Women's caucuses and alliances for sustainable development



Women's caucuses and alliances for sustainable development

This discussion is aimed to shed light on the following questions: 

1.      What strategies have women’s caucuses developed to shape national policy agendas in different thematic areas (e.g. economy, security, health, environment, education and others( in ways that are gender-responsive? What are opportunities and challenges in this respect? What further measures are recommended to strengthen the capacities of women’s caucuses to promote gender equality and sustainable, equitable development in their daily work? What specific measures are recommended that target young women leaders as future agents of change?

2.      What strategies have other formal and informal platforms developed and implemented to advocate for gender-sensitive policy and law making? What are challenges and opportunities in this respect?  Which institutions are represented in these platforms (e.g. civil society, Parliament, political parties, public administration and Electoral Management Bodies) and what were some of their main achievements? What strategies are applied to ensure young women are being represented in and contributing to such platforms?

This discussion circle was moderated between Monday 13 and Friday 2 March 2012, with the formal part of the discussion ending on March 2. 

Those who which to add further contributions and comments are welcome !

The consolidated response of the discusion is availabe below.

There are 45 Comments in this language version, More comments are available in different languages.

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louisesperl's picture

Thank you so much for this enthusiastic and motivating pledge for joint action! The Bosnian experience very well illustrates the impressive results women's platforms can achieve if unified - including in post-war societies were women  have proven to overcome political divides. It points, however, also to the shortcomings women still face with regard to their inclusion in formal peace negotiations. As has been the case as well in Bosnia and Herzegovina, peace negotiaitions are in many cases highly dominated by men. As a result, gender dimensions of conflicts are not always adequately addressed. At the same time, excellent work to promote peace and stability is being done by women's organisations in many countries of the world that have witnessed  violent conflicts. And in fact, this is much needed.

Congratulations and keep up th great work!

louisesperl's picture


Dear Jolanta,

Thank you so much for these great insights on the Parliamentary Group of Women in Poland and the other highly relevant initiatives you presented! I am sure the good practices identified can be very useful for other colleagues in the region too - in particular those that highlight the importance of taking advantage of political and other events and anchoring initiatives in broad-based social movements!

Congratulations to colleagues in Poland!

louisesperl's picture


Thank you so much Monjurul for pointing us to the broader context and details of Parliamentary work in your contribution and for providing us with some insights on recent developments of Parliaments in the region! I think this shows precisely the complexity of structures, processes and environments we are facing when discussing ways on how to best promote gender equality within the Parliament. Indeed, Parliamentarians need and deserve specialized technical capacity strengthening (technical training-drafting etc.) and research and advocacy support to fulfil their constitutional obligations. 

It is also true that Parliamentary committees do much of the policy work and oversight. It is their responsibility to make sure gender equality is integrated. Of course there are also specialized parliamentary committees on gender equality: In at least fifteen countries in the region, specialized committees have a specific mandate related to gender equality. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, for example, the Parliament’s Gender Equality Committee, together with the Gender Agency has been supporting Members of Parliament as they build their capacities to review legal drafts from a gender perspective.

As can be seen from below graph, there are a number of countries that have a low representation of women in parliament and also no specialized Parliamentary committees. Needless to say, to be effective, such bodies need sufficient funding and support (both from within and outside the Parliament). It is important to note though, that all committees need to work jointly towards the achievement of gender equality.


Source: Inter-Parliamentary Union:  Specialized bodies;women’s representation in national Parliaments

Women’s caucuses can be also absolutely important tools for promoting gender equality in parliament. They can be instrumental in building a culture of gender equality, placing women’s issues and gender equality on the political agenda and getting new legislation passed.

Indeed, more analysis will be still required to identify the most suitable strategies for promoting and developing gender responsive, democratic Parliaments. And as Monjurul has put it - We need more women in parliament, and, we equally need more men parliamentarians to play their due share of responsibility in promoting gender equality in legislative business.

kvanderleest's picture

In the early 1990s Polish women MPs established the Parliamentary Group of Women. The Group was active in advocating for the adoption of legislation related to the equal status of men and women.In 1996, a bill was proposed to the Parliament as an initiative of this Group, introducing the quota system. After numerous amendments, another bill was proposed in 1997, although it had no chance of being passed during that term due to insufficient support in the parliament. The bill on equal status of men and women was passed only in 2010. The main goal of the adopted law was to prove to the European Commission that Poland was meeting its European Union membership obligations, and does not tackle the issue of equal participation of men and women in politics.

In the current parliamentary term, the new cross-party Parliamentary Group of Women was established on 11 January 2012 and gathers 50 members (48 women MPs and 2 Senate members (higher Chamber of the Parliament) from 4 political parties, with prevailing majority of the ruling party Civic Platform. No one from the biggest conservative opposition party (Law and Justice) is the member of the Group. It has just started its activity, but according to the initial Declaration they intend to workon adapting Polish legislation to the standards resulting from international conventions and agreements including CEDAW, Beijing Platform and implementing the recommendations of the Council Europe and the European Union's policy for gender equality. The first important activity of the Group was holding a debate with the Prime Minister and experts on planned increase of the retirement age of women to 67 (23 February 2012).

In addition to the Parliamentary Group of Women, several women MPs participate in the annual Polish Congress of Women. First established in 2009, the Polish Congress of Women gathers women (and men) from across all spheres of Polish society – politics, education, business, academia, media, civil society, the arts, scientists, trade unions – to advocate on behalf on women’s interests and gender equality. In 2009, the Congress adopted the slogan “Women for Poland, Poland for Women” and gathered over 4000 women. The participants elaborated more than 135 demands; the main demand called for the introduction of a draft law on parity. Participants at the 2010 Congress continued their call for the introduction of special measures in the form of quotas, which were adopted by the Polish Parliament in January 2011. In 2011, the Polish Congress of Women took advantage of the Polish Presidency of the European Union to host a European Women’s Congress. This Congress gathered over 6000 experts and gender advocates from across Europe and Poland. Held at the Polish Palace of Culture, a Polish historical landmark and large meeting space, the 2011 European Congress of Women organized parallel panels devoted to issues of primary concern to Polish and European women, including women’s participation in politics and in business, domestic violence, and combating cultural, gender-based stereotypes. 

Two good practices are evident from the Polish Women’s Congress: first, the importance of taking advantage of political and other events (cultural, sporting) hosted by a country to keep putting women’s issues and gender equality on the agenda and second, anchoring the initiative in a broad-based social movement, as opposed to affiliating it with a specific political party.

Jolanta Cichocka, OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, Warsaw

Klelija Balta's picture

This experience Samra is highlighting has a history in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and I would like to underline one fact, only when we, women, had joint platform and took over joint actions we had real  successes.

Even during the war, supported by excellent women all over the world, women from Bosnia and Herzegovina succeeded to work together.

I remember first meetings between representatives from MEDICA Zenica,  Jasminka Dzumhur and Vive Zene, Tuzla, in 1994 when the both towns, Zenica and Tuzla were under siege. After that first meeting the close cooperation and joint work between our organizations working with traumatized and raped women (raped and tortured by  “soldiers from the other side”) have started. It was just the beginning.  In January 1996, two months after the war, as director of  hCA (please use full name) Tuzla I visited Banja Luka and used the opportunity to visit the NGO DUGA, Galina Marjanovic director of the organization and the DUGA team, working with traumatized and raped women(raped and tortured by  soldiers “from the other side”). Galina and me, we were women “from two sides”, but we were talking the “same language” and we understood each other. I have shared that experience with Angela Konigh (OSCE)  and she simply put me in an OSCE car and we visited NGOs all over BiH. All of them were speaking the same language.  Six months later, beginning of June 1996,  we had the first Conference,  titled “Space for conversation” in Zenica (supported by hCA, Kvinna till Kvina and …),  and for the first time 6 women from Republika Srpska came to the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In December, the same year, we organized a conference in Banja Luka and 24 women (politicians, CSOs, business women, women from government) from Federation of BiH came, without any escort,  to participate. At that time we had ZaMir internet and it helped us a lot. Bosnia and Herzegovina women network was established and nobody could stop it any more.

What we achieved from these first steps? Trust me, fare more than any of the political meetings organized by the stronger political and economic world powers. My country still suffers from the negative consequences of those meetings led by male political leaders.  Women were not part of Dayton peace agreement negotiation and that political agreement was not created for development of this country, but only to stop the war. It cannot be said we are not grateful, but it was just one out of four pillars for normal human life in one country. 

What was achieved by women coalitions and networks in the meantime?

An analyses was conducted of the first post war elections (1996; 1998..), a coalition established  to support women politicians (which was very active over 8 years), a Women economic network established, negotiations conducted with Entity prime ministers and an MoU signed to establish gender units  (1998; subsequently gender Centers were established in the Federation of BiH (2000) and the Republika Srpska ( 2001). A Gender Equality Law and Action plan for its implementation was developed and approved; the BiH Gender Equality Agency and gender commissions were established in all parliaments; Gender equality commissions in the majority of municipalities.  Action plans were developed to fight and prevent domestic violence; an antidiscrimination law was developed; a women network to fight and prevent violence against women was established and maintained; CEDAW reports and shadow CEDAW reports developed. Women’s networks were also active in working with the government to incorporate gender responsive budgeting; develop an action plan on 1325; and ensured the  BiH Cultural Action plan (and other strategies and action plans such as  the BiH Development Strategy, Social Inclusion Strategy…) is  gender sensitive. Women’s networks were also instrumental in organizing training for new MPs on mainstreaming gender equality in Parliamentary work.

