Women empowerment programmes — A visual journey

PartyParty
PartyParty
Published in
9 min readMar 8, 2023

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Navigating politics is an intrinsic game where hate speech and sexist perceptions of leadership can destroy a talented and committed politician. The image that a politician has to look or behave in a certain way has led many to transform their characters to fit the mould.

The emergence of strong female characters in global politics is not a trend, indicating that politics has evolved into a positive environment for developing female political talent. Yet, the demand by citizens to see more women elected has pushed political parties to understand that as organisations, they should have political figures that look like the people they represent.

The commitment of political parties to developing more female political talent should not be confined to March 8th. Luckily, an increasing number of parties are creating programmes and communities to empower more women to attract and recruit female talent to politics and develop the potential of those bright women who are already working to serve their communities.

Join us on this visual journey to celebrate female political talent through different efforts tailored to have more women elected.

Political Empowerment Forums

Forums where elected female officials meet to discuss how to get more women elected are extremely important and also to create safe spaces where women can discuss the challenges of political duty. Forums represent an opportunity for sharing best practices, developing solutions and mostly empowering participants in their representative roles.

In the picture Luluk Nur Hamidah, MP and Atty. Raissa H. Jajurie launching the report on Women’s Political Leadership in the ASEAN region in December 2022, promoted by the Westminster Foundation for Democracy. The report outlines the obstacles women face to becoming political leaders in South-East Asia. Research and reports like these are important tools for women in politics as it addresses the systemic problems that need to change in the political system to get more women elected. The Westminster Foundation for Democracy works globally with political parties to ensure they can recruit and advance women candidates for election. Image source: Ministry of Social Services and Development (MSSD) of the BARMM, Philippines.

In the picture, the 144th assembly of the Inter-Parliament Union’s Forum of Women Parliamentarians in 2022. This is an example of a women’s caucus with the power to attract around 200 female MPs worldwide to work on gender parity and empowerment policies. Image source: Inter-Parliament Union

In the picture, Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, President of Malta between 2014 and 2019, received the Women Political Leader Award in 2017 in the WPL annual that brings together over 200 women political leaders from all around the world. WPL organises these summits to enable dialogue between former and current women in political leadership positions. These dialogues conclude in formal recommendations to national governments on increasing the number and influence of women in political leadership positions. Image source: The Malta Independent.

Empowerment Programmes

Another tool political parties and their foundations have developed is empowerment programmes or academies. These academies prepare women who are elected or already engaged in politics by providing political strategy and communication skills to tailor to the needs and challenges of women in politics. Empowerment programmes have been developing rapidly in recent years, and regional academies have been set up also to consider cultural differences and particular challenges for female representation.

Pictures of the first Social-democratic Regional Women’s Leadership Academy in Ruma (Serbia) in 2022. The event has gathered around 30 female participants from the Western Balkans from various backgrounds, from activists to social-democratic party leaders. The academy is organised by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, together with Female Leadership Academy. The Academy covers advancements in specific skills, which include public speaking, campaigning and political communication. Image sources: Friedrich Ebert Foundation ​​

The EPP sponsors the Academy for Women Leadership. More than an academy, this empowerment programme is focused on enabling discussions among already elected officials. The programme gathers participants from all areas of political life and all levels of governance. In moderated conversations and panel discussions, the academy provides safe spaces for discussions on equality and parity. First image source: EPP Women, Second image source: Dubravka Suica https://www.eppwomen.eu/

The images portray the participants from the former European Women’s academy of the ALDE party transformed into “The Alliance of Her.” This programme is the most personal empowerment programme for women in politics as it brings women engaged politically to cross-mentor each other in different skills. The Alliance of Her also has a youth programme and it aims to create a network among the participants building a support system for the women pet of the programme. Image source: The Alliance of Her, https://www.aldeparty.eu/theallianceofher

The campaign to increase diversity through party structures has also reached a worldwide level, as referenced by the photographs above from the global political federation, Liberal International. It launched its Women in Political Parties Index (WIPP Index) in 2019, which formed a unique first-of-its-kind tool to assist its 120 political parties’ global membership. Year-on-year, parties can measure their own Women in Political Parties (WIPP) Index, i.e. the level of diversity and inclusivity within their party. They can then, with the help of Liberal International’s dedicated empowerment programmes, inclusivity handbooks and initiatives with partner organisations; have a chance to bolster female representation from within. Each year, Liberal International publishes a Gender Equality Report, broadly based on their party membership results (not mentioning specific parties), to indicate key trends in female politics under the liberal umbrella. Image source: Liberal International, WIPP Index Programme, https://liberal-international.org/

Candidate Preparation Programmes

While in Europe, political parties and their foundations are unable to train candidates, civil organisations and associations have created programmes to assist those women keen to run for office but not knowing where to start. These programmes are a powerful tool to empower local leaders and true community heroes that can represent their communities as a whole.

