One of the main challenges to increase women political participation is the insertion of young women in the political arena. In order to address this challenge, UNDP and UN Women Brazil partnered in 2014 to create the «Young Women Leaders» (YWL) project. The main goal was the direct empowerment of 15 young women, by setting up a mentoring programme between them and established women leaders in the executive, legislative and social movements.
By Juliana Wenceslau, M&E Officer / Gender & Race Focal Point – UNDP Brazil
Photos: UNDP Brazil
In spite of being the majority of Brazilian constituency, the participation of women in the Câmara dos Deputados (House of Representatives) increased from 5 percent in 1990 to sheer 10% in 2014. Despite the minimum quota of 30 percent of women candidates that has to be represented in every political party (Law 9.504 of 1997), party structures and rules are cumbersome for women. Party leaders tend to facilitