Creating a network of democratic capacity builders in Bangladesh

Date: Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Author: Hansika Bhagani

Dhaka, Bangladesh - UN Women hosted the first BRIDGE Training to Facilitators (TtF) workshop in Dhaka for 20 participants from the Bangladesh political sphere. Participants included the Election Commission Bangladesh (ECB), political parties, civil society organizations (CSOs), and UN organizations.

The BRIDGE programme – Building Resources in Democracy, Governance and Elections – targets electoral stakeholders, and aims to build good electoral practice by enhancing their skills and confidence, and increasing their awareness of resources available to maintain a sustainable electoral culture. BRIDGE also helps build a network of informed and engaged stakeholders, and strengthens the overall national capacity for delivering BRIDGE training.

Photo: UN Women//Hansika Bhagani

Following the TtF, newly-accredited facilitators will work at sub-national level to deliver the Gender and Elections module of the programme. This module builds local level demand and capacity for implementing the Representation of People Ordinance (RPO) 2013 (3rd amendment): the RPO requires that all political parties have at least 33 percent of women at all levels of the party, including in the Central Committee and as candidates, by 2020.

“Creating this space is critical to generate dialogue at the local level between government, political parties, and civil society organizations about how to actualize the requirements for women’s political participation in Bangladesh,” said Shammin Sultana of UN Women.

Ljupka Guguchevska, co-facilitator of the event, and working with BRIDGE since 2011 added: “Gender is one of the cross-cutting themes in BRIDGE across all of the 24 modules and especially in the TtF. We have gender-balanced facilitator teams, and we encourage participants to understand how gender affects people’s everyday lives, not only in elections, but in workplaces, homes, and beyond.”

UN Women/Embassy of Sweden research on the political participation of women in the electoral process, found some hindrances to women’s political participation, including cultural preconceptions of women in politics. Women need to increase capacity to access and deal with political dynamics within these structures.

Fahmida Sultana, an ECB official, and national facilitator of the TtF workshop added “Women’s involvement in political life in Bangladesh has been slowly developing. Gender isn’t something that is really looked at in the political arena. The participation of women as both candidates and political workers, is not up to the mark. But it’s important. Politics is a field of decision-making, and we need more involvement from women.”

Despite strong female leadership at a national level, women’s political participation at a sub-national remains low. Fahmida Sultana explained: “Women don’t receive financial or political support from political parties. We find that political parties think that women aren’t as competitive as men, so parties are afraid of backing them to win. If women are part of a political dynasty or have a background in politics, they might feel more comfortable, but at the local level, the number of women who get involved is still low.”

By improving the capacity of electoral stakeholders through BRIDGE field level trainings, and continuing to engage with their ongoing work to integrate more women in the political fabric of Bangladesh, UN Women contribute to increasing women’s decision-making, including the voices of women voters and leaders, and raising women's issues nationally.