Gender equality in elections, a topline headline (especially) during pandemic

UNDP in Moldova
Jul 25 · 8 min read
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The last five months were emotionally strained, every single person struggling one’s own way through physical distancing imposed by the pandemic. No one seemed to be ready for such a turning and for the uncertainty.

Kindergarten closures, distance-learning solutions on top of household and business duties created extra pressures on women and men, especially for the ones in care of children, persons underlying chronic conditions or the elderly ones. The overall tension exacerbated the existing frictions, amplifying domestic violence.

All these triggered attention to gender equality dimensions: unpaid child/elderly care work, as well as women and men participation in decision-making. The crisis, besides its socioeconomic implications and overall negative effects, magnifies existing inequalities, but… offers us a unique chance to address them, for us to build a new normal, more sustainable, more equal, more friendly to all people, including the environment.

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Why there is a pressing need for involvement right now? We planned to have a deeper dive into this question at a workshop in March 2020, with 70 participating women, who would have had to register and then come to the indicated location, to take part in the event.

The pandemic could have dissipated our plans. Instead, we accepted the challenge and took advantage of the remaining restriction-free space, i.e. the online one. Now the audience we could capture became unlimited. This way we managed to arrange four live events, using social media, during May and June 2020.

“Women in Elections” show the way to become a powerful candidate

Four workshops imply four mentors, women who have built up a political carrier, learnt numerous lessons and now could share with others their experience or professionals that have advised candidates, helping them to overcome fears and conduct an honest campaign, reflecting their personal and professional assets.

Thus, a series of online events was kicked off by Angela Stafii, a transformational coach & PhD in philosophy, coming with the first advice for this period — “do not make any plans, just follow your dreams.” “Women in Elections” with Angela Stafii mirrored all stages of deciding to engage in politics, and deciphered what is like to be psychologically and intellectually prepared for such a life choice. Angela Stafii “left marks and triggers” in the mind of the audience, for them to reflect, while waiting for the next workshop, led by Loretta Handrabura.

The more women in politics — the more equality in all areas of daily life

Loretta Handrabura is a promoter of gender equality in elections and in the politics of the Republic of Moldova. With political and managerial/administrative experience at the Ministry of Education, Loretta is now an expert, consultant and trainer in educational programmes. As a chairperson of the Women’s Political Club 50/50, she encourages girls and women to engage more in political life, contributing to governance. “Women in Elections” with Loretta Handrabura mirrored the country’s historical and current situation with the lenses of women’s and men’s participation in elections. Domains where women are discriminated or are still facing stereotypes were highlighted; once more women accede to decision-making functions, more progress in combating these stereotypes will be made.

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“This event serves as a platform for increasing the awareness level about the specifics of electoral competences and chances of winning a mandate. I believe that my online session helped many women in raising their knowledge about the importance of their involvement in all economic sectors, as well as in analyzing objectively the most pressing problems, such as domestic violence, sexual harassment, wage gap, etc. I have noted that the number of candidates in elections has slightly increased during the latest two elections, which may serve as an argument for the motivation and participation of other women, considering gender equality in politics was not yet achieved,” said Loretta Handrabura, national expert in gender equality.

Behind the election campaigns’ scenes

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The third online event was hosted by Liliana Palihovici, known for more than 20 years of professional expertise gained with governmental, nongovernmental and international organisations. For seven years Liliana Palihovici was member and Deputy Speaker of the Parliament. For the last three years she is the chairperson of the Association “Institutum Virtutes Civilis”, which supports women’s involvement in political life as well as in decision-making. “Women in Elections” with Liliana Palihovici outlined which steps should women make after deciding to join the election race.

“COVID-19 pandemic has forced our community to go online, also for training and mentoring of women considering the option of engaging into politics as well as into decision-making processes. The fact that we quickly managed to adapt to the circumstances shows our determination in offering support to women so as to become more represented and influential in the governance processes and so contributing to the sustainable development of Moldova. I do hope that the information concerning electoral processes, team work, as well as how to plan an electoral campaign chapter would help women gain more confidence in their own forces while paving their way in politics based on honesty, fairness and action for the betterment of all,” says Liliana Palihovici.