Still - we are fare from what we would like to achieve in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The most important we learned is that only together we can achieve improvements. And not only to be together in our small country, it is important, women, to be together all over the world. Wherever a women suffers, the family suffers, when families suffer the society suffers – and there is no development, there is no democracy, there is no economic growth. The question of healthy economic development is the question of healthy growing people – the economic power! Cost of violence against women and children is “a bottomless pit” for any kind of development.

We, women, can do a lot working together, CSOs activists, business women, politicians, housewives, women from the government, women from academia,…building networks, coalitions, formal and informal  caucuses and alliances.    

iKNOW Politics's picture

Comment on behalf of Oana Baluta

NGOs have usually advocated for gender sensitive policy and law making through coalition building. Such platforms included other feminist or equal opportunities NGOs, Gender Equality National Bodies (Parliamentary Gender Equality Commissions, for example) and representatives from the academia. However, a very important input, probably the most powerful one, has been offered by international institutions, especially European institutions. The latter should be understood in the broader national political context where decision-makers use dialogue rather discursively and less as an instrument to foster collaboration and or to collect know-how and best practices in the field of gender sensitive public policies. Important achievements have been made starting with 2000, to name only few: better provisions on work-life balance, new legislative provisions on gender equality and gender based discrimination, on violence against women. Even if gender sensitive policies have traveled a long road, there is still an important path ahead for a better inclusion of women’s interests and needs in policy making, especially when considering the effects of the economic crisis.

emira.shkurti's picture

Women in Albania still have to walk uphill to achieve higher participation in decision making processes, but UNDP, together with other UN agencies in Albania, is offering its support:

·     After supporting introduction of 30% quota of representation in the Gender Equality Law UNDP lobbied for its reflection in the Electoral Code as well. In addition, UNDP supported the Government of Albania to adopt the revised National Strategy on Gender Equality and against Gender Based and Domestic Violence (2011 – 2015), where no less than 30% representation is aimed at, at least in appointed positions.

·         During 2009 elections, UNDP organized massive meetings with first time voters in the University of Tirana, Vlora and Shkodra to raise their awareness and challenge stereotypes over participation of women in decision making processes and particularly the 30% quota of representation. Central Election Commission members, with UNDP support reached students to explain the voting process and encourage them to get out to vote.

·         A highlight in the results related to gender equality and improvement of the status of women is their stronger role evidenced particularly during the May 2011 local elections. With on-the-rise tendencies already noted during the 2009 general elections, resulting in doubling of women’s presence in the Parliament of Albania, positive developments were expected of the 2011 elections as well. The civil society, women in communities and women politicians were more prepared to demand a stronger role in local decision making. UNDP and UN Women partnered with 12 NGOs is seven out of 12 regions of Albania to mobilize community support and encourage a greater role of women both as candidates and as a constituency. Women from towns and villages in these seven regions gathered in groups to identify and prioritize their specific needs and also put a score to how their local governments responded to these needs. Women’s groups met with candidates for the local elections, dialogued with them, raised their voice and demanded that these gender priorities be taken into account. This was the first time that the citizen’s scorecard process was piloted in Albania. In many cases, the candidates adopted these gender priorities into their own political platforms. Many elected mayors even signed symbolically the scorecards and solemnly, in televised meetings with women’s groups, promised to implement the gender priorities identified by the community.

·         At the same time, women in the community were empowered to monitor the whole electoral process in their communities. In their dialogues with electoral commissions and political parties they demanded that the 30% quota requirement - imposed by the Electoral Code to ensure balanced participation of men and women - be implemented in all party lists. As a result, most party lists had no less than 30% representation of women. Partly due to civil society pressure, electoral bodies have imposed sanctions on those political organizations that did not respect the quota. Due to the active monitoring role of informed and trained local women at polling stations on the day of elections, the family voting phenomenon knew a notable decrease in 2011.

·         Representatives of the Central Elections Commission maintain that due to implementation of quota, women’s representation in municipal and communal councils reached 12.3% in 2011.

·         UNDP partner NGOs conducted voter education activities as well, aiming at getting women out to vote and minimize the family voting phenomenon. As a result of higher demand from the civil society, the Central Elections Commission gathered and presented for the first time gender disaggregated data for 2011 local elections. These data revealed that women constituted 45.6% of the citizens who voted in 2011. Women’s engagement in all levels of decision-making is a precondition for guaranteeing their rights and improving their status in society.

·         Through these partner NGOs women from all social strata were reached to encourage them to get out and vote. Local community meetings were utilized to challenge pervasive stereotypes that form a barrier to women’s greater involvement in decision-making.

·         In these same seven regions, NGOs partnership with UNDP and UN Women brought together women engaged politically in any organization of the political spectrum. Despite opposing political views, these local politicians recognized their common concern as well as developed common strategies to address local gender inequality and gender-based violence as well as promote a greater role of women in decision-making and particularly in higher representation in public offices. The issue most commonly brought up by local women politicians was the weak formula and sanction adopted by the Electoral Code, which is incapable of ensuring the no less than 30% representation target. In unison they demanded a revision of the Electoral Code, with a view to strengthen its provisions with a view to guarantee in practice balanced representation of women and men in elected bodies. 

·         Inspired by this strong need and demand, UNDP offered technical expertise to the Parliamentary Commission charged with the revision of the Electoral Code, in order to develop stronger quota provisions to ensure balanced representation.

·         UNDP Resident Representative and UN Resident Coordinator in Albania, together with other foreign men and women diplomats openly supported revision of the Electoral Code to ensure progress in Albanian women’s participation in the Parliament and in local government. As a result of this support and advocacy, UNDP is hopeful that the new Code to be adopted in March 2012 will be more efficient in terms of efficient application of the quota.

UNDP will continue to support the issue of women’s participation in decision making in its new programming cycle (2012-2016)

mkabir's picture

Parliaments are the single most important representative institution in government, yet they remain unpopular, unsupported, misunderstood,  and, in many cases and countries/sub-regions, underutilised.  The critical issue of gender equality is a case in point where parliament played less than optimum role in all key parliamentary functions i.e., lawmaking, representation, and oversight.  However, the actual cause goes deeper than this. In most of the countries from the East Europe and Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS region), the executives play the dominant role at the national and sub-national level.  While establishment of different types of women’s caucuses play certainly helpful role in advancing gender equality in law making and gender sensitive policy formulation including sustainable development agenda, it won’t resolve the bigger challenge of establishing credible framework of parliamentary representation and oversight at national level.  

The ongoing e-discussion brings out some encouraging examples from a number of countries from the ECIS (i.e., Armenia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Ukraine) on both quota system and cross-party women parliamentary caucuses. It also points out to the daunting challenges and potentials (i.e., Albania, Uzbekistan etc.) for women in parliament in the region. I just came back from a mission in Kyrgyzstan where I had the privilege to interact with a vibrant group of parliamentarians who are interested to promote human rights, gender, judicial reforms and rights of the persons with disabilities. Regardless of the presence of thematic caucuses, they need and deserve specialised technical capacity strengthening (technical training-drafting etc.) and research and advocacy support to fulfil their constitutional obligations.


From Plenary Commission to Standing Committees

Over last few decades, parliamentary committees have become the key vehicles for scrutiny and oversight. Whereas the plenary session provides the opportunity for generalised debate and a forum for major announcements, committees are at the heart of parliamentary functions and effectiveness, and have been described variously as the ‘kitchen’ of the legislative process. Therefore, it is important that women lawmakers take prominent and pro active role in committee work.  Easier said than done. Clearly party caucuses can play a conducive role in creating enabling environment for women in parliament and forging cross-party, trans-gender alliance for inclusive legislative development agenda.

However, in case of one party control and dominance by the executive, parliaments are severely constrained by unfocussed or unrelated debate, low level of legislative activities, slight influence on government and little effectiveness in representing the concerns of citizens. There is, however, a growing number of emerging parliaments that have been a by-product of the process of gradual democratization. Though they vary widely, they have a number of features in common including one party dominance but with new opposition, increasing political space for debate, rising level of legislative activities, growing influence with government, and increasing interest and effectiveness in representing citizens. There are, of course, stable democratic parliaments that vary greatly in power but are characterized by sustained multiparty competition, intense partisan debate, high level of activity with varying degrees of influence on government and well organized services for constituents

It is also increasingly evident that donors approaches and support are fragmented. As aptly noted in an assessment conducted for the one of the multilateral agency’s support to Parliamentary Development, “it is difficult for parliaments to be effective in environments where members of parliament are definitively subordinate to the will of the senior leadership of the executive and may suffer career-ending reversals if they act independently.”

An Agenda for Future?

In many parts of the CIS region, where there is little effective demand for democratic decision-making or where societal norms for the boundaries of acceptable conduct in governance do not exist or are unenforceable simple capacity development approaches are unlikely to result in significant improvements in institutional effectiveness.

