Remarks - Opening of BRIDGE Training on Gender and Elections
Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of the Public Service, Elections and Boundaries, Mrs Marian McNab; Deputy Chief Elections Officer, Mr. Francisco Zuniga; Executive Director, WIN Belize, Carolyn Reynolds, Colleagues from the UN system including from UN Women and UNDP; Workshop participants from all across the country. A pleasant good morning to all.
Democracy, governance and elections all have a gender dimension. Historically, women in Belize have had low and even no representation in the National Assembly partly because there is still a prevailing traditional perception as to the role of women in the social and political spheres. Even though women do vigorously participate in the political process including in mobilizing, campaigning and voting, they do so on behalf of male candidates in the larger part.
This collaborative partnership with the Women’s Issues Network and the United Nations Development Program through the financial support of the UN Democracy Fund and UN Women today, is a recognition of and support for capacity-building for women and men in Belize to empower them to have greater participation in national decision-making processes. Building capacities for informed participation in the democratic process is critical in order to shift attitudes and perceptions and increase efforts towards greater gender equality in national leadership. Female candidacy is an important indicator which requires renewed attention and support.
There is a need for continued and consistent support for women’s political participation in all decision-making processes and UNDP is mandated to provide support for electoral assistance to advocate for the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women with a view to achieving de jure and de facto equality with men in enjoying their political rights and freedoms.
We further recognize that advocacy efforts for the inclusion of women in political leadership in Belize must also include building competencies in electoral processes and actions.
To this end, the BRIDGE Training (Building Resources in Democracy, Governance and Elections) is being facilitated in Belize. This UNDP training program is a modular professional development program on electoral processes designed to be used as a tool within a broader capacity development framework. BRIDGE comprises 24 modules on all aspects of election administration and one of these modules is dedicated to “Gender & Elections”.
The BRIDGE Gender & Elections module aims to:
- sensitize electoral administrators about the importance of women’s empowerment and entry points for gender mainstreaming in the electoral process;
- inform civil society organizations and women’s advocacy groups about strategies to promote women's participation in electoral processes;
- provide tools for all participants to critically assess elections from a gender perspective; and
- offer networking opportunity for women’s advocacy groups.
This capacity development training this week therefore focuses on building competencies and knowledge in electoral systems from a gender perspective and ventures beyond addressing the deficit in advocacy capacities women as a constituent group experience and incorporates elements of policy formulation, political leadership and dialogue skills which together can further drive the move for gender equality in national political representation. These capacities will undoubtedly enhance engendered political engagement and strengthen support and action for greater inclusion in national democratic processes at all levels.
I wish you a pleasant and successful workshop and thank you for making the commitment to engage in this critical effort to strengthen democracy and gender equality in Belize.