More accessible political communication thanks to new technologies

The fourth event in the series “Women in elections” portrayed an image of a candidate while suggesting useful tips and best practices in promoting their image and actions during the election campaign. “Women in Elections” session hosted by Ludmila Andronic covered the media and new media and how these could become allies in the election campaign.

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Ludmila Andronic, with more than 25 years of experience in communication, says: “I wanted to value this event to encourage women who decided to enter politics to invest in their public image. I deciphered certain tools used for building up friendly and sustainable relations with the media. They could become themselves media sources, as advanced technologies offer such possibility to everyone. I hope that I have succeeded in persuading them that they need to take communication seriously, to devote time and patience to this indispensable aspect of politicians’ life. After all, if they have the courage to go into politics, they shall also have the courage to appear in front of cameras or microphones.”

Voices behind the screen

The four events were followed by hundreds of women. One of them is Angela Vartic. She became a councillor in Durlesti town of Chisinau municipality after the general local elections conducted last autumn. For the first time ever, she stood for elections on the list of a political party and won a mandate.

“I am 53 years old, as of recently councillor in the city hall of Durlesti in my first term. In that short period of time I discovered lots of interesting things, and I believe I was in great need for this informational support. I felt encouraged not to give up, to be resilient and strong and, specifically, learn how to support women engaging in public offices in different situations. Thank you so much for the lessons that help standing on our own two feet!” Angela says.

Ecaterina Podolin watched the online events “Women in Elections” and shared her experience: “I watched the video with the experts with great interest, especially the one hosted by Liliana Palihovici as I attended other trainings conducted by her and I liked them. Let me tell you that I took part in the electoral campaign for the general local elections held on 20 October 2019, but I failed to be elected as mayor. Therefore, the expert’s advice was indeed valuable and interesting to me, and I will take these into consideration in the future in order to be successful in the next elections,” tells Ecaterina.

Another participant of the online workshop suite, Lilia Puzderi Cainareanu, became a local councillor in Borogani Village, Leova district in 2019. Lilia is a civic activist who says that she decided to run in the elections following her participation in the UN Women’s programme for civic and political empowerment of women with disabilities. And at this stage also, after her first election victory, Lilia says she still has a lot to learn:

“I am at the very beginning, in my first term, while in the next four years I have a lot to achieve because I aspire for changes, though I do realize there will be many challenges as well. That is why I watched ‘Women in Elections’ and I acknowledge there is always room for learning and improvement. All video sessions were important and a real support to my advancement and once again I feel convinced that women do have the same highly important role to play in public life ,” notes Lilia.

We communicate without barriers

As the first online workshop was rolling out, UNDP Moldova created a private group on Facebook, Women in Elections, inviting girls and women interested in elections and politics to join this discussion platform. The group has now approximately 150 members, women who, after watching the events “Women in Elections” decided to join the community sharing the same interests.

In this group, all four half-hour video presentations, in which the experts are sharing tips and best practices for each stage of electoral candidate’s life, are available. We have also highlighted key parts in video testimonials, all open for the members of the community.

We will advance the discussions about gender equality in elections, while this group remains as an active platform for other actions and inspirational campaigns in the future and, why not, for the next generations of women mayors, councillors, members of Parliament and, perhaps, even the president of the Republic of Moldova.

UNDP and its partners will continue to support projects and initiatives aiming at increasing women participation in decision-making.

In Moldova, each forth MP is a woman, which is a record for the country. However, according to the UNDP #EqualFuture platform, it will take another century to bridge the global gender gap if the things keep moving at the same slow pace. The platform shows that 25 years after the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action, politics remains dominated by men. Although more women are represented in parliaments and governments, globally women do not represent even a quarter of the total number of elected politicians.

UNDP Moldova

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