The support that has been provided to parliaments donors so far has tended to be concentrated in technical capacity-building. While administrative systems and staff technical expertise are often weak in developing country administrations, including in parliaments, a technical approach de-emphasises the underlying issue of how power is exercised and the incentives for different actors. Increasingly there is a growing recognition that as development practitioners lack the tools to help them navigate the ‘enabling political environment’, which plays a fundamental role in the success or failure of these efforts to support national partners and institutions, and to more effectively implement development projects that do no harm and are sensitive to conflict. Therefore, a deeper analysis can support more effective and politically feasible donor strategies, as well as more realistic expectations of what can be achieved, over what timescales, and the risks involved. This should also high light particular challenges that women confronted both within the broader political process and parliamentary arena.

We need more women in parliament, and, we equally (if not more) need more men parliamentarians to play their due share of responsibility in promoting gender equality in legislative business. Young generation is certainly our hope but more importantly, parliaments in this region are required to articulate the aspirations of the members of their constituencies even within the limitation of their respective constitutional framework.


A.H. Monjurul Kabir, a parliamentary development specialist, is UNDP’s Human Rights and Justice Adviser based in Bratislava Regional Center for Europe and CIS.

louisesperl's picture


Strengthening the institutional capacity of women’s caucuses is a topic that has come up repeatedly in the course of this online discussion. It clearly underlines the importance of sound structures, mandates and strategies which are often key success factors for the work of women’s caucuses. By joining hands for achieving a greater goal, such caucuses can overcome political barriers and ideologies. Also the role of media in how women are portrayed and seen in the broader public cannot be overemphasized. If an ally, media can become a powerful partner in promoting gender equality. The development of gender expertise in Parliament is an ongoing process and as Gulnara rightly pointed out, continuous efforts are required to analyze and enhance this expertise. Thank you very much Gulnara for also pointing us to the critical importance of focusing on young women politicians – in fact, when aiming at a change of political cultures it is the younger, future generations that have the greatest potential to produce change and overcome deeply entrenched attitudes and stereotypes.

louisesperl's picture


Mimoza’s contribution impressively shows how women’s alliances can play a key role in promoting gender equality in public life: They can be an important resource in efforts to strengthen women’s representation within political parties. As demonstrated by Mimoza’s contribution, women’s networks/alliances can also be key in advocating for legislative changes. This is particularly important in countries where cross-party Parliamentary women’s caucuses are not in place. It is great to hear in this respect that the National Platform of women could play such an active role in advocating for electoral reform – including through a hearing with the Parliamentary commission where the Platform’s suggestions could be presented.

Mimoza’s contribution also points to the importance of building a new political culture that is more conducive to women’s participation, aiming to change the mindsets of policy makers and the broader public. As so clearly pointed out by Mimoza – this is also critical for democratic development, political stability and economic growth.

Congratulations to the National Platform and local women networks in Albania for their great work!

Barbora Galvankova's picture

Comment on behalf of Gulnara Ibraeva in Russian

Женские кокусы, прежде всего, должны добиваться укрепления собственного организационного потенциала, прежде всего, вырабатывая стратегии взаимодействия в рамках совместных коммуникативных площадок.   Укрепление организационной культуры требует формирования и закрепления совместных ритуалов и практик в разных сферах.

Важно добиться общего понимания среди всех членов кокуса и потенциальных членов, что консолидированная работа, сотрудничество в продвижение законопроектов, разного рода иных инициатив более эффективны, что женщины – парламентарии, несмотря на идеологические, клановые и прочие различия оказываются в одной сегрегированной – дискриминируемой группе в медиа репрезентациях, в восприятии коллег по цеху и в целом в обществе. Для обеспечения такого понимания важно организовать мониторинг за деятельностью женщин - парламентариев и медиа репрезентации этой деятельности.

Важно также обеспечить возможность обучения методологии гендерной экспертизы и гендерного анализа членов кокусов, с тем, чтобы они могли видеть гендерно-чувствительные аспекты в разных тематиках и представлять гендерно-дифференцированные результаты тех или иных интервенций.

Самое важное – вырабатывать традиции и привычки совместного политического участия, развития культуры толерантности среди политических партий для того, чтобы затем на площадке уже парламентской деятельности они могли согласованно вырабатывать решения и находить компромиссы в случае идеологических расхождений. Для этого важно усилить работу с партийцами, и особенно молодыми женщинами, в рамках межпартийных блоков и кокусов, инициируемых разными проектами и программами ГО или МО (прежде всего НДИ).

iKNOW Politics's picture

Comment on behalf of Gulnara Ibraeva

First of all, the women's caucuses should strengthen their institutional capacity, especially when developing strategies for cooperation within the framework of joint communication platforms. Strengthening the organizational culture requires the formation and consolidation of joint practices in different areas.

 It is important to achieve understanding among all members and potential members of the caucus that consolidated work, cooperation in promoting bills and all other initiatives are more effective and that female members in Parliament, despite ideological differences, are perceived as only one segregated and discriminated group by the media, colleagues and wider society.  It is necessary to monitor the activities of female members of Parliament and the media representation of their activity in order to achieve such understanding.

It is also important to provide an opportunity to study the methodology of gender expertise and gender analysis of members of the caucus, so that they can identify gender-sensitive aspects in different subjects and provide gender differentiated outcomes for various interventions.
The final activity is to develop traditions and habits of joint political participation and develop a culture of tolerance among political parties. It is crucial, that in the Parliament when ideological differences arise they act in cooperation and find the right decisions and compromises. It is necessary to intensify work with party members, especially young women, within the framework of inter-party caucus and powers that are initiated by projects and programs of various CSOs and international organisations (especially NDI). 

iKNOW Politics's picture

Comment posted on behalf of Samra Filipovic Hadziabdic, Director of the BiH Gender Equality Agency

At the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2010 the Agency for Gender Equality of B&H (Agency) has organised two meetings with representatives of 5 parliamentary committees of the Parliamentary Assembly of BiH. The parliamentary committees have reached conclusions providing full support to the work of the Agency, the implementation of the GAP BiH at all levels, and adoption of the State Strategy for Prevention and Combating Domestic Violence for the period 2009-2011. Pursuant to these conclusions, the funds in the form of a current grant to the Agency for Gender Equality were secured as a separate budget line in the budget of the Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees of BiH for 2009.

The Agency initiated adoption of the Gender Action Plan of B&H, a five-year strategic document for Bosnia and Herzegovina in order to achieve gender equality in public and private life. The Strategy for prevention and combat against domestic violence and the Action plan for the implementation of UNSCR 1325 “Women, peace and security” have also been addpted and implemented.

clare.romanik's picture


The success of cross-party women caucuses is great for joining the strength of women in different parties.  Along similar lines, it would be great to have joint caucuses for women representatives at sub-national levels.  They can feel very isolated when they do not have female peers for encouragement and mentoring.  As with their Parliamentary sisters, women local councilors have to meet with constituents, raise issues and ensure that budgets are allocated in line with the needs of all in the society.  If they would be connected to each other, they might have greater confidence in their abilities.  They can also promote cross-fertilization of good practices among local governments.  Connecting people who face the same challenges is always a first step in making progress.

I'm curious whether there is experience in this region in developing women caucuses focus on local representatives.

Mimoza's picture


The situation concerning women’s issues remains worrisome in Albania. Despite the considerable number of women’s NGOs, their political influence continues to be restricted. It is disturbing that political parties, in spite of existing gender structures, do not meet their own criteria of women’s participation in candidate lists for elections. While there is an increased understanding among decision-makers about the linkages between the advancement of gender equality and the realization of democratic governance, there remains a lot to be done. Women constitute more than half of the population in Albania, however in many areas their participation falls behind compared to men. Inequality is particularly seen in the fields of politics, especially in leadership and decision making and economics- unemployment and income with difficult familial situations.

Albania following its well known popular aspiration to be a member of the EU, has taken several important steps in developing policies and laws which promote gender equality: the Gender Equality Legislation, the legislation on Domestic Violence and the National Strategy on Gender Equality and Domestic Violence and discrimination.  A number of important international commitments towards gender equality have also been made. An important milestone in implementing the strategy was the increase of women’s participation in decision-making in a more direct way, by setting quotas for the participation of women in lists of MPs (from 2009), a measure that brought the immediate doubling of the number of women in the Albanian Parliament.  But Albania still has one of the lowest percentages of elected women in Europe. After the adaptation of a quota in 30% for the under-represented gender, the representation of women in parliament increased from 7% (10 women/140 seats) in 2005 parliamentary elections to 16.4% (23 women/140 seats) in 2009 parliamentary elections.

With the clear political obligations on the EU accession, a lot of Albanian and foreign organizations and institutions have promoted gender equality as a crosscutting theme to the public debate. Each upcoming local or parliamentary elections, provide a good opportunity to promote higher numbers of women running for local office, as well as including more women on top levels of local government structures. This entails the implementation of gender quotas as well as the increase of top-position listings of women. Different local women networks train members of their respective parties on local level, campaign-related activities, consultations with party leaders and facilitation of links between them and program participants to set an agenda for internal party reform measures intended to increase the ranks of women at higher levels than presently evident.

One of these networks is The National Platform, a network of 1500 women around the country, who worked for three years under the OSCE support in networking, lobbing and gender advocacy in politics and public life. The positive results on women elected in municipality councils, were a good inspiration for its Platform to work independently for the next elections. Actually there is a parliamentary debate in Albania about the new electoral code and the National Platform is following and offering suggestions about the amendments on gender issues. Women of the Platform present their suggestions in a hearing with the parliamentary commission of the electoral reform. They asked the legal obligation, for all political parties who run in elections to respect the 30% of gender quota in their candidates lists: 1 in every 3 names to be a female, electoral list for MPs, mayors and head of communes, members of councils, members of Central Election Committee and Local Elections Administration. The sanction for the parties which don’t meet this legal obligation, is the refuse of the entire list.  

