The Conference on Advancing Women’s Leadership in Politics was held between July 11, 2018 and July 12, 2018 respectively at Six Seasons Hotel and Lakeshore Hotel. The conference was jointly organized by the Centre for Research and Information (CRI) and Democracy International (DI) for 120 female leaders of Bangladesh Awami League and its associated organizations selected from across the country. The two-day conference was designed to equip Bangladesh Awami League emerging women leaders with different tools and techniques for overcoming challenges and becoming more competent in their areas of work.
The conference included several interactive panel discussions, experience sharing by the women leaders, training sessions, networking sessions as well as question and answer sessions with panelists. The opening session was addressed by Awami League General Secretary and Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader, CRI Trustee and Power, Energy and Mineral Resources State Minister Nasrul Hamid, DI’s Chief of Party Katie Croake and CRI Executive Director Sabbir Bin Shams. While the closing session panel included CRI Trustee Radwan Mijib Siddiq, Presidium member of Bangladesh Awami League Faruk Khan, International Affairs Secretary Shammi Ahmed, DI’s Chief of Party Katie Croake and CRI Executive Director Sabbir Bin Shams. The conference was also attended by Apu Ukil, General Secretary, Bangladesh Juba League and Shamsun Nahar Chapa, Education Affairs Secretary, Bangladesh Awami League The sessions were moderated by Barrister Shah Ali Farhad from CRI and Lipika Biswas from DI.
The conference covered a wide range of topics, sessions, panel discussions. The discussion evolved in exploring different issues associated to women’s increased leadership and participation in local and national politics. Women’s electability depends on multidimensional aspects, educational, social, financial, political capacity to run and win elections. The need for better human resource development was proposed to facilitate further women’s’ participation and representation. The participants also shed light on the challenges they face and they come up with some potential solutions to those problems.
The panelist tried to motivate the women leaders with discussing facts, figures and shared experiences of challenges faced by the women leaders in different countries. Research says the current political landscape of Bangladesh for women is better than many developed nations, however there are emerging challenges that will be faced in the future.
The two-day conference featured grassroots experience sharing in terms of running election campaign and conducting political activities, presentation and interactive training session on field level and online campaign strategies. There was also case study presentation on campaign practices as well as group work on creating campaign strategy action plans. It also included demonstrations on advocacy and outreach skills and building foundation for women’s leadership.
The participating women leaders collectively identified several challenges they face being a woman in the political sector which included partiality towards men in recommendations for nomination, difficulty in accessing party campaign management teams, recruiting of unexperienced campaign manager e.g close relatives, non-cooperation from the male counterpart, countering fake propaganda, lack of security, inter-party conflict and ability for funding campaigns among others.
The participants also made some suggestions to the panelists which include the formation of a permanent training cell at Awami League’s party office, taking strict measures against those who disrupt campaigns, provide financial support to run campaigns, creating a women party wing, in the committee for every district. The participants of the conference also identified and recommended list of issues important to the voters in the upcoming elections.
The conference was organized as part of Democracy International’s Democratic Participation and Reform Program (DPR), under the Strengthening Political Landscape (SPL) project jointly funded by USAID and UKAID. This political party development program designed with a view to enhance grassroots participation focusing on women and youth, to improve the parties’ access to and use of information.