STEP Democracy Equips Women Politicians with Practical Campaign Management Skills
Myanmar’s historic 2015 general election ushered in a host of reforms which have put the country on a path to successfully manage its upcoming 2020 general election, and continue its democratic transition founded on broad engagement in democratic institutions and processes.
Despite considerable progress, women in Myanmar still face obstacles that prevent them from participating in electoral processes and democratic reforms on an equal footing with their male counterparts. While the percentage of women parliamentarians at the national level increased from 6 percent in 2010 to 13 percent in 2015, a 2017 report by the Gender Equality Network titled, Gender and Politics in Myanmar, Women and Men Candidates in the 2015 Election, notes that women candidates were at a disadvantage from the outset and had to overcome several obstacles during the 2015 campaign period including limited financial resources, discriminatory attitudes from voters and limited access to media coverage.
To contribute to efforts aimed at equipping women politicians with the knowledge and skills needed to participate more effectively in election campaigning, and ultimately to facilitate their increased inclusion into democratic spaces and processes, STEP Democracy held trainings to enhance the campaign management skills of women candidates, campaign managers and volunteer coordinators to campaign effectively in the upcoming 2020 election.
These trainings brought together female representatives from 24 different parties, including the PNO and the CNLD, who are either represented at the subnational or national parliamentary level. They provided platforms for learning, engagement and experience sharing to enhance participants knowledge and awareness of campaign management, and to equip them with practical tools needed to manage campaigns more effectively and responsibly.
As a participant from Union Solidarity and Development Party said, “Door to Door simulation exercises were very useful. It reflects the real situation and we need to deliver the message during the short time and identify the potential voters of the party. So, we had the opportunity to practice for the campaign”.
According to an assessment of one such training, 75% of participants agreed strongly that the workshop provided them with inspiration and ideas to promote nomination of women candidates in their party. While a participant from the PNO stated that “It was good opportunity for us because we had international exposure by learning campaign strategies and practices from other country so we can learn and adapt from it. Getting to know experiences of young woman MP from Denmark was inspiring and we got motivation”.
Following trainings, the PNO party leadership requested their women’s wing to propose 3 female candidates, who participated in campaign management trainings for the 2020 elections, while the CNLD introduced an internal regulation that at least 30 percent of their candidates should be female.
These positive changes in behaviour point to progress in the relationship between women and political parties in attempting to ensure greater inclusivity and participation of women in Myanmar’s electoral processes.