Changing The Face Of Local Leadership
During Burkina Faso’s first-ever country-wide municipal elections in April 2006, more than 5,000 women were elected as local councilors. Women will now be an important part of the local decision-making process and assume an unprecedented role in local government.
Burkina Faso’s decentralization process has dramatically altered the political landscape in the West African country, creating unprecedented opportunities for women’s leadership.During Burkina Faso’s first-ever country-wide municipal elections in April 2006, more than 5,000 women were elected as local councilors. Women will now be an important part of the local decision-making process and assume an unprecedented role in local government. Prior to the elections, decentralization had increased the number of communities in Burkina Faso from 49 to 350, establishing local government structures for the first time in many parts of the country. This decentralization also increased the number of local councilor seats in Burkina Faso to 17,000, which in turn allowed for a dramatic increase in opportunities for women to enter politics at the local level. In response, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) organized a national forum titled, “Women’s Role and Participation in Political Life,” which aimed to spur greater women’s participation in the upcoming local elections and identify the women that would be nominated by their parties to run for local office. Nearly 100 political party leaders and political activists, including Burkinabe Minister for the Promotion of Women, Hon. Gisèle Guigma, Speaker of the National Assembly and President of the ruling CDP Hon. Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, Minister of Human Rights Promotion Hon. Monique Ilboudo and visitor Hon. Danielle Perrier of the National Assembly of Mauritius, were present and subsequently, thousands of women were nominated as candidates for local office by their political parties. Since many of these women candidates were running for the first time, NDI provided them with intensive training sessions on the decentralization process, the local election's legal framework and the fundamentals of running an electoral campaign. NDI trained more than 350 women candidates at these sessions and distributed 4,000 copies of its candidate guide for participants to distribute to their fellow women candidates. Immediately following the elections, NDI set up a roving team of trainers that traveled throughout the country to train more than 1,600 of the 5,000 newly-elected women in an effort to prepare the elected women for their new role and responsibilities. The trainers held workshops in local languages and organized interactive, role-playing activities for the women on how to listen to citizens' concerns, assert political positions and improve interpersonal communication skills. NDI also provided training on implementation of the decentralization process. As a complement to the trainings, NDI produced handbooks for the newly-elected councilors to help them better understand the new local legislative process and the role of elected officials. They have been widely distributed throughout the country by the training teams. The local councilor handbook, candidate guide and other materials are also available at a newly-created resource center in Bobo Dialassou, Burkina Faso's second largest city outside of the capital, Ouagadougou. The resource center provides a location outside of the capital for women to attend trainings, find resources and network. Equipped with valuable leadership skills - and local councilor workbooks - thousands of women are actively shaping economic and social development for their communities. NDI will continue supporting women's participation in politics nationwide with financial support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), and will continue to work with its local partner, the Burkinabe Coalition for Women’s Rights (Coalition de Burkinabe pour les Droits de la Femme, or CBDF), in preparation for legislative elections in 2007 and in support of the decentralization process.