Despite of all these efforts and the fact that in Albania we can identify a lot of successful women who run businesses, are doctors, teachers, lawyers, economists; experts in their profession, It’s hard to identify successful women in politics  because the older politicians establish the political agenda and a new political culture, where women’s voice can be heard and their role can be more successful and welcomed .The processes of drafting the electoral laws for the establishment of quotas has been a long and difficult process, with objections and arguments pro and contra , a lot of efforts which fortunately brought a quantitative change in parliament. Unfortunately, since the last parliamentary elections in Albania it has been a period of conflict, during which some of the MPs were spending more time in politics daily debates then in special issues like gender for example. On the other hand, in the absence of a women’s caucus in the Parliament, many of the female members of parliament preferred to make the spokesperson of their party’s leader rather than to deal with major policy issues or the problems that concern the society and women. So actually in Albania, the gender lobbing comes most from outside the Parliament then from inside and it’s time to switch this situation.

Increasing women’s participation in parliament, the executive branch, local government, NGO-s and other institutions will have an influence on changing the social mindset, especially in the education of the generations to come, without prejudice, with the right ideas on freedom, equality and living in harmony.

Increasing the presence of women in Albania’s political life is seen as critical to its political stability, democratic development, economic growth, and EU membership prospects.  Albania hopes to become an official EU candidate later this year and more women in politics can help to achieve this popular aspiration by supporting each other without political affiliations.

louisesperl's picture


Thank you very much Zulfia for this thoughtful contribution! As can be seen from the ongoing discussion, the importance of solidarity among women, uniting over certain issues cannot be overemphasized.  Working towards increased visibility of female MPs is definitely an important strategy to ensure women politicians are being viewed as important agents of change by the broader public.  Unfortunately, women politicians in this region are often portrayed in ways that perpetuate existing stereotypes and undermine their professional credibility. Gender trainings for MPs have proven essential in many national contexts to enhance capacities for gender-responsive policy and law making.  I would claim though that such initiatives should target both male and female MPs – but I’ll be most happy to hear also from other colleagues on their viewpoints in this respect.

Platforms such as the Alliance of Women's Legislative Initiatives (AWLI) in Kyrgyzstan can play a key role in efforts to increase visibility of MPs, in creating solidarity among female politicians and enhancing capacities for gender responsive policy and law making – with its members often providing tremendous expertise and experiences they can offer as key resource persons in such initiatives.

kochorbaeva.zulfia's picture

 Во-первых, женщины-депутаты должны прилагать усилия для консолидации, сотрудничества друг с другом, выражению женской солидарности, чтобы "женское участие" в работе парламента было видимым, ярким и весомым. Для этого необходимо четко определить и договориться, что по ряду вопросов (права женщин, детей и др. уязвимых групп, гендерное равенство и др.) женщины-депутаты  будут выступать "единым фронтом", продвигать и поддерживать соответствующие законопроекты, независимо от позиций их политических партий и фракций.

Во-вторых, необходимо, чтобы активность женщин-депутатов была видимой для общества, т.е. необходимо активнее озвучивать свои предложения и инициативы через СМИ, организовывать публичные мероприятия с участием заинтересованных сторон, выступать с тематическими интервью и заявлениями в СМИ. 

В-третьих, необходимо установить и поддерживать постоянное сотрудничество с гендерными экспертами НПО. Опыт Кыргызстана, а именно создание и работа Альянса Женских Законодательных Инициатив, который объединяет женщин-депутатов и активистов, экспертов женского движения, демонстрирует высокую эффективность такого сотрудничества. Экспертиза женских организаций продвигается женщинами-депутатами в парламенте через проведение парламентских слушаний, заседаний профильных комитетов, внесение поправок в законы и т.д. 

Также для усиления потенциала женских кокусов в парламенте необходимо проводить гендерное обучение для вновь избранных женщин-депутатов, а также их помощников и консультантов. Немаловажное значение имеет установление с ними контактов еще на этапе выборов, то есть до получения ими мандата депутатов. Кроме того, вовлечение женщин-политиков в организацию и проведение различных совместных акций (от символических до благотворительных в пользу конкретной группы людей) по вопросам защиты прав женщин, детей, гендерного равенства и т.д.

kochorbaeva.zulfia's picture

First, women-parliamentarians should make efforts to consolidate and cooperate with each other, express women's solidarity, make “women's participation” in parliament visible, tangible and meaningful. To achieve this, it’s necessary to define and agree that with certain issues (the rights of women, children and other vulnerable groups, gender, etc.) women-deputies will advocate as a "united front", to promote and support relevant bills, regardless of the political position of their parties and factions.

Second, it is necessary to make the activity of female parliamentarians visible to the public, i.e. need to actively voice their proposals and initiatives through the media, to organize public events with stakeholders’ participation and to engage in interviews and public discourse through the media.

Third, it is necessary to establish and maintain continuous cooperation with gender experts and NGOs. In the Kyrgyz experience, namely the establishment and work of The Alliance of Women's Legislative Initiatives, which brings together women parliamentarians, activists and movement experts, demonstrates the high efficiency of such cooperation. Examination of women's organizations is promoted in the parliament by female parliamentarians through parliamentary hearings, meetings of specialized committees, amendments to the laws, etc.

Besides that, in order to strengthen the capacity of women's caucus in Parliament, gender training for newly elected female MPs, their assistants and advisers should be carried out. It is equally important to establish contracts with them at the stage of their election, before they have received the mandate of the deputies. In addition, the involvement of female politicians is crucial in organizing and conducting various joint actions (from symbolic events to the charity benefits) for the protection of the rights of women, children, gender equality etc.

inessamuradyan's picture


Dear Nafisa, 

Thank you for sharing your country's experience of women's political participation.

I found it very interesting to learn that Uzbekistan is much more advanced than Armenia in a number of respects: double higher percentage of women's representation in the Parliament (17,5% vs 8,4%) as well as having a precedent of a woman running for presidential elections, whereas we have only had a woman running for the city mayor's elections so far. 

Both our countries, however, still have a lot to do to reach a higher level of gender mainstreaming in all political and legislative functions, and hopefully the women's parliamentary caucus can serve as yet another effective platform for achieving this purpose. 

I would like to share with you more details about our experience of creating the cross-party women's group in the National Assembly of Armenia, which will hopefully be useful for you when developing your own agenda and action plan. 

As I mentioned in my first contribution, the idea of the creation of a cross-party group in Armenia was developed by our project participants, 20 women members (not MPs) of the leading political parties of Armenia, who worked together in the framework of our project throughout the 2 years and therefore got to see the power of networking, and the efficiency of combined efforts in addressing issues that are sometimes common to all or many of the political powers, and therefore consensus and cooperation is possible to achieve better results. 

We organized a series of networking events with the project participants and women MPs to discuss the possibility and need for the creation of such a group in Armenia. The networking events involved playing golf, fishing and discussions in the pub over beer, typical pastime for men politicians, where women too succeeded and found those to be effective accompanying tools for establishing effective dialogue and positive communication.

A small-scale desk research was conducted by the efforts of our project team to present the international experience of cross-party cooperation in the parliaments of around 20 countries in the world. A focus group discussion over fishing was organized to discuss the findings of the research and to come up with the most appropriate format and potential functions of the group.

As a follow-up, an expert was invited from Wales, one of the identified successful prototype countries, who talked the group of 11 Armenian women MPs led by the Vice-Speaker of the Assembly, also a woman MP, through the specific role and functions of the cross-party group on Gender in the Welsh Parliament, the mechanism of the group and lessons learnt.

After the initial interest of the Parliament was officially confirmed, we organized three study visits for small groups of MPs to the three most relevant countries. The groups had the opportunity to meet members of the caucuses, participate in their sessions, parliamentary hearings etc. Upon their return, a comparative matrix was developed to help identify the key functions and characteristics of the group to be established in Armenia.

The procedures and mandates of the groups were provided to the Parliament for reference in developing the local terms and conditions of the group.

The particular features, that the Armenian group has adopted are the open membership for women and men MPs, political party representatives, local and international NGOs as well as other interested parties. The rotating presidency was another feature that the group adopted, to allow for open and transparent selection of the group lead, not necessarily a representative of the ruling party or the majority coalition.

And although the group may be a well-planned and a functioning structure on its own, its strength mostly depends on the capacity of its member and therefore efforts are still needed to support the development of the skills and expertise of the group members to act as a valuable resource for promoting gender mainstreaming internally in the Parliament and externally.

I hope this is useful. Do let me know if you should  need any further advice or information. 

inessamuradyan's picture

For various social, economic and cultural reasons women are continuously considered to be underrepresented in Armenian political life. The most important issues appear to be that women lack the self-confidence to pursue a career in politics because of insufficient professional skills and a negative image of politics among women.  Equally important are the pre-determined social roles assigned to women and men in the Armenian society, and the lack of national instruments promoting women's political development and active participation.

