more and more advocacy knowing that social advocacies and campaigns related to women's rights and women's participation in politics are very active now, but the existing law says that 10 MPs shpuld sign the petition and then it will take further legislature time. We are always stuck in that loop. Women's campaigns have taken different forms from protests and law edits to phusical and social media campaigns.

The other group addressed in our trainings is more like the less exposed group of grassroot level where we train on basics and especially in rural areas where we train on concepts of democracy, tolerance, conflict resolution, human rights and women's rights. With these groups, we know that they sometimes are just using us to have an excuse to leave their homes and we dont mind that because we know that this is a great asset for us if we wanna make any changes for the future of our communities. We always say if she gets 20 % of what we train on everytime, she will be a more engaged citizen in two years. Paving a road might be easy when the land is plain, but it is much more difficult when you have steep hills and much more holes all over the way. It is important to keep walkin though and aim at the peak.

Training grassroot level is usually mixed with males where we try to have a new kind of social education but training women on politics and campaigns is most often women only. This might not be changing in these two years as we see more trainers ans participants in gender equality issues.



a prot4est in Beirut on violence against women
Flash mobs

A lebanese group had this flashmob in the picture attached where they pretended to be dead becasue of domestic violence infront of the parliament and they had a backup campaign saying: I did not die but some others women did.

They put it up to the legislation to show that they are dying because of lack of protective laws. As a matter of fact, the law to protect women from domestic violence was finalized shortly after

Flash mobs

Rawan, you bring up a relevant topic of the importance of public support to advance the issues that otherwise might not be attended to. In addition to street protests, which can show how big the issue is for the broader public, a good practices have been to combine public advocacy campaigns with advocacy efforts directed to specific institutions with the decision making power. Thanks for sharing the result of the Falsh mob in Lebanon. Not all of them lead to fast success, but certainly lead towards public awareness raising and putting pressure on the decision makers.

Training and Empowerment

For local or international NGOs alike, there usually are too many issues that need attention. In this situation to make our work most impactful I suggest that a structured approach works best - identify the issue and, after cost benefit analyses, determine those where you can make the most difference and focus your trainings there. For the public to advance women's empowerment, it is key to focus on the mechanisms ensuring the implementation of existing laws and regulations. Finally, for all the local and INGOs, coordination of efforts should be one of the major approaches to democracy assistance, especially when we see the funding for it dwindling down. Sometimes it is a matter of economy, however often it is a matter of political will. When the latter is lacking, so will the democracy assistance. Thus, the more coordination among the democracy actors the more potential that others will benefit from the same values and processes that the democratic world aspires to share with developing democracies. One of the major ones here is equal rights for women and girls.