Leading CSOs in women’s political participation from Kenya and Nigeria came together in Nairobi to learn from each other’s experiences, share lessons learnt and best practices, and determine recommendations for their future work.
UN Women in Kenya and Nigeria recently organized a Learning and Exchange Forum, “Identifying and Overcoming Roadblocks to Women’s Political Participation”, which brought together key CSOs and stakeholders in both countries, who are experts in strengthening the participation of women in politics. The forum, hosted in partnership with the Fund for Gender Equality, offered participants the chance to learn from each other’s experiences, share lessons learnt, and exchange best practices, in order to identify similarities, differences, and innovative approaches to defeating barriers to women’s political participation.
Civil society holds a central role in UN Women’s approach to empowerment. The UN Women Fund for Gender Equality’s (FGE), UN Women’s global grant-making mechanism dedicated to the economic and political empowerment of women, provides technical and financial support to high-impact, innovative women-led civil society organizations (CSOs). Two civil society organizations in the current Africa portfolio have reached significant results in promoting women’s political participation: In Nigeria, Alliances for Africa (AfA) is an international African-led CSO focusing on human rights, peace and sustainable development. In Kenya, Uraia Trust works in the areas of civic education, civic engagement and institutional transformation. The forum – organized with significant support from Country Offices in Nairobi and Abuja, was part of efforts to foster south-south and triangular cooperation with the two CSOs and beyond.
Catherine Wolf, FGE portfolio manager: “Fostering South-South cooperation and knowledge exchange amongst grantees is a priority of UN Women. Not only does such cooperation help overcome the traditional north-to-south aid approach or the prescriptive development model; knowledge exchange between two or more expert CSOs has the potential to identify and further define gender equality strategies beyond country borders.”
During the interactive forum, the participants developed a shared understanding of the various stages of the election process, from a woman’s intention to participate in political decision-making to her election in office. Commonalities and differences between countries were identified, pertinent roadblocks defined, and possible strategies for overcoming them discussed.
Eventually, participants identified recommendations for their own future strategies and approaches in advancing women’s political participation.
The participants identified the following key areas to work on, and Uraia Trust and AfA are working on refining the recommendations:
- CSOs need to develop a long-term strategy that understands the electoral process as a cycle, not linear process;
- CSOs need to understand the political process as an interest-driven process;
- CSOs need to focus on financial implications of political participation;
- CSOs need to embed women’s political participation work in a broader process of women’s movement-building.