In 2008 the British Council in Armenia started the implementation of the two-year Wo/Men in Politics project funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom. The aim of the project was to raise the level and effectiveness of women's political participation in Armenia through capacity building, formation of local and international networks and changing the public perception of the women's role in the Armenian society.

Various activities were organised including training programmes, involving international experts and political guest speakers, as well as study visits to the United Kingdom and other European countries for knowledge and experience sharing, as well as networking events engaging male and female political leaders, the media and civil society representatives.

As a major, but unplanned and spontaneous outcome of the project on 6 April 2011 a cross-party parliamentary group has been established in the National Assembly of Armenia based on the mechanisms and models found in the United Kingdom and other countries. The idea was initiated by the participants of the project, twenty women representing ten major political parties of Armenia, who grew very enthusiastic about working together across political parties as the project was progressing, and started to believe that effective cooperation between women politicians is possible regardless of their political views and affiliation as they shared so many common interests and concerns.

One of the project participants, the head of the women's council of the regional branch of the ruling Armenian party, also established a similar caucus in their region, Ararat marz, led by the regional governor.

To support the development of the participants' initiative of the establishment of a women's caucus a study visit was organized to the United Kingdom to contribute to the findings of the initial desk research of successful cross-party caucuses in 20 countries of the world, including Scotland and Wales, as well as other countries in Europe, Asia and Africa, which was then used to lobby the National Assembly for establishing a similar structure in Armenia.

The desk research identified the different types of the caucuses, based on their legal form, membership and functions. Three countries were identified as the most appropriate examples for the Armenian structure, those being Wales, Poland and Finland.

After the preliminary interest and agreement of the National Assembly to look into the establishment of the structure a second visit was organised for the Vice-Speaker of the Assembly and the female Members of the Parliament to deepen their understanding of the functions and roles of the cross-party groups in the three selected countries.

The Finnish experience of cross-party women's cooperation was found to be the most effective and appropriate for replication in Armenia, mostly due to its permanent status, mixed membership, open for men and women MPs, non-MP party members, civil society and international organization representatives. Its efficiency was also accounted for by the fact that it was sustainable through dedicated funding, it had an advisory status for all the parliamentary committees and had established cooperation with the civil society, the media and the private sector.

Although the Armenian group has been legally established and its membership, structure, functions and funding capacity have been defined, it still needs support and development to perform its functions effectively. A number of organizations have committed to support the structure after the parliamentary elections this year when the new membership of the group is confirmed.

inessamuradyan's picture

Dear Koh, 


I am happy to hear that you found this information useful and interesting. 

I agree, that the creation of the group does take a lot of effort and resource, mostly where the women politicians still need to develop their leadership and networking skills, and the model of the group  has to be worked out by external actors. 

However, in the examples highlighted in our desk research we have also found models, which are self-born and intuitive, arising from the need to address urgent issues, and these prove to be the most successful cooperation mechanisms.

Through our project we have tried not to interfere in the process and not to push any model from outside, but to inspire the women by showing them real success stories from other countries and providing the opportunity to network with members of such groups.

I am attaching here the presentation of the desk research that our team has developed back in 2010 (please note, that some of the information and statistics would probably already be outdated and will need further clarification), as well as a more detailed comparative matrix of the experience in the three countries, that we found most relevant for Armenia.

Please let me know if you need any further information and I'll be happy to provide it to you.

louisesperl's picture


Thank you very much for the interesting contribution. Nafisa’s article very well illustrates that promoting gender equality requires a multi-dimensional approach incorporating a number of actors and approaches: Gender equality platforms and mechanisms such as the women’s committee in Uzbekistan can be an important tool to promote gender equality in different fields. The introduction and implementation of quotas can serve as a key catalyst to boost women’s representation on the political arena. Despite these positive results, the implementation of quotas remains complex, requiring a number of parallel processes and measures. In order to be effective, they require concerted efforts of a number of stakeholders including political parties, parliament, Electoral Management Bodies (EMBs), public administration and civil society. In this context, it is very encouraging to hear about the plans for possibly setting up a women’s Parliamentary caucus in Uzbekistan that could channel efforts to promote gender equality in Parliament. We look forward to hear more from other countries in the region that have gone through similar processes.

louisesperl's picture


Thank you very much to colleagues from ODIHR for raising these very relevant questions. The initiative from ODIHR to conduct a survey on parliamentary caucuses in the OSCE region is definitely an extremely relevant and timely initiative. Contributions from colleagues from Armenia, Ukraine, Kosovo* and others have already highlighted some of the mentioned aspects, but of course we look very much forward to hear more from additional countries/on additional aspects that have not been addressed  yet in detail - such as on good practices for building support among male colleagues.

kvanderleest's picture

As is already evident from this e-discussion, parliamentary cross-party women’s caucuses are recognized as important forums for influencing policy processes and political agendas, channeling women’s interests into reform processes, and supporting capacity development for women parliamentarians.

Thus far, there has been no systematic assessment of cross-party women’s caucuses in the 56 participating States of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (http://www.osce.org/who/83). This e-discussion can contribute to an increase in knowledge in the OSCE region about the real impact of women’s caucuses in terms of influencing policy outcomes, and about correlations between impact on the one hand, and structure, mandate and activities on the other.

In 2012, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), based in Warsaw, wishes to conduct a survey of parliamentary women’s caucuses in the OSCE region, identifying parliaments that currently host women’s caucuses, have established or attempted to establish caucuses in the past, or plan to create these in the future. The survey will map the mandate, structure, membership and activities of women’s caucuses as a means of collecting good practices, success stories, challenges as well as lessons learned in establishing and running these forums, seeking to determine what type of caucus is most effective in influencing parliamentary policy agendas and processes.

Through this important e-discussion organized by UNDP, the OSCE ODIHR is interested in learning about:

1. What factors contribute to the establishment of different types of women’s caucuses? E.g. informal versus formal parliamentary rules, types of parliamentary leadership, opportunities for cross-party dialogue, number of women parliamentarians, access to budgets?

2. Attempts to establish women’s caucuses that did not succeed, or parliaments that have hosted caucuses in the past, but no longer do. Why were these efforts unsuccessful or no longer supported? What challenges do women’s caucuses face, in terms of perceptions, institutional modes of functioning and effectiveness?

3. What are the good practices for building support for women’s caucuses in the OSCE region, especially among male colleagues? What working methods and activities are most effective for women’s caucuses to deliver change?

4. Who would you recommend from your country as active and inspirational women’s caucus representatives?

We wish to thank UNDP for the opportunity to contribute to this e-discussion!

Nurgul's picture

According Kyrgyzstan's experience, women MPs who came to the parliament from civils society, are actors who are systematically  formulating and promoting gender agenda. we have to build gender capacity of female and male MPs who are gender blind but at the same time do not stop pushing women-activists to go to the politics with own agenda. so my answer to the question: should we go to the politics which is corrupted and unfair in our countries  - is yes. yes, we do not like these parties, which are based on clannish system, corrupted and non-transperent but they are making decisions on our life. so we should use political parties for advocating our ideas and agenda.

Nurgul's picture

по опыту парламента Кыргызстана можно наблюдать, что устойчивую гендерную повестку формируют женщины, пришедшие туда из гражданского обещства. можно и нужно повышать потенциал женщин и мужчин, пришедших в парламент гендерно-неграмотными, но и упорно и систематично продвигать гендерных активистов через партийные списки. Да, нам не нравятся эти партии, они построены по клановому принципу, они коррумпированы, но их представители голосуют за законы и принимают решения, по которым нам потом приходится жить. так что на вопрос: идти на выборы или нет, мой ответ: идти! и пытаться сохранить свою собственную повестку и формировать обещственное мнение, нетерпимое к вопросам насилия, дискриминации и неравных возможностей. 

koh miyaoi's picture

The news of a new cross-faction group in Ukraine cheered me up enormously. Ukraine's "Equal Opportunities" reconfirms that gender equality is a central and essential issue in a national agenda.  Understanding how difficult it is to bring to the same table different political opinions, the "Equal Opportunities" has generated substantial media interests, thus increasing the focus on gender equality as a political issue.  The complex nature of the challenge of acheiving gender equality requires a diverse range of knowledge, expereinces and constituencies.  The "Equal Opportunities" in Ukraine has the opportunity to build upon the work of each political party and to have them connected as a uniting platform.  

I also assume that the members of the "Equal Opportunities" have their own specific, special expertise - for example, one member may have been a strong advocate on clean energy, while another may have been involved closely with labour rights issues.  A cross-party platform focusing on gender equality should take advantage of such a situation if exists, in order to gain entries for gender equality advocacy in a multiple number of development issues.  The platform can then be used to ensure progress in one area can benefit progress in other areas.

Another promising characteristics of Ukraine's "Equal Opportunities" has to do with the way it has demonstrated the possiblity of broadening responsibility for promotion of gender equality beyond female policy-makers, by including male MPs.  Women's caucuses, cross-party or single-party, are often exepcted to serve as 'mentors' to newer female policy-makers.  This is particularly true in the context where a large proportion of women MPs are new to politics.  At the same time, it is also said that men are better mentors for new MPs, including women and men, becuase of their more extensive experiences and networking capacity.  Nevertheless, here is my question - whichever a country has - a women-only group or a 'mixed-gender' group - in Parliament, will there be an observable nexus between women's caucuses and increased women's representation?  

