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Growing women’s political participation
7/25/2014
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After receiving training, female candidates are elected for municipal and legislative posts

A UN Women Fund for Gender Equality project that began in January 2013 has allowed more than a hundred women in Trinidad and Tobago to run as political candidates. Although the number of women could seem insignificant, the truth is that it is a huge progress in Trinidad and Tobago, a country with a deep machismo culture.
Candidates have been trained by the Network of NGOs of Trinidad and Tobago for the Advancement of Women, a national “umbrella” organization for all women’s organizations in the country, and a grantee of UN Women’s Fund for Gender Equality.
Potential candidates from across party lines go through a rigorous eight-module training course, called “Train, Run, Win and Lead”. They learn about the basic functions and responsibilities of government, communications, leadership and gender-responsive budgeting.
Since the beginning of the project, 40 training courses have been held. The program hopes to train and support about 700 women until December to help them run in the May 2015 elections.
“[The project] seeks to bring about a process of change towards inclusive and participatory local and national governance with expanded capacity in the municipalities and Tobago House of Assembly for gender-sensitive planning,” stated the Fund for Gender Equality in a June 27 press release.
“The ultimate goal is to develop women’s political capacity to learn the rules, use the rules and change the system,” adds the document. “It seeks to raise awareness among women about their right to equal access to, and full participation in, power structures and decision-making, as guaranteed in conventions and declarations subscribed to by Caribbean governments.”

A clean campaign
Terry Ince, Project Manager of the Network’s Women´s Leadership in Local Government Project, explained that “the training, forums, workshops and networking opportunities not only build individual capacities in participants but foster an atmosphere for collaboration that allows for solutions to be identified that is beneficial to all.”
According to the Network of NGOs of Trinidad & Tobago, half of the trained women who ran during the local elections in 2013 won the race. Moreover, the ratio of women who were selected for municipal posts increased from 29 percent to 33 percent.
Among the Network’s plans is to create a nonpartisan women’s political caucus among women in parliament and local government. The Network has also provided technical assistants to female candidates who ran for leadership roles within their parties.
“We learned to run a campaign without smearing anyone, no poison darts, or throwing stone,” said Hilary Bernard, a 51-year-old dentist who was chosen in the last elections to a municipal post in a district north of Trinidad. “I was able to focus on the positive, what I could offer, and be sympathetic to what I saw as failings of my predecessor.”—Latinamerica Press


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