Women Candidates in PNG – Preparations Underway for the 2012 Elections
As PNG's national elections draw closer, work is gathering pace for the PNG’s Office for the Development of Women (ODW) as it begins to implement its Women Candidates Training (WCT) Strategy.
The Strategy, which was developed by ODW with assistance from CDI and UNDP’s Women in Leadership Project, is a home-grown response to the poor political representation of women in PNG. Dame Carol Kidu, until recently PNG's Minister for Community Development, is the only woman in Parliament. As she will not be re-contesting her seat, PNG faces the prospect of having no women members of parliament.
ODW's Strategy aims to increase the chances of women being elected by proposing a structured sequence of training and advisory events for women candidates and their campaign managers in the 10 months leading up to the election. It Draws on the experiences of women candidates in the 2007 elections and on CDI’s experience in conducting candidate training for women in the Solomon Islands and Bougainville. The planned Strategy includes a first round of regional training workshops during October-December 2011 in Alotau, Mt Hagen, Madang and Kavieng and a second round of progress check workshops during February-April 2012 in the same locations.
The success of these events will rely on the Strategy's network of local civil society partners in regions across PNG. These partners have been closely involved in developing the Strategy and will play a central role in organising and delivering the training and advisory events. Working with regional civil society partners has helped ensure that the events are targeted to local needs. It will support the emergence of enduring local capacity to support women candidates in the future.
These WCT Strategy partners are: Papua Hahine Social Action Forum in Southern Region; in Highlands Region, the Provincial Women’s Council Resource Centre is the focal point for a coalition of women’s organisations; in Momase Region, Soroptomists International is also the focal point for a coalition of organisations; and in New Guinea Islands Region, Namatanai District Council of Women is acting as the focal point for a local coalition.
CDI has worked closely with ODW and UNDP over the last 6 months in support of the WCT Strategy, providing advice and assistance in program design, preparation of materials and workshop organisation and facilitation.
Recently, Dr Orovu Sepoe (CDI’s Special Adviser) and Dr Norm Kelly (CDI Associate) facilitated a Strategy consultation in Goroka on 19 and 20 July. Nineteen representatives of various women’s groups in the Highlands attended the consultation and reached agreement on a program of work to implement the Strategy in the Highlands. And from 15 to 18 August in Port Moresby, CDI facilitated the first major Strategy event - a training-of-trainers (ToT) workshop for 16 trainers (four nominated by each regional Strategy partner) to prepare for the first round of regional candidate and campaign manager regional workshops.
The ToT workshop was opened by Dame Carol with David McLachlan-Karr (the UN Resident Representative), Brian Nakrakundi (Director of ODW’s Director) with Grant Harrison (CDI’s Deputy Director) adding to the welcome. Over the course of four days the participants worked through the structure and content of the regional workshops, gaining familiarity with concepts and materials on issues including:
- campaign strategies, tactics, dynamics, planning, logistics and financing;
- campaign messages, public speaking and media relations;
- electoral rules (including Limited Preferential Voting); and
- campaign team management.
By the end of the workshop all of those involved were confident that the WCT Strategy could be implemented successfully and that it would result in:
- 80 women candidates (and 80 campaign managers) more prepared than ever before to contest the national election, with greater understanding and confidence in campaigning; and
- civil society organisations and coalitions in each region with skills and materials to support and advise candidates at the 2012 elections and at other national and local-level elections.
Participants at the workshop argued that the Strategy could make a wider contribution to politics in PNG. It could help encourage a different dynamic in election campaigning, with women candidates offering an alternative to male-dominated money politics. A number of women at the workshopmade the point that the strategy could widen th edeabate on the role of women in politics beyond the reserved seats proposal.
Armed with endorsement from PNG’s Joint Technical Working Group on Women in Leadership (formerly chaired by Dame Carol) and positive feedback from the ToT participants, ODW and UNDP are currently seeking funding support for other donor partners to guarantee to roll-out of the remaining events in the WCT Strategy.