I am looking forward to continuing this discussion.

koh miyaoi's picture

This is another example of the labour-intensive process of the creation of a cross-party women's caucus.  It's obvious from other examples also that it takes a substantial amount of networking, negotiation, facilitation and conceptual thinking to come up with a workable model.  My heartfelt congratulations to Armenia's cross-party group!

I would be very interested to learn more about the findings of the desk study of successful cross-party caucuses in 20 countries of the world that Inessa mentioned.  Please let me know where I can find this study.

Nafisa hanum's picture

In Uzbekistan the bigest women caucusus was founded in 1991- Women’s Committee of the Republic of Uzbekistan, a public organization. It is the first large women organization in Uzbekistan, with the main purpose of provision and protection of women rights, though from the beginning the main area of concern was protection of motherhood and childhood, family planning, reproductive health, assisting in realization of national Programme “For healthy generation”, but has not reflected issues of women political rights issues and their representation in legislative authority.

 Though, the serious and progressive steps in the field of improving Women’s parliamentarian presentation were taken only in 2004 by the introduction of the Country’s Parliament the amendments into the Article 22 of the Law of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On elections to Oliy Majlis (Parliament) of the Republic of Uzbekistan” on 30% quota for women during the recommendation of candidates to the country’s parliament from the political parties.

 Though the article 117 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan provides women with the right to vote and be elected to representative bodies, without such affirmative action as introduction of 30% quota, increase in number of women in National Parliament could be hardly achieved.

 In 2007, among the deputies of the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan 17.5% are women in the Legislative Chamber and 15% in the Senate. In 2011, the amount of women selected for the Parliament is slightly increased for the Lower Chamber and comprises now about 22%, whereas for the Upper house Senate) the number has not changed and still remains on 15% level.

 Another important aspect about the image of women in Uzbekistan, is the Presidential elections in 2007, when for the first time in the history of Uzbekistan, woman was nominated as a candidate for the Presidency. Later, in January, she was appointed as a Speaker of the National Parliament of the Republic of Uzbekistan, which is for the first time among Central Asian countries.

 Nevertheless, it should be noted that after careful examination of experience of another countries in gender mainstreaming by means of specials caucusus, the project I am currently working “Parliamentary development assistance” would like to create such kind of women caucusus in the parliament too. In this light it would be interesting to know not only about achievements of the women caucuses, but more on how this has been achieved, how such kind of women caucuseswas initiated.

 In the framework of our project several trainings has been organized for deputies of Legislative Chamber on raising skills of leadership for women. I think that this training has benefited not only women but also men. Moreover this year we are planning to issue monthly bulletin for parliamentarians on rising gender sensitivity. Given bulletin will start from small from such themes of what does gender mean, gender parliament map in the world and Uzbekistan, and end up with such themes as “gender budgeting” and “gender expertise”.

 The next step is establishing the women caucusesin the parliament itself, which will promote all gender issues even after project, comes to an end. Maybe events of this group will be highlighted in the bulletin.

Dear colleagues I would really appreciate for any advice given in this direction.


louisesperl's picture


Thank you very much Inessa for this excellent and inspiring insights and the great examples provided! It is really impressive to hear how women MPs from ten different political parties have been able to unite into one joined platform! This is yet another great example whereby common interests and concerns seem a key enabling factor for overcoming political party boundaries. It is also great to hear that a number of organizations have agreed to further support the structure of the caucus.

I was also very excited to hear about the data collection and research conducted by the British Council on successful women’s caucuses. Among others, it is very inspiring to hear about the Finish model which is open to men and women MPs and a number of other actors. I am sure all of us would be glad to learn more about some of the success factors for women’s caucuses identified in this research.

Congratulations to colleagues in Armenia!

louisesperl's picture


I think Andra’s contribution very clearly highlights how solidarity amongst women is such an important factor in efforts to promote gender equality in decision making processes and beyond. Examples like the one provided also show that more support is still required, tailored to the specific national context. This can cover a variety of areas such as awareness raising, capacity building - and also extremely important: partnership building within and beyond Parliament.  There are also a number of interesting examples from the region on how civil society has been able to reach out to MPs and we hope to collect more about good practices from this region during the second week of our discussion. Having in mind the Romanian experience, it would be also very interesting to learn more about particular factors/support that could have made a difference for the functioning of a cross-party platform.

Great to know that dedicated gender advocates are continuously promoting women’s equal participation!

louisesperl's picture


Thank you Anara for pointing us to the important issue of institutionalizing gender equality. In fact, a changing political environment can pose considerable challenges in this respect. As your article shows, creating integrated (and maybe less formal) platforms can be an excellent approach in such cases. The Alliance of Women’s Legislative Initiatives (AWLI) has produced impressive results through its joined and dedicated efforts and we look forward to hearing more about this platform during this discussion!

andracroitoru's picture

There are no women’s caucuses at the moment in the Romanian Parliament. During the 2004 - 2008 parliamentary legislature there was an informal acceptance of women’s caucuses: Women from all political parties represented in the Parliament signed an informal coalition protocol with the aim of advocating for women's rights and acting as a pressure group, an initiative of the two Gender Equality Committees in the Parliament at that time. The informal coalition, however, was not a successful one as it did not implement any joint activity nor did it produce tangible positive effects in influencing discussions on women issues within the Parliament. It was, nevertheless, an important step in the women’s rights advocacy process: all women MPs were very much aware of the importance of gender equality and they regularly received information and trainings as part of a variety of projects developed mainly by the civil society.

During the current parliamentary legislature (2008-20012) there is a lack of cooperation between the women from all political parties represented in the Parliament. They need no learn the lesson of solidarity among themselves for the women they represent in the Parliament. Women’s caucuses in Romania are not viable as long as women in politics don’t accept and assume the concept of solidarity, having the ability to work across party lines and beyond political ideology. Various initiatives to bring all women MPs together to advocate for women’s rights have been undertaken during the last couple of years (most notable one being UNDP’s initiative for quota lobby), they all faced high resistance especially from the Liberal party women members (invoking the liberal doctrine) and the Democratic Liberal Party (invoking the “competence criteria” as the only way of promoting women).

Anara Niyazova's picture


Anara Niyazova


Ответы на вопросы базируются на понимании/знании актуальной ситуации в КР.

1.  Несмотря на принцип формирования парламента КР по партийным спискам, в парламенте женские кокусы не сформированы, потому говорить об их способности, в свою очередь, формировать, озвучивать, продвигать различные  повестки не приходится.

Женские кокусы могут быть созданы в Парламенте Кыргызстана на базе фракций, межфракционных связей и интересов. Проблема заключается в том, что сами партии не имеют четких программ и платформ. Заявления, которые делают фракции в парламенте зачастую никак не отражают ни интересы электората, ни партийные интересы (поскольку партии зачастую ни что иное как симулякры, так и женские кокусы). Будучи приверженцами «левых» взглядов (судя по на названиям, например, социал-демократы), фракции и депутаты, в т.ч. женщины озвучивают антидемократические, националистические взгляды (вопрос языка,  оценки конфликта на Юге КР в 2010 г.).

Пока партийные структуры будут создаваться от выборов к выборам, в отсутствие институционализации, членства в партиях, четко выработанных правил и процедур приема, деятельности членов и структур, женщинам – членам партий невозможно продвинуть принципы демократии и справедливости внутри партии и заложить культуру обсуждений, дискуссий, выработки позиции партии по тем или иным вопросам развития.

Очевидно, мобилизация женского ресурса в партии осуществляется спорадически, у партий нет собственного электората и активистского ресурса. Практика создания школ лидеров, Фондов поддержки молодых девушек и юношей, которые вскоре пополнили бы ряды партийцев, не освоена в Кыргызстане.

2. Опыт создания платформ, продвигающих гендерные повестки, (Альянс женских законодательных инициатив – женщины различных фракций парламента и женских НПО, правозащитных) показывает, без поддержки международных организаций такие альянсы неустойчивы. В свою очередь, эксперты организаций гражданского общества (ОГО) выполняли прикладную роль по «обслуживанию» депутатов в подготовке заключений, обоснований по продвигаемым вопросам в парламенте.

Продуктивным оказался опыт создания широких объединенных платформ ОГО после революции в апреле 2010 г., когда шла интенсивная работа по выработке документов для властных структур по стабилизации ситуации в стране, принципов и ценностей, которые ОГО требовало сохранить, в т.ч. принцип равных прав и равных возможностей в государственной политике.

При  обсуждении Конституции в июне 2010 г. благодаря платформе женских, молодежных, правозащитных организаций и развернутому движению «За светский Кыргызстан» удалось сохранить конституционную характеристику КР и принцип светскости.

Anara Niyazova's picture


These answers are based on knowledge of the current situation in the Kyrgyz Republic.

Despite the KR principle of formation of the Parliament based on a party list, female caucuses are not formed in the Parliament, therefore we cannot review their ability to generate, voice or promote various agendas.

Women's caucuses can be formed in the Kyrgyz Parliament on the basis of factions, inter-factional ties and interests. The problem usually lies in the fact that the parties themselves do not have clear programs and platforms. Factions’ statements often do not reflect the interests of the electorate, nor the interests of the party (because the parties are usually nothing but a simulacrum as well as a women's caucus). Being committed to "left" views (judging by the titles, for example, the Social Democrats) the factions and deputies, including women, proclaim anti-democratic nationalist views (the language issue, assessment of the interethnic conflict in the South of the KR in 2010).

