Emerging Women Leaders in Thailand Develop Skills to Guide Local Communities

Despite the present political impasse in Thailand at the national level, local women activists and leaders are developing their skills and strengthening their networks to prepare themselves for future leadership roles.  To provide women with the skills and mentorship necessary to succeed in local leadership roles, the International Republican Institute (IRI) launched a pilot initiative to connect veteran women leaders with rising women activists. 

Noting some of the challenges women face to being political active, Siriporn Panyarsen, a participant in IRI’s pilot project and former president of Pichai subdistrict administrative organization in Lampang province, Thailand said, “… knowledge on laws and other regulations will help women to be well-equipped in order to compete in the political arena.  Nowadays, money has unfortunately played a larger role in local politics.  Therefore, it is important for women to improve their skills so as to secure votes without having to pay for them.” 

Partnering with the Law Reform Commission of Thailand, Chiang Mai University’s Women’s Studies Center and the Foundation for Women, Law and Rural Development , IRI brings together women who hold or have held locally-elected office, as well as women exploring a run for local office to strengthen the leadership, communication and campaign skills of emerging women leaders.

In one such workshop in Chiang Mai for emerging women leaders from six northern Thai provinces, several veteran women leaders shared their experiences running for office and explained the functions and responsibilities of two separate local-level government structures, the sub-district administrative organization and the town municipality organization, as well as local election laws. 

At the workshop, a woman from the Hmong ethnic minority group encouraged her fellow participants to become involved in politics and vocalize the issues affecting them, their families and their communities.  She reminded the activists that Bangkok policymakers, hundreds of kilometers away from their home provinces, often forget the concerns of minority groups and participating in the political process is an important opportunity to influence public policy. 

To gain practical experience using proven techniques that they can replicate in their own endeavors, the women developed two-year strategic plans that detail projects and activities that address barriers to women’s political participation.  The women also discussed best practices in campaigning, issue identification, targeting voters, and developing and delivering effective campaign messages.

To hone their communication skills and strengthen their ability to convince citizens to vote for them, participants developed campaign messages for a mock election they were contesting.  Those messages where tested with the group, which offered reactions and constructive feedback on how those messages could be improved.

Many of the participants indicated their intention to run for local office after taking part in the workshop, something they had not considered before.  “Right after the workshop, I thought I might not be able to employ all the skills and knowledge learned from the training workshop…I was nervous, so were my colleagues.  Nevertheless, we have tried to apply new skills learned from the training to our election campaign.  Eventually, it was a successful attempt.  Three of us who went to the training in November [2013] got elected as council members to the sub-district administrative organization in Ban Pin,” said Sairung Wiyanan. 

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