As a party, we work to create a better world for everyone – and that doesn’t stop at home. Over the past three years, the Australian Greens’ International Development Committee has helped train more than 150 women leaders in the Asia-Pacific and Middle East. They’re doing amazing work, and they’re only getting started.
By Michelle Sheather
Since 2019, the Australian Greens International Development Committee (AG-IDC) has been working with parties in Asia, the Pacific and the Middle East to bring together and to empower the next generation of women leaders in countries ranging from Pakistan to Indonesia to the Solomon Islands.
We have developed a program of gender equity trainings and women’s mentoring programs to assist women in parties in the region to effectively advocate for their rights – as well as create and deploy political strategies to improve women’s representation and leadership in policy and in practice.
More than 150 women leaders have been trained – and we’re only getting started.
The trainings commenced with a pilot program alongside the India Greens party near Delhi in 2019. Since this time, the India Greens has undertaken a further five trainings, including in May 2022. This was a training of 12 national trainers to continue the program across the 35 states of India.
We then expanded the program with the Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh Greens to encourage those parties to put forward women for election and for their party executive roles – the latter being a proven key step for gender equity initiatives inside national parties. We are now working with parties in countries such as PNG and Vanuatu where, at the time of writing, there are no women in the national parliament.
The United Nations has identified having more women in parliament as a key development goal. According to UN Women, widespread gender inequalities persist in parliament globally: progression in women holding ministerial portfolios has slowed, with just a small increase from 21.3 per cent in 2020 to 21.9 per cent in 2021; the number of countries with no women in government has increased; and globally only 25.5 percent of national parliamentarians are women, compared to 24.9 per cent the year before.
The APGFWN understands gender equity as fair treatment for women and men, according to their respective needs; and having the same rights, benefits, obligations and opportunities.
Through these AG-IDC initiatives, working with the Asia Pacific Greens Federation Women’s Network (APGFWN), the trainings have proven to increase women’s political participation within their national parties and the regional federation. Parties often also set up a national women’s wing or network for ongoing upskilling and support. Such initiatives also assist prepare women to run as candidates for election often starting with local government.
Issues women address include and relate to violence against women; poverty; social and cultural norms; the right to education for women and girls; political leadership and decision-making; health, sexual and reproductive care; employment; the environment; the law; and lack of gender data. These issues present daily barriers to many who identify as women.
In 2021, women from Bangladesh, India, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan and South Korea attended the first gender equity ‘train-the-trainers’ event over two days. The knowledge and skills they learned will be multiplied as they organise and deliver gender equity trainings in their own countries, language and cultures.
A further region-wide training was just completed in late May 2022 with around 40 women now trained as gender equity trainers in Green parties – from Palestine and Iraq to the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to the Philippines and Indonesia. The next step is to assist parties to put this into practice for the trainers to conduct national trainings with a focus on SE Asia and the Pacific. Key to the training outcome is a two-year roadmap for the national party on gender equity. Our work with the AG-IDC has helped create a strong pool of 40 gender equity trainers advocating for change and empowering others to advocate for their rights in their own parties. This program of work is unique inside any Green party at a global level.
Through their participation in the gender equity trainings, these women have defined a bold vision to bring about genuine change. In the next two years, they will implement campaigns and policies aiming to reach 50 per cent representation of women in the Green party membership and decision-making bodies in their parties. They will actively challenge discriminatory attitudes and portrayals of women in their communities and workplaces. And they will pursue change in their societies – not just by being on the right side of history, but by being effective. What’s more, their leadership will benefit us all.
Michelle Sheather is the Australian Greens’ International Development Coordinator.