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October 1st, 2010
Guest speaker: Nomcebo Manzini, Director of UNIFEM Southern Africa Regional Office and Paula Frey, IPS Africa Director

Guest speaker: Nomcebo Manzini, Director of UNIFEM Southern Africa Regional Office and Paula Frey, IPS Africa Director

By Marshall Patsanza and Chris Stein – JOHANNESBURG, Sep (IPS) – Female politicians and participants from parties and organisations supporting women’s involvement in politics across Southern Africa met on Sep. 20 in Johannesburg to hone their educational skills in the hope of empowering their local female politicians.

The goal of the three-day workshop, called Women In Politics Training of Trainers, held by IPS Africa with support from UNIFEM, aims to improve female politicians’ ability to correspond with the media and increase journalists’ awareness of female politicians.

With the 2008 Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development demanding 50 percent female representation in all areas of politics by the year 2015, capacity building has become key to equipping women with the necessary tools to breach the gap in gender representation in politics.

Guest speaker, Nomcebo Manzini, the Regional Director UNIFEM Southern Africa Regional Office (SARO), highlighted that access to media, resources, information and an improved capacity to articulate issues related to women’s rights and gender equality are among the areas where power can be placed in the hands of women in politics.

“Advancing women’s political participation and good governance to ensure that decision-making processes are participatory, responsive, equitable and inclusive forms one of UNIFEM’s key priorities and is critical to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals,” Manzini said.

The objective of the training workshop is to strengthen the ability of women in politics, governance and gender organisations to advocate effectively on gender and democracy.

The workshop was organised in response to the slow progress made by SADC towards meeting its pledge of 50 percent female representation of women in decision-making positions.

Only South Africa, Mozambique, Angola and Tanzania have achieved or surpassed 30 percent women in parliament.

Much of the curriculum focused on ways to improve their communication and education skills. The specific goals of the seminar included giving the educators strategies for advocating for women politicians; educating trainers on the tools that women candidates can use to promote their candidacy and rally their supporters; giving trainers an idea of how the media works and how it can be used to their advantage; and to generate case studies that can be used for learning elsewhere in the region.

Some of the organisations represented at the workshop are the Women’s Political Participation Project from Angola, Women & Law in Southern Africa from Lesotho, NGO Gender Coordinating Network from Malawi, NANGOF Trust from Namibia, Women Forward from South Africa, Inkatha Freedom party from South Africa, Coordinating Assembly of NGOs from Swaziland, National Women’s Lobby Group, from Zambia and the Women in Politics Support Unit from Zimbabwe.

The Women in Politics project seeks to strengthen women politicians’ capacity to engage in advocacy and transformative leadership. It further seeks to support institutions working in the area of women in politics and political parties towards the achievement of this objective.

When the workshop concludes on Sep. 22, the organisers hope the attendees will leave with skills to train female politicians on how to advocate on gender and democracy issues, work with the media, and self-evaluate their own success in their role as an advocate.

This workshop is the first of two taking place in this region. The next will cover the Indian Ocean Islands – specifically Mauritius, Comoros, Madagascar and Seychelles, which are included in UNIFEM SARO’s country focus. The Training of Trainers will be followed up by training of women in politics in three selected countries with upcoming elections.

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