The International Republican Institute’s (IRI) East Africa programs, in conjunction with the Women’s Democracy Network (WDN), hosted a conference for 70 women from Kenya, Sudan and Uganda April 14-16, 2009. The program gave participants the rare opportunity to network across country and party lines, share experiences and identify solutions to challenges facing East African women in politics. Parliamentarians Ermira Mehmeti of Macedonia, Shirley Botchwey of Ghana and Martha Karua of Kenya also attended the conference to provide insight into effective women’s initiatives in other regions, and to share their personal experiences as women candidates for office and as political party representatives.
During the conference, participants identified five areas to focus on to support the inclusion of women in politics. Upon returning home, the women will strive to: utilize existing legal frameworks, such as quota systems and affirmative action laws, to bring women into the political system; form women’s leagues and sisterhood networks within and across party lines to provide support to aspiring women leaders; establish mentoring programs to prepare young women for political leadership; develop strategies for dealing with the media so that women in politics are characterized in positive ways; and mobilize financial and non-monetary resources to provide women with the logistical capacity to stand for election.
This was IRI’s first conference designed to bring East African women together to discuss the universal challenges facing women in politics in East Africa. It also followed-up a WDN sponsored Africa/Latin America bi-regional conference on political campaign management held in August 2008 in Kampala, Uganda. IRI continually supports the participation of women in politics and as Cecilia Ogwal, a participant from Uganda, stated during the conference, “real democracy cannot be achieved without women.”Top