As long as the parties are rapidly formed from election to election, there is no institutionalization, political party membership, well-thought rules and procedures for admission, members' ToRs, female deputies will not be able to promote the principles of democracy and justice, a culture of discussion and debates within the party and develop party's position on various issues.

Evidently, the mobilization of women's share in the party is carried out sporadically; the parties do not have their electorate and activist resources. The practice of creating leadership schools, funds to support youth who could soon join the ranks of party members is not cultivated in the KR.

2. The experience of creating platforms that promote the gender agenda (Alliance of Women's Legislative Initiatives - women from various factions of the parliament and female NGOs on human rights) demonstrate that without international support such alliances are unstable. The Civil Society Organization experts in their turn had an service role on deputies’ support for the preparation of expertise or resolutions on the issues promoted by the Parliament.

The experience of building large integrated platforms of the civil society organizations after the revolution in April 2010 turned out to be productive, with a strong focus on document drafting for the authorities to stabilize the situation in the country. Principles and values such as equal rights and equal opportunities in public policy were upheld as demanded by the civil society organizations.

When discussing the Constitution in June 2010, the principle of secularism and the constitutional character of the KR were upheld largely due to women’s , youth and human rights organizations platforms and the expanded movement “For secular Kyrgyzstan”.

teuta's picture

I want to thank UNDP for giving us as GGD, possibility to share our good experience with women all over the world and making us stronger to continue our work with more dedication and strength.

Position of women in society and especially in political parties is almost the same, regardless particular political party or nationality. Although   board of GGD have very strong women politicians from all nationalities  and parliamentary parties, most active women politicians in Kosova, we completely agree that position of women in each party is the same, not strong, not satisfactory.

Wherever we go, in every meeting with municipality assembly members and political parties, we make always the same set of questions to those women. The first  question to each women from different parties: How is position of women in your particular party?

It is very interesting that in every place we get very same answer to first question, an that is approximately: “ You know, in my party women has very good position, leader listen to us, he support us and we have very good position.”

Every woman from different parties says nearly the same.

Than we make second  set of questions to each of them: “How many women in your party leads party branches? How many of them are vice presidents of party (or branch)? How many women you have in central presidency of party? How many women Mayors  you have from your party?”

And then, in every place we go, the reaction is the same. Women start to think, to count numbers, and then after they realize that most results of these questions are zero of very small number, they reveal that regardless the party, their position is very same.

Then we realize together that we must have the same fight, and none of us individually or in particular party can not change its position lonely. We must fight together, we must make cross party, cross nationality alliance in order to improve our position as gender.

That is what we are doing in GGD and that’s what we are spreading all over Kosova.

We know that we as MP have more medial coverage, more attention, more support of international organizations (as UNDP’s precious support) Civil society  than women from political parties of municipality assemblies.

That’s why we must serve as an engine to put together MPs, municipality women, political party women, NGO, women from every sector of society to strengthen the process of women empowerment (my man colleague sais that we are trying to make women revolution J)

And believe me, we are having very touchable success.

louisesperl's picture


Thank you Selim for pointing to some really important issues here – in fact, cohesion and solidarity of women – being united around specific issues - has proven key for successful cross-party initiatives – as also the case of Kosovo demonstrates. A clear strategy and action plan of a women’s caucus is not only an internal key planning tool – but also of utmost importance for the harmonization and coordination of donor support provided  to women’s caucuses.

Congratulations on the great work done!

louisesperl's picture


It is great to hear about the recently established women’s caucus at the Verkhovna Rada in Ukraine and how this successful introduction could become a reality!

It is important to see that bringing the national context in line with international/European standards can serve as an important factor to make this happen - as this may also serve as a key “motivating” factor in other countries of this region. It also great to learn that there was indeed an acute demand perceived in the Parliament for the establishment of such a body.

Another important issue highlighted in Ms. Kovalevska’s contribution refers to the importance of bodies such as women’s Parliamentary caucuses to advocate for appropriate budget lines to make sure gender gaps can be sufficiently addressed: Without appropriate funding the implementation of law, strategies and policies will always remain a challenge.

A very important lesson is that acute social issues, if properly defined, can unite various political forces and evolve into a platform for bigger social initiatives. In this context, it would be extremely interesting to learn more in detail how this was done – what were the social issues addressed and what the key success factors and arguments that made the caucus unite. Thank you very much for this excellent and inspiring contribution! We hope this experience can be replicated in other parts of the region.

Congratulations to the women’s caucus in Ukraine for its excellent start up phase!

Selim Selimi's picture

The support to the Assembly of Kosovo by the UNDP is articulated through the Parliamentary Development for Social Policies (PDSP) Project. One of the main focuses of this project is the Women Caucus (GGD). The cohesion of women in GGD really goes beyond party and other divisions, thus creating a perfect climate to push for the social inclusion agenda. This has proved to be a successful formula since social inclusion is a unifying factor for all political fractions and a Women Caucus is one of the most articulated group for promoting it.  

The importance of a unified voice of women MPs is best depicted by the successes of the GGD. The project (PDSP) has pledged a full support to their activities by providing expertise, research and logistical support.

Since the Assembly of Kosovo has many other international partners such as NDI, GIZ, OSCE and USAID (among others) it is crucial for the international community to harmonize the support in order to avoid duplication of efforts. When it comes to GGD this harmonization is done inclusively, first by specifying the yearly activities and second by matching them with different programs and projects. The yearly activities are developed with contributions by all stakeholders including CSOs, Government, International Organizations and others.

 Selim Selimi

PDSP Project Manager 

Yuliya Kovalevska's picture

On December 6, 2011 a group of Verkhovna Rada MPs, representing different factions, has formed a new Caucus “Equal Opportunities” designed to address issues of gender imbalance and promotion of gender equality.

The creation of a cross faction group is deemed possible because of the MPs who are committed to bring Ukraine in line with the European standards and, to find and build on the values that have prevailed over political contradictions and personal claims. The creation of the Caucus will enhance the feeling of responsibility and enliven actions to overcome the absolute inertia towards diminishing discrimination.  It will also help to overcome the losses caused by the narrowness of the decisions which ignore the needs and interests of women and the analysis of the impact of economic and social reforms on-going in the country. It is necessary to note that official formation of a special group to promote gender-related issues was acute in the Parliament. Whilst it was not a first attempt to establish a gender-based representative body among Ukraine’s parliamentarians, demand and expectations towards it in the society were growing.

Fifteen MPs, men and women, who initiated the formation of the Caucus, elaborated key goals and objectives of their activities. The Caucus will purposefully concentrate its efforts on helping to adjust Ukrainian legislation related to equal rights and opportunities to European standards. Among the priorities of the Caucus is promotion of gender equality agenda, diminishing discrimination against women and protection of their rights.

The group leaders are open to cooperation with CSOs, international organizations, representatives of various political parties to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women and vulnerability of men caused by gender inequality. The first initiatives of the Caucus were announced publically at Verkhovna Rada during the global “16 days against violence” campaign. Hence some laws in the existing legislation runs counter to the principal of combating domestic violence, the Caucus members, Yulia Kovalevska, Iryna Gerashchenko, Olena Kondratiuk, Iryna Berezhn introduced a draft Law on amendment of the administrative code of Ukraine on introduction stronger responsibility and measures to exercise due diligence to punish and provide reparation for acts of domestic violence. At the stage of adoption of the state budget for 2012, they also urged the Parliament to take into consideration and to allocate state funding for those initiatives which would lead to sufficient results in improvement of gender equality in the country, thus depleting the existing gender gaps. As a follow-up, a Round Table on gender budgeting was organized by the Caucus in Verkhovna Rada on December 22, 2011. The Round table brought together the MPs from the Caucus, CSOs and various governmental bodies’ representatives to discuss numerous social initiatives with a strong gender focus. It proved that the acute social issue, if properly identified, can unite various political forces and evolve into a platform for bigger social initiatives.

Three co-chairs of the new group – Iryna Gerashchenko, Yulia Kovalevska and Olena Kondratiuk - represent different political factions (“Our Ukraine-People’s Self-Defense”, Party of Regions and Yulia Tymoshenko Block (BYUT)). Despite the political contradictions, the group members successfully promote new initiatives and ideas.

Among the effective outreach activities, organized by the Caucus, are joint press-conferences and live broadcasting, during which the leaders of the group presented social initiatives, discussed a number of issues pertinent to gender equality - the effectiveness of the national legislation on equal rights and opportunities, support of the civil society to gender-related issues and creation of the society of equal opportunities.

Ensuring equal rights for men and women, prevention and combating all forms of discrimination, adoption of measures to reduce gender gaps, development of social initiatives, which are gender-related, can serve as a solid platform to unite efforts of MPs from different political parties.

There are a lot of topics and challenges the Caucus can address to tackle such controversial issues as legitimate and comprehensive ways to strengthen women’s role on the political arena, increasing the number of women among the Ukrainian MPs, the Verkhovna Rada and at the local government level. Among other priorities, the “Equal Opportunities” group intends to promote women’s representation at the top government and management positions, as well as to initiate dialogue with the civil society.

louisesperl's picture


Dear Teuta,

Thank you very much for sharing these interesting insights on the impressive work done by  the Assembly of Kosovo’s (AoK) Women Caucus (GGD) ! It is great  to learn that the GGD has been able to make a difference in a number of areas – stretching from policy making and law making to monitoring of the implementation of legislation.

