Gender equality and women`s empowerment are not only basic human rights but also crucial for achieving inclusive, sustainable and equitable development. Women`s participation is central to these goals, and political parties are arguably one of the most important institutions for fostering such participation.
In Myanmar however, the representation of women in decision-making positions of parties and other institutions remains very low. Only about 10 percent of the overall Members of Parliament are women – in both the national and state/regional legislatures.
This low figure is alarming yet does not come as a surprise because women`s participation during the different phases of the electoral cycle is limited. For instance, women`s chances to be selected as a candidate to compete for their party in elections are significantly lower than their male counterparts. In the 2018 by-elections only seven out of 69 candidates were female and none of the female candidates were elected. Against this background, STEP Democracy puts a strong focus on working with political parties to empower and enable women politicians to increase women`s political involvement and find strategies to use throughout the electoral cycle.
With the 2020 general elections due in the coming year, STEP Democracy has initiated a comprehensive capacity development programme for women politicians that focuses on campaign management skills. Targeting female candidates, campaign managers and volunteer coordinators, the project aims to build skills relevant for the different stages of campaign management. For instance, participants learned how to design and fill an E-Minus Calendar that serves as the major strategic framework for the management of campaigns. At the end of the workshop, participants presented a generic campaign management strategy that they had jointly developed in working groups.
STEP Democracy will continue to work closely with political parties on this topic as campaign management skills were identified by high-level women politicians across parties as the most pragmatic and effective way to enhance women`s participation in the electoral cycle. This approach tackles one particular challenge women politicians face on a regular basis: senior party officials often dismiss calls for more women representation by referring to a lack of technical capacity.
Acknowledging this challenge, one participant of the initial workshop said, "If we are useful to the party leaders, they will not ignore us - we have to be skilful so that we can get a say in our party".
Another participant told, “the workshop was very useful since it involved practical exercises. I have learnt so much from it and I can also learn from experiences of former campaign managers by working with them together in a team.”
 See https://www.mmtimes.com/news/female-representation-politics-remains-strikingly-low.html.
 See https://www.bnionline.net/en/news/research-shows-womens-political-participation-myanmar-declining