Emphasizing Women's Contributions to Democracy and Politics at the Sixth Assembly of the World Movement for Democracy

Leading to Action Launch

Kim Campbell, Hafsat Abiola, & Carl Gershman
at Leading to Action launch.
More photos on Flickr

Representing over half of the world's population, women are crucial, but still often overlooked representatives of their families, communities, and cultures in achieving a fully informed, engaged, and democratic electorate. With a number of upcoming national and municipal elections taking place around the world, we hope to continue to celebrate and build upon recent breakthroughs, ranging from the record percentage of women now serving in Rwanda's parliament to the 2009 election of four women into the parliament of Kuwait--the first women to accomplish this. Governments and human rights activists alike are beginning to take more serious steps towards finding effective means of implementing UN Security Council resolution 1325, which not only takes a firm stand against gender-based crimes during armed conflict, but just as importantly emphasizes the need for women to participate fully in governance and peacebuilding processes. And with ever-expanding information and communication technologies, women at the grassroots also have new and creative opportunities to learn about and engage in formal and informal policy-making processes, defining and addressing the issues that affect them most urgently.

Nevertheless, a number of cultural, social, and political barriers often stand in the way of a true democracy that reflects the full and equal participation of traditionally marginalized groups, including and especially women. The recent Sixth Assembly of the World Movement for Democracy, "Solidarity Across Cultures: Working Together for Democracy," held in Jakarta, Indonesia, from April 11-14, 2010, brought together approximately 600 democracy activists, practitioners, scholars, and others engaged in promoting democracy to discuss the more holistic question of how to work both across and within cultures to advance democracy around the world. WLP played a key role during the proceedings, convening discussions specifically focusing on the need to enhance women's role in democracy-building by increasing women's political participation as leaders and as citizens. To that end, our activities included a workshop entitled "Inclusive Democracy: Women and Men Working Together to Ensure the Promises of Democracy" (co-organized with Fondation Espoir [Haiti] and Foundation Hope for Haiti [USA], and featuring WLP partners from Afghanistan, Lebanon, and Morocco) as well as sessions on democracy and technology that addressed topics including building online solidarity using social networks and maintaining internet security.

A highlight of WLP's engagement during World Movement for Democracy activities was our convening of the Fourth General Assembly of the International Women's Democracy Network (IWDN), for which WLP serves as the Secretariat. During IWDN's meeting on April 13th, themed "Towards 2020: Strategies for Realizing Democracy," speakers Kim Campbell, Chair of the World Movement Steering Committee, and Carl Gershman, President of the National Endowment for Democracy, reflected on the global state of women's political participation, followed by reviews of regional progress and challenges by Hannah Forster (African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies, Gambia), Rosa Quintana (human rights activist and union leader, Uruguay), Inna Pidluska (Europe XXI Foundation, Ukraine), and Asma Khader (WLP partner Sisterhood Is Global Institute, Jordan), and commentary by other attendees on recent developments in regions including the Caribbean, North Africa, and Central and South Asia. With over 80 people in attendance, the vibrant discussion addressed not only the raw statistics of women's representation in government, but also the significant roles women have already played in standing up for their rights in their communities, societies, and cultures; the importance of women as role models; and the critical impact of gender-sensitive policy-making.

Democracy Award to Iran Women's Movement

Democracy Courage Award presented to the Women's Movement of Iran.

During the event, WLP launched the next among our array of culturally adaptable tools and virtual resources for the exchange of information and ideas to support women's full political participation. Our new manual, Leading to Action: A Political Participation Handbook for Women, empowers women to become impactful citizens and agents of change through voting, running for office, and becoming more effective elected officials. Developed in cooperation with WLP partners in Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East, and building upon WLP's participatory leadership methodology, the manual fills a gap left by previous literature on women and politics. More than just a technical guide to elections, it uses interactive sessions and case studies to address more holistic concerns such as the broader social relations affecting women's political participation, personal ethics, and developing the tools to become an informed voter and effective advocate. Leading to Action will be made available to all network members for use in grassroots workshops and training programs in their countries, supporting IWDN's goal of not only increasing the numbers of women in elected positions but also increasing their ability and effectiveness to bring about change within their communities.

The WMD proceedings drew to a close with Democracy Courage Tributes. Honorees included the Women's Movement of Iran. WLP President and CEO Mahnaz Afkhami accepted the award in absentia on behalf of the movement. (Read the acceptance speech in English | Persian)

The events in Jakarta once again demonstrated the range of exciting work being done by the women's rights and democracy building movements to build institutional solidarity in furtherance of a vision of a culture of democracy that places a premium on democratic ideals, values, and practices at all levels of society.

Read full summary of WLP's activities at World Movement's Sixth Assembly or visit the World Movement for Democracy website for information on the entire proceedings of the Assembly.

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