In the image, participants from an online communications workshop from the Irish-based initiative: See Her Elected (SHE). According to their website description: “SHE supports women across rural Ireland to become county councillors and to be part of their campaign teams.” They provide free political education covering all the different areas any woman running for election or part of her campaign team needs to think about and have a plan for. Image source: See Her Elected Instagram account. https://www.seeherelected.ie/

In the image, participants participate in one of the “Elect Her” workshops in the UK. Elect Her is a non-partisan organisation focused on intersectionality. Elect Her holds a particular focus on including and advancing women of colour, women of faith, women with disabilities, LGBTQIA+ women, women from lower income backgrounds, younger women and those with caring responsibilities, who are all further underrepresented in politics. Image source: Elect Her, https://www.elect-her.org.uk/

Does empowerment work?

The simple answer to it is an obvious yes! Women entering politics statistically will face more doubts about their leadership skills and be under tighter scrutiny than their male counterparts. Any effort to empower is a step forward to having parity in representation either these steps are awareness research programmes to map challenges, networks of action and academies.

To understand the reach of these programmes, we asked the project management of The Alliance of Her about the programmes value and impact:

Investing in female political leadership is not just right, it’s smart.

The Alliance Of Her began life as the European Women’s Academy in 2016. At that time, its founders shared two a simple conviction: that the lack of women in European liberal politics was neither fair, nor smart. They knew that when women and other underrepresented groups aren’t included in decision making, their experiences and perspectives will not be taken seriously, if at all. All society loses by not benefiting fully from women’s talents, insights and lived experiences, as do liberal parties.

Their solution was to create one of the best programmes dedicated to supporting women to achieve their political goals. The annual academy offered a comprehensive, multi-session experience where participants worked with the best experts in liberal politics, heard from inspiring leaders, and formed life-changing connections with each other in the process.

As each class graduated, went on to achieve their goals, and as more and more women joined the increasingly influential and impressive alumnae network it was clear that the programme needed a more ambitious mission to amplify the success of its participants into much greater impact for women across liberal parties and in political life more broadly.

This is why in 2020 the programme adopted a new mission, a new strategy, and a new identity. The Alliance Of Her is now a powerful community of over courageous 150 liberal women and their allies, committed to the belief that when women are equal in power and decision making, their leadership is valued, and when more liberal women in politics can thrive, only then can we achieve a truly free, open and prosperous Europe for all.

Through a vastly expanded academy programme, an active and engaged alumnae and allies community, as well as a growing advocacy presence, The Alliance Of Her aims to disrupts the unjust status quo in politics, dismantles barriers that hold women in politics back, and arms its members with the resources knowledge and tools to realise their political ambitions.

In 2023, programmes like the Alliance Of Her are more vital than ever. Not only do women continue to be underrepresented at all levels of government in Europe and around the world, women’s political and social rights are under assault as part of a wider global backlash against the rights of women and other minorities and against democracy itself.

It’s no coincidence that women’s rights are being rolled back at the same time that illiberal and authoritarian regimes are on the rise: women’s civil and political rights and democracy go hand in hand. Autocratic regimes fear women’s political leadership because they know that when women succeed in politics, liberal democracy is more likely to follow.

Increasing female political representation is one of the most powerful ways to turn back the tide towards a world that is more just, safe, sustainable and ultimately more prosperous for all. Defending liberal principles of equality, human rights, and democracy has never been more important or more urgent. Empowering liberal women to engage freely in decision-making and achieve their political goals is one of the most powerful and effective ways to do this.

This is why the ALDE Party, our partners and our rapidly growing community of alumnae and allies are so passionate and dedicated to the Alliance Of Her and initiatives like it across Europe.

To successfully counter the rising tide of authoritarianism we need to make promoting women’s political leadership front and centre of our liberal agenda. And to be a credible, dynamic, and effective force for stronger democratic and liberal governance, we need an inclusive and diverse political community in order to inspire and attract more incredible female talent to the frontlines and to leadership roles — in the words of MEP Katalin Cseh, it’s time to ‘be brave and occupy the space’.

More and more programmes are created to have more diversity in representation as political parties understand the importance it makes in an age where most voters are not engaged with politics. To know more about these programmes visit the website of those organisations featured on this article.

Author: Luis Cano

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The source for in-depth reporting on political changemakers, political parties, and political trends across Europe.