Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina– The Women's Democracy Network (WDN) along with the International Republican Institute (IRI) organized a two-day multi-party democratic governance training in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) for newly-elected female members of the national and both entities' (Federation and Republika Srpska) parliament (BiH's governmental structure includes different legislatures to guarantee representation of Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs).
The training workshops focused on developing the governing capacity of women legislators in BiH and included trainers and speakers from WDN members in BiH, the Czech Republic, Serbia and the United States. Providing welcoming remarks, the U.S. Ambassador's wife Danuta Moon commended the participants and encouraged them to, “…take advantage of the training opportunity and learn from the speakers.”
WDN member and President of the BiH Central Election Committee Irena Hadziabdic presented statistical data on the current representation of women in legislative and executive institutions following BiH's October elections. Noting that of the 8,242 total candidates, only 3,035 were women, Hadziabdic stated, “The number of women on candidate lists does not represent the actual number of women participating in politics.”
Former Florida State Representative Leslie Waters trained the parliamentarians on how to create strategic alliances to advance legislation, build caucuses, establish constituent relations, resolve conflicts, and negotiate and compromise toward a common goal. Waters also stressed the importance of understanding the rules of parliamentary procedure, “Know how to use these rules to be an effective and savvy parliamentarian and become an expert on the budget process.”
Special emphasis during the training was given to forming women caucuses in the parliament to overcome present party and ethnic obstacles that are still dominating the political scene of BiH. During discussion following the training on caucus building, WDN member and ParliamentarianAlma Colo commented, “It is difficult to get the majority to pass legislation; this is why we have to build coalitions and talk to each other.”
WDN member and Parliamentarian Elvira Kovacs (second from right) from Serbia discussed her efforts in parliament and the status of women political leaders in Serbia, “Women represent 21 percent of parliament in Serbia; this does not meet the 30 percent quota we have.”
In response to Kovacs presentation, a participant remarked, “We see the situation of women in politics is similar across the region and I am encouraged to hear my fellow parliamentarian speak to this.”
Anna Matuskova, political consultant and assistant professor at Brno University in the Czech Republic, provided an in-depth review and analysis of how women politicians in the Czech Republic are portrayed by the media and their male colleagues.
At the conclusion of the training, participants were presented with the manual, A Legislator's Guide to Gender Politics. Translated into Bosnian, the manual is a WDN publication that provides case studies and training modules from around the world on drafting gender legislation, caucus building and legislative capacity building.