Empowering women in political participation [Archives:2008/1210/Local News]

November 24 2008

By: Shuaib Al-Mosawa
For the Yemen Times

SANA'A, Nov. 21 ) One hundred and sixty six female political activists from around the republic have been chosen for empowerment training for women in the political domain. The training was launched last week in a public event organized by the Supreme Commission for Election and Referendum (SCER) and funded by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the European Commission. The training is a component of a wider program to last until 2010 to support women's political participation with a special focus on the electoral process, especially the upcoming parliamentary elections in April 2009.

The International Federation for Electoral Systems (IFES) is also a key player in this program which is considered to be the first of its kind because it directs women's participation as candidates in the parliamentary elections with full support of the official organizations such as the elections' commission and the GPC ruling party. In fact, the GPC had already spread banners across the main cities advocating for women's empowerment and their political rights.

Khaled Abdulwahab Al-Sharif, Chairman of the SCER, said that political illiteracy, the influence of social and cultural practices, and the novelty of the democratic experience are the main obstacles preventing women from obtaining their political rights. Al-Sharif pointed out that, despite the increased number of registered women in the voters records in 2006 compared to 1993, the individual achievements of women are declining and in need of more popular campaigning programs, such as a media strategy for the political empowerment of women.

The campaign will be formulated in a way that the media's message reaches the public directly and is accepted by them. There will be strong emphasis on religion to support women's rights and to correct some of the traditional concepts that hinder women's political participation. The campaign plans to include a number of television, radio and print media interviews with respectable religious scholars in Yemen and in the Arab world who will vouch for women's political participation and clarify the position of Islam in this regard.

The media campaign will also target men and women in younger age groups, such as high school and university students, because youth are the potential change makers and future participants in the electoral process.

Moreover, according to the strategy's concept paper, there will be educational sessions on the laws and regulations that promote women's participation in the elections, as an example of the political participation of women in general.

Director of the SCER general department for women affairs Dr. Elham Abdulwahab explained that, in addition to the official and non-official media, there will be large mobile screens in the main streets presenting short documentaries and drama sketches to promote women's political participation.

Al-Sharif hoped that government institutions, political parties, and civil society organizations would have a responsibility to enhance women's political participation in order for them to reach a reasonable percentage in both the parliament and local councils.

Pratibha Mehta, UNDP Resident Representative and UN Resident Coordinator, said, “It is indeed very commendable that SCER in Yemen has a separate department focusing on women's participation