Following up on your contribution, I was wondering if you and others could share with us your thoughts regarding the following points:

·         Why do you think it is important for a women’s Parliamentary caucus to develop a strategy? Could you provide specific examples on how the role of women was defined in existing strategies?

·         What institutional structures and modalities have proven most effective for women’s  Parliamentary caucuses? What are key factors that contribute to  the success of a caucus such as the GGD?

·         As the implementation of legislation is a specific challenge in this region – can you provide concrete examples how the GGD and other women’s Parliamentary caucuses in the region have contributed to monitoring of legislation?

Looking forward to your insights!

koh miyaoi's picture

Teuta's great post reminds me of the much debated notion of critical mass - that women need to constitute at least 30% of a political/governing body in order to make a difference.  Kosovo's example is a clear case of how an increase in the number of elected women can lead to an increase in the passage of legislation promoting gender equality.  It is important to note that these gender-responsive legislation inevitably help acheive sustainable development.  For example, gender-responsive labour laws will lead to better and stronger participation of women in labour force, expecting to contribute to economic growth and more resilient households, amongst others.  In other words, the GGD functions as a platform for advocating sustainable development.  

I am really curious to learn more about the AoK GGD strategy that is in the making.  I believe other cross-party women's caucuses can learn a lot from the approach they are taking, in that I mean including a wide range of development issues (eg., health, enviornment, economics, etc) under its strategy. Cross-party women's caucuses do not have to limit themselves to promoting gender equality and mainstreaming gender in politics.  Why?  Because they have so much more to offer - gender equality may be the goal that unite female deputies under the banner of a cross-party women's caucus, but their potential, capacity and opportunity goes deeper and wider.  By coming from different political affiliations, the members understand and represent a wider spectrum of views than, say, a women's wing of one political party.  And yet, they are in agreement to come together to discuss political solutions jointly.  Their objective is not to argue their differences, but united around one cause (gender equality), they are prepared to collectively find a solution.  Do not be fooled - this is not an easy task by any measure! 

I salute the members of the AoK GGD and wish them prosperous years ahead.



iKNOW Politics's picture

By Teuta Sahatqija the of the Chairperson of the Assembly of Kosovo’s (AoK) Women Caucus (GGD)

The Assembly of Kosovo’s (AoK) Women Caucus (GGD) is in the process of finalizing its strategy. This strategy has been drafted by the GGD in cooperation with CSOs, UNDP, UN Women and other relevant stakeholders. It is a comprehensive strategy defining the role of women MPs and Kosovo women in politics in various fields (e.g. parliament, politics, economy, environment, health etc.). Moreover GGD has regular visits in the field to promote gender equality in all aspects of public life. It has regular meetings and workshops with women in business, women NGOs, women in Unions, women in Academia and other institutions.

The voice of GGD has proved to be very effective in promoting gender equality in a broader sense. One of the examples is the change that the Government had to do in its list of Appointees for Ambassadors. This list included only male appointees and after GGD reacted the Government revised the list by adding 3 women to represent Kosovo as ambassadors.  It is also worth mentioning that the first law initiated by AoK itself was the law on Gender Equality which was drafted by women MPs and then adopted by the Assembly.  GGD has also managed to adopt an AoK policy which regulates that all draft laws discussed by the Assembly should be screened by GGD for gender equality and equal representation.

The contribution of GGD is much emphasized in monitoring the implementation of sensitive laws. GGD has successfully monitored the Law on Domestic Violence, The Law on Inheritance, The Labor Law and other relevant laws. Their inputs in this monitoring have improved the secondary legislation and other practical challenges of implementation.

The work of GGD goes beyond party and political divisions including all Women MPs which represent 1/3 of all the seats. It has a board of 7 women MPs where all parliamentary parties are represented. Their activities mainly include CSOs, political parties, government, international partners and other stakeholders.

louisesperl's picture


It is evident from the support provided by many actors - women’s caucuses together have been on the spotlight. Indeed, organizations such as NDI, IPU, UNDP and others - confirm: Cross-party parliamentary women’s caucuses together with other formal and informal platforms can be forceful mechanisms. They can empower women, promote women’s participation in political decision-making and contribute to more gender-sensitive legislation and policies. This was also highlighted in a previous iKNOW Politics discussion on women’s Parliamentary caucuses, providing interesting insights and experiences from a global perspective (http://iknowpolitics.org/node/41708).  Also UNDP experience suggests that creating a critical mass of women uniting them over specific issues is definitively a way forward. But as NDI put it - models must be tailored to specific contexts in order to make them work. That’s also why the collection of evidence and experience within a specific regional context becomes so important.

But what exactly are “women’s caucuses”? Should they be established exclusively as a body promoting equal opportunity – or could such an approach limit the scope of work and existing opportunities for such bodies to address broader development issues? What are the merits, demerits, pros and cons of different structures and modalities?  And in this context – what models for cross-party women’s caucuses have proven most effective in this region?

The Communist legacy and transition period in the countries of Eastern Europe and the CIS has put its challenges on political systems and the political culture overall. While the transformation into multi-party systems is still ongoing in parts of the region, strong party discipline sets boundaries to cross-party collaboration – be that in the context of gender equality or beyond. But how to have effective multi-party caucuses in a parliamentary system based on strong party discipline - is this a contradiction in itself? What are options available to overcome this challenge? In fact, some researchers and global experiences suggest that informal platforms can function as a way forward and alternative strategy in such cases. And indeed, this seems a very valid point. Another important argument often brought up against women’s caucuses refers to them “compartmentalizing” women’s issues. But are we in fact talking about “women’s issues” only – aren’t we speaking of gender-responsive law and policy making across all thematic areas?  And should not we therefore focus on the capacities required for to ensure this challenging mandate can be fulfilled? Having a women's caucus in place allows women parliamentarians to efficiently channel their commitment to gender on the one hand, with the support of their female colleagues behind them and without gender becoming an exclusive and too time-consuming part of their political agenda.  But women's caucuses make that women parliamentarians can deal also with issues beyond gender, while still rallying for gender-sensitive legislation and providing solid checks and balances throughout the law-making process (http://iknowpolitics.org/node/41769#comments).  

UNDP strongly believes in the value of having strong caucuses and platforms in place: Efforts to strengthen such caucuses and other formal and informal platforms in the region have focused on capacities for gender-responsive policy and law making (e.g. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kyrgyzstan, Montenegro, Turkey, Ukraine, Kosovo*).  And results can be demonstrated - a considerable number of laws could be reviewed and amended from a gender perspective: In Kyrgyzstan, for example, gender quotas for district electoral committees and the Courtsystem were introduced. In Montenegro, mandatory quotas for women on electoral lists were adopted after huge lobbying efforts from the national women’s movement.  I was also excited when I heard that a new women’s caucus could be established in the Parliament of Ukraine (December). In this context, initial experiences seem to signal that where addressing burning social issues, different political fractions are more likely to unite into a joint platform. But how can this be done in concrete terms - and what support is required for women’s caucuses to perform such role?   We also hope to hear from other countries in the region with women’s caucuses – and what experiences they have made in this respect.  It also seems that numbers matter to some extent: Kosovo – having a very active women’s caucus – has  also  1/3 of women MPs  in  Parliament (and as such one of the highest in the region).

In this context, it is important to note that integrated platforms between Parliamentarians, civil society and other actors can also have an important impact on policy making (be that as an alternative to formal caucuses as indicated above or as an additional forum): This was also visible in Kyrgyzstan after the 2010 revolution. But what exactly were the elements that made this platform - and other ones - so successful? Finally, regional experiences also suggests that the development of national action plans and strategies can serve as an important entry point for joint collaboration and action.

We hope this two-week online discussion can further shed light on the questions raised, providing first hand experiences from the region. We look very much forward to read about your views, valuable experiences and actions taken in your countries and institutions!

We hope to receive many contributions and look forward to a stimulating discussion!

Louise Sperl and Barbora Galvankova

On behalf of the Gender Team of the UNDP Bratislava Regional Center 

Barbora Galvankova's picture

It is no secret that women are underrepresented in public decision making roles around the globe - be that in parliaments, in political parties, EMBs or public administration. The countries of the ECIS region are no exception in this respect. 16 countries in the region fail to reach the global average of 19 percent representation in national parliaments.   

Collaboration of a variety of partners is essential in this context to respond in more meaningful ways to challenges related to women’s political participation. In order to  strengthen the collaborative capacities of national institutions to address women's underepresentation in public decision making, a Regional Forum on Equal Participation in Decision Making was organised. 

The forum identified how the collaborative efforts of these institutions can lead to greater gender equality results in decision-making processes in the region. It also explored how quotas can function as a catalyst in these efforts.  A critical mass of women together with targeted capacity development of male and female policy makers were found key success factors  for gender-responsive policy making.

The forum also highlighted how cross-party parliamentary women’s caucuses together with other formal and informal platforms can be forceful mechanisms to empower women, to ensure women’s participation in political decision-making and to develop more gender-sensitive legislation and policies.

In this context, the participants from the forum recommended to further, capitalize on the existing experience from the countries of ECIS. Following up on this recommendation from the Forum, the UNDP Bratislava Regional Center Gender team is organizing this discussion circle.