Women in Local Democracy 2: Phase 2

Gender equality and women empowerment starts with education

What we do

UNDP’s efforts aim to address the low representation of women in governance and decision-making, and to untap women’s huge potential for the community development. Being 52 percent of the population of Armenia, majority with higher education, their representation is dramatically low, comprising:

·        Less than 2 percent of community heads;

·        Around 9.5 percent of local council members (data of 2018);

·        24 percent of National Assembly members; 8 percent of Government Ministers and 26 percent of Deputy Ministers;

·        0 percent female governors, 18 percent of vice-governors.

While women are important actors in education and social affairs, and are well represented in academia, they still face certain barriers in political participation, both at national and local level. Various researches point at political, socio-economic and cultural factors, which limit women participation, such as: insufficient mechanisms and regulations to advance gender equality at the national and local level; reluctance of political parties to appreciate and promote women leadership; narrow gender identities; limited access to resources for economic empowerment; lack of female leadership culture and support networks; power distance; lack of confidence and skills among women; etc.

All these barriers limit opportunities for building a critical mass of female cadre in national and local governance. Overall, women’s potential remains widely underused and undervalued, thereby having an adverse impact on the communities’ prospects for attaining sustainable development and social justice.

To address this issue, UNDP has worked on local and policy levels, through its Women in Local Democracy project.

Within its European Union-funded phase (2012-2015), Women in Local Democracy project worked at the intersection of gender equality and local governance in ten regions of Armenia, supporting:

-              Women’s engagement in local self-governance;

-              Capacity development of local authorities on participatory and gender-sensitive governance, and introduction of participatory decision-making models;

-              Public awareness on gender equality and local governance; strengthening gender-sensitive messaging in media channels and encouraging constructive discourse on gender equality.

Within its second phase, UNDP joined efforts with SDC, USAID, GIZ, CoE, ATDF in a joint Local Governance Programme to support the Government of Armenia in implementation of the Territorial and Administrative Reform (community consolidation). Through this SDC-funded project, UNDP supports:

-        Gender equality aspects of the reform, acting as a ‘gender hub’

-        Participation of women and youth in local governance processes in Lori, Tavush, Syunik and Vayots Dzor regions.

Some results so far

-        Support to the development of the comprehensive Gender Policy Concept Paper (2010) and the Law “Equal Rights and Equal Opportunities for Women and Men” (2013).

-        Increase in representation of women in local self-government in 2012 cycle of local elections (from 7 to 9%) and in 2016 elections (from 9 to 12%)

-        Introduction of participatory decision-making models: (i) Scenario-based Town Hall meetings in five communities; (i) “Micro-referendum” SMS-polling citizen engagement tool, installed in three cluster communities, covering 22 towns/villages; (ii) “Demo” Co-Design Lab, mobilizing stakeholders to co-create new solutions.

-        Pre- and post-electoral training for more than 4000 women (elected or working in local government, local activists, and journalists) on participatory governance, gender equality and leadership.

-        Creation of a vibrant network of 132 young people from all regions via “I am the Community” empathy-building youth leadership model. Its graduates implemented 44 small-scale self-driven community initiatives (and counting) in 29 communities, varying from creative training sessions to beautification of their communities. 11 graduates engaged as fieldworkers in Baseline and Endline Citizen Satisfaction Assessment of SDC-funded community investment projects, implemented by ATDF.

-        Support to the gender dimension of the Territorial and Administrative Reform through: (i) knowledge products on gender mainstreaming in TARA process; (ii) capacity development of 122 local governments representatives on gender sensitive local governance; (iii) recommendations to the RA Government on increasing women representation in local government.