Gender equality and development go hand in hand. Therefore, enhancing women’s participation in politics is an effective tool to foster growth and prosperity. Not only is the right to political participation a basic human right, research and worldwide experience show that supporting stronger roles for women contributes to economic growth. In short, investing in women is central to sustainable development.
On the 26th of November STEP Democracy welcomed over 40 political parties, representatives of CSOs, embassies and STEP Democracy partners to join us in the exclusive launch of the guidelines for political parties in Myanmar: gender equality – a shortcut to development and prosperity. This guideline is especially designed for political parties in Myanmar to support their journey towards gender equality.
This guideline helps political parties to understand the importance of gender equality. Moreover, it guides the parties to mainstream gender both within their party structure and in their party policies and practices. Political parties have a key role to play in enabling women to gain positions of power. As the “gatekeepers of democracy” it is of utmost importance that party actors understand their role to advance women’s political participation and become enablers of change. For this change to be comprehensive and permanent, parties ought to audit their structures, policies, and practices with gender equality as a benchmark. After this, Gender Action Plans should be written with the goal of enabling women to advance in party hierarchies and run for elected office at all levels. This guideline includes a model for this Gender Action Plan and can be used as a gender mainstreaming checklist by the party leadership.
The launching event was a unique opportunity to learn more about gender mainstreaming from key experts in the field. Keynote speaker of the event was Ms. Eva K Sundari. Ms. Sundari is a former Member of Parliament in Indonesia. She has extensive experience in politics, women’s participation and human rights. As achieving gender equality is a global challenge, and a particular challenge in Asia, Ms. Sundari will share her experiences in politics and best practices in Indonesia. In her speech she highlighted: “Politicians, especially MPs, often have been said as agent of change or transformers, but of course we must transform ourselves first before transforming the nation. We need to have both women and male MPs who share vision and actions in transforming society to support gender equality so that we can materialize our dream of social justice that benefit all citizens, all people, including women.”
After the presentation of the guidelines for political parties, STEP Democracy organized a panel discussion on “ways forward: how political party leaders contribute to gender equality in Myanmar”. Key message of the panelists: for efforts to promote women’s equal and full political participation to be effective, they must include strategies for political parties to ensure their structures, processes and financing are gender responsive and inclusive. It is crucial that political parties encourage women’s participation and integrate gender equality issues in their policies and programmes to ensure diversity of views and no one is left behind. The panel will bring together experts from the field to discuss gender in political parties, gender responsive policies and how political parties can increase public recognition that gender matters.
STEP Democracy is grateful for the inspiring opening remarks of the Chairman of the Union Election Commission U Hla Thein and representative of the Embassy of the Netherlands Ms. Linda van der Horst.
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