Preparing Women Leaders to Contest for Local Council Elections
The children giggle and chatter as they wait for their parents to collect them. As the last of them shakes her hand and leaves with a cheery “Bye, Aunty” (the moniker for teacher), Fahumeena Hussain, 30, lets out a sigh. She gathers the papers and crayons from the desks and stacks them in a neat pile on the shelf. Even though the pre-school session is done for the day, her job is far from over. She has to hurry to fulfil her other role at the Women’s Development Committee (WDC).
As the Vice-President of Baa Atoll Hithaadhoo Island’s WDC, Fahumeena has her work cut out for her. There is a big meeting today. She goes over the day’s agenda, and calls the President of the Committee to re-confirm some action points. Fahumeena is very excited about this meeting. One of their members, who had participated at a training specifically targeting the women of WDC’s, will be sharing her experiences tonight. Conducted by an NGO on her island, the training had been supported by the Small Grants Facility of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
“We have all heard about Democracy, the Decentralisation Act and Local Governance. Today I am going to tell you how women have a central role in making these work for our community,” the guest of honour and her fellow WDC member commences the session and Fahumeena avidly starts taking notes.
“Back in 2012, I had lost the chance to participate in this first training. I heard really good things about the exercise though. I even collected the workshop materials from her,” Fahumeena nods in the direction of the speaker. “In fact, I was inspired to contest in the WDC elections because of the trainees’ feedback on the integral role of women and how we can be agents of change,” she continues.
- Trainings supported by the Small Grants Facility of the Integrated Governance Programme of UNDP
- Trainings targeting women of WDC and hopefuls for the local council seats conducted by NGO HIDA of Baa Atoll Hithaadhoo Island
- Training detailed how local councils should operate, and their roles and responsibilities. Focused on the Decentralization Act.
The information session is especially helpful for Fahumeena, as she plans to participate in the UNDP-supported second round of trainings by HIDA, the same NGO who undertook the training targeting the women of WDC. The theme this time would be focused on training people for the Local Council, and Fahumeena has decided to contest for a council seat in her island. “With the Local Council Election coming up, there couldn’t be a better time for this training,” Fahumeena says eagerly.
As the day dawned for the training for council hopefuls, facilitated by representatives from knowledgeable government institutions and civil society groups, Fahumeena joined many other men and women from her island who came inspired to take up leadership positions in the community.
Being a nascent democracy, the formation of Local Councils, and the changes to the role and operation of WDCs brought with it a considerable degree of confusion surrounding the different mandates and legislations. People were not aware of how these institutions were supposed to operate. According to NGO HIDA, prior to their trainings, the people of Hithaadhoo Island, especially the women, had only limited awareness about how a decentralized system works or how a Council Office was supposed to function.
At the training, Fahumeena shares with the group that being the VP of the WDC has made her realise the challenges that exist in a local governance system. She says that things are not always as clear cut and obstacles are many, especially for women in leadership positions.
The training focused on how local councils should operate. It detailed the important aspects of the Decentralization Act, including the functions and responsibilities of a Local Council and how the council should communicate and interact with the community.
For the hopeful women contestants from the island, the training has been empowering. “Women of Hithaadhoo have always been homely and somewhat docile. Our role at the community level has oftentimes been limited to cleaning and cooking for functions and such. This has been creating a gender imbalance in our community at a time of such rapid changes. Therefore such a training is necessary,” one of Fahumeena’s fellow participants said.
“I am now more certain that ever in my decision to run in the upcoming Local Council Election. I hope to bring change and show others that being a woman is not a reason for us not to be able to participate in our community’s affairs. After all, anything a man can do, intellectually or otherwise, so can a woman,” Fahumeena concludes with a clever grin.
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- 27 Sep 2015:
- MEET THE TEAM TUESDAY “Care enough to make it right!” Mohamed Izman Suhail Intern – Low Emission Climate Resilient Development (LECReD) Programme "I was fresh out of high school in Male’, when as a United World Colleges (UWC) scholar, I had the opportunity to live with students from more than 90 different countries at boarding school in Norway. This was an eye-opening experience for me, as I got to participate in experiential learning activities like organizing First Aid training camps, managing Leirskule (Norwegian Primary School) events, and hosting cultural learning evenings. I enjoyed meeting new people and learning about things I have only seen on TV or read in books or heard from relatives who had travelled to distant places. One thing that surprised me after two years abroad, was how little I knew about my own country. I tried to educate myself about the place I call home from books and articles online. But I still felt something was missing. Seeing how beneficial the experiential learning activities were for me in Norway, I figured I would be able to learn more about home by being more involved while in my country itself. This is what first made me interested in interning with UNDP Maldives – the development arm of the UN. The programme I am interning under focuses on climate resilient development. I have been studying development-related courses for a while now, but I was eager to experience development work firsthand: I wanted to see the work that was being done to better the lives of this generation without compromising the next. One of the most interesting and rewarding components of the internship would be the field trip to Laamu Atoll. During this field trip, we visited 10 islands in the atoll, and monitored development project sites assisted by my programme – ranging from installation of rainwater harvesting tanks to setting up of waste management centers in the islands. Almost all the projects were initiatives taken by the communities themselves, meaning that these projects are very likely to last a long time since it is the communities that are looking after them. I was also able to see mangrove ecosystems and visit heritage sites in Laamu. This experience within my own country has made me realize all that our island nation has to offer. Would I intern at UNDP or another UN organization in the future? If given the opportunity, definitely. Did I learn about everything I wanted to? Not nearly enough but a lot more than I had hoped for. If my internship taught me anything it’s that while it is important to identify problems in the world, it is even more important to come up with ways to solve them. If you care about what is wrong with the world, then you should care enough to make it right." Yesterday AT 11:36 AM
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