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Global 21 fourth quarter 2015

network critical opening for women to access political has the potential to shape global discourse leadership, the Commonwealth Secretariat and advocacy for member states to achieve commonwealth continues to support inclusive elections 30 per cent participation of women on across its membership. Election observation boards. mission reports increasingly assess the In delivering its mandate on gender meaningful participation of women in equality in this area, the Secretariat utilises the management and administration of a twin-track approach outlined in its the electoral process, as voters and as institutional gender equality policy. Through candidates, and offers recommendations for its work programmes, the Secretariat strengthening these roles. promotes initiatives to influence and Taking this a step further, the Secretariat has effect change in institutional policies and embarked on a research initiative to examine programmes to promote gender equality how key stakeholders – namely election in development outcomes, and to ensure management bodies (EMBs), political Commonwealth resources are allocated and parties, the legislature, women leaders managed accordingly. and aspirants – can be better supported to The Secretariat’s current Strategic Plan contribute to more gender inclusive elections identifies gender mainstreaming as a key across the Commonwealth. priority and signals political commitment In implementing this initiative in to mainstream gender in the Secretariat and Commonwealth Africa, as the pilot phase, within member countries in accordance with the Commonwealth has collaborated with the Commonwealth Charter. the African Union in convening some of the The launch of the Secretariat’s Gender above mentioned stakeholders to identify Equality Policy in 2012 mandated the gaps and share strategies to increase the Secretariat to embed institutional gender number of women in decision-making mainstreaming and support member positions across the governance spectrum, governments to do the same. It is anticipated and to improve the impact they make on that in the long term, institutional gender development and democracy. Plans are mainstreaming will be reflected in the underway to replicate this work across the gender results achieved by the Secretariat’s rest of the Commonwealth. divisions in their programme delivery, and The Commonwealth has conducted technical assistance provided to member pioneering work on issues such as women’s states. land rights, gender, peace and security, Furthermore, Secretariat staff will be violence against women, gender and trade, trained on gender and development to and gender responsive budgeting. It is support their efforts to mainstream gender building on this legacy to enhance and effectively in programmes and project influence global debates, resolutions and design. The Secretariat will continue to policy action on gender equality. address the persistent challenges of gender Moreover, the Commonwealth’s work equality and realise positive changes on increasing women’s leadership in public internally by operating the Secretariat’s service, corporate and government boards, Gender Equality Policy. 84 l www.global -br ief ing.org four th quar ter 2015 global The Secretariat consolidates strategic partnerships within the Commonwealth family of organisations, as well as international organisations and civil society, among others, to promote gender equality. The CPA remains a key partner in supporting female parliamentarians. Likewise, the Commonwealth Local Government Forum is a critical actor in promoting gender equity at the grass roots. The Secretariat recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with UN Women to maximise resources and focus on similar strategic priorities on women’s political participation, women’s economic empowerment, gender responsive budgeting, jurisprudence of equality on violence against women and girls, and distance learning education for girls. As indicated above, the Commonwealth has also initiated a partnership with the African Union to promote women’s political participation. The Secretariat utilises its wellestablished Commonwealth platforms and high-level meetings, gender and women’s networks, including Commonwealth Connects, to share experiences and implement recommendations from forums such as: Women’s Affairs Ministerial Meetings (WAMMs); Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings (CHOGMs); the inaugural Commonwealth Women’s Forum; and annual consultation with National Women’s Machineries (NWMs) in New York in the margins of the UN Commission on the Status of Women. Looking ahead, while much work has been done in empowering women in the Commonwealth, reaching gender parity in both development and decision-making processes and opportunities requires the Commonwealth to go further: it must demonstrate how its interventions are resulting in inclusive participatory processes and improving the lives of women and girls. The Commonwealth Plan of Action for Gender Equality, which expires in December 2015, has guided the organisation’s work to date. The ongoing evaluation of this plan provides yet another opportunity for the Commonwealth to align its priorities with the SDGs, and other Commonwealth commitments on gender equality and women’s empowerment. Postscript © Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com Election observation mission reports assess the participation of women in the electoral process, both as voters and as candidates for political parties Dr Josephine Ojiambo is Deputy Secretary- General – Political. Yvonne Apea, Amelia Siamomua and Kemi Ogunsanya also contributed to this article, on behalf of the Commonwealth Secretariat


Global 21 fourth quarter 2015
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