Suriname: Boosting women participation in Parliament district by district

A Suriname Parliament-Embassy of the Netherlands-UNDP campaign brought together all female candidates, irrespective of their political affiliation, to boost women's participation in parliament. Photo: UNDP in Suriname/STAS International

Women participation in politics in the Suriname has been traditionally low. However, following UNDP’s year-long work with the Parliament to increase the number of women in decision-making positions, the number of female MPs has jumped from 9.8 percent in 2010 to 33 percent following the May 2015 elections—an historic achievement.

The strategy was two-pronged. On the one hand the Parliament and UNDP focused on educating the general public on the need to involve more women in high-level decision-making. On the other hand the partners strengthened women leaders’ capacity—including through training and mentoring—to promote female politicians.

“Now, nearly one year after the start of the programme, with elections held in May 2015 and the Government sworn in in August, the programme is hailed as a success,” said Dr. Jennifer Geerlings-Simon, Speaker of Parliament, now in her second consecutive term.

Highlights

  • The number of women MPs jumped from less than 10 percent in 2010 to 33 percent in 2015
  • 17 women trained
  • 100 women indirectly benefitted from mentoring and training
  • The project funding is US$150,000 from UNDP

With support from UNDP and the national Parliament a total of 17 female politicians from different political parties were trained and equipped to mount public campaigns. Each of the women, in turn, served as a mentor to three to five other women, who lobbied for a place on the list of selectees for the various political parties contesting the national elections. Five of the 17 women who took part in the UNDP’s initiative got placed on the ballots and ultimately three of them were elected.

The Embassy of the Netherlands and local NGOs also supported a nationwide UNDP-backed campaign in Dutch, the official language in Suriname, titled Ook Zij (She Too), placing all female candidates on a billboard, irrespective of their political affiliation. The campaign called upon the public to vote for women. For the first time in history, in every district, women won seats.

“I can see my own personal growth. I am not nervous to speak in public and am confident enough to take initiatives,” said Mynairfa Joekoe, one of the programme participants. “I will certainly make the point within my political party that we need to seriously work on the representation of women on the main political stage.”

“Major change will take time. The political playing field in Suriname is currently a game run by men and changing this will mean broadening the Parliament/UNDP partnership to a national initiative with involvement of civil society, public and private sector aimed at stimulating the involvement of women and men equally,” said Meriam Hubard, Programme Analyst for UNDP in Suriname. “Our work has only just begun.”

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