On Wednesday 25 July, Ambassador Andrey Sorokin, head of the OSCE Office in Yerevan announced a series of activities designed to encourage and increase the participation of women in Armenian public life. “Promoting women’s participation in economic and political spheres as well as inclusion in public life is an essential factor for ensuring democratic advancement. The positive effect women’s participation has on stability and security throughout society is undeniable,” said Sorokin.
According to Oliver McCoy, Democratisation Officer of the OSCE Office in Yerevan, the activities include seminars and workshops that will be led by experts from Armenia and other participating OSCE states with experience providing training related to political involvement. The programme aims to provide training for up to one thousand female politicians, representatives of civil society, the media, and the general public from Yerevan and the regions in Armenia.
In particular, the project organisers are targeting female politicians with an eye to encourage involvement amongst younger and first-time candidates. Participation is open to all interested individuals. “The OSCE,” explained McCoy, “considers gender equality a priority throughout the organization and within all its activities.” According to their website, the OSCE office in Yerevan will provide training on topics such as “best practices in advancing women as leaders, decision makers and candidates; in developing gender sensitive political platforms; campaigning effectively; and in working with the media.”
These activities will be carried out in partnership with Syunik Womens’ Resource Centre Network, ProMedia Gender NGO and the Armenian Association of Women with University Education, and the British Council in Armenia, says McCoy.
Ambassador Pieter Jan Langenberg of the Netherlands, which is providing financial support for the project, commenting on the NGOs involved, said “I’m impressed with the commitment and energy of the civil society representatives and believe their work at the community level will help ensure an increase in women’s participation during the local elections.”
The first series of workshops will take place already in August 2012. They will focus on an introduction to election-related legislation, particularly the Law on Local Self-Government Elections. Attention will also be given to general campaign-related issues in the first few sessions. In June, the OSCE Office in Yerevan held a roundtable on women’s participation in politics in Armenia. While Armenia has legislation requiring women to make up 20% of candidates on proportional representation lists, only 14 women were elected to parliament during the last electoral cycle. The quota system does not apply to the 41 constituency-based seats. In light of the upcoming local self-government and presidential elections in 2012 and 2013 respectively, the encouragement and resources made available to increase women’s participation in Armenia are timely.
As McCoy notes, “Changing the overall perception and increasing the role of women in political life throughout Armenia is a challenge. This project aims to help address the challenge by creating a more receptive environment for women in politics and thereby providing opportunities that would not have existed otherwise.”
CEW Karina Gould interviewed Oliver McCoy, Democratization Officer at the OSCE Office in Yerevan about the programme.
How many women do you anticipate will participate in these activities?
We expect that a total of up to 1,000 representatives of women politicians, civil society, media, general public are involved in the activities in Yerevan and regions of Armenia.
Who will be leading the seminars and activities? Will they be successful Armenian women or will you be bringing in female politicians and activists from abroad?
The seminars and activities will be led by female and male experts, both from Armenia and other OSCE participating States, who have general experience organizing training courses on subjects related to political involvement. Local experts will be chosen based on their experience in Armenia and abroad.
When will the first activity be held, and what will be the topic?
The first series of training courses will take place already in August 2012. An introduction to election-related legislation (i.e. the Law on Local Self Government / the Law on Local Self Government Elections) as well as general issues related to campaigning will be the first subjects addressed.
Are you also involving actors in civil society, if so, which ones?
Yes. The organizations with which we are partnering in conducting this project are Syunik Womens’ Resource Centre Network; ProMedia Gender NGO and the Armenian Association of Women with University Education. We are also working with the British Council in Armenia.
Who are your target participants? Are they established female politicians or will the OSCE reach out to younger women as well?
The target participants are female politicians. We are planning to include all interested candidates and especially to involve younger or first-time candidates to the largest degree possible. 6. Is there anything else you think I should know to provide a full picture on the OSCE activities? T he OSCE considers gender equality a priority throughout the organization and within all its activities. Changing the overall perception and increasing the role of women in political life throughout Armenia is a challenge. This project aims to help address the challenge by creating a more receptive environment for women in politics and thereby providing opportunities that would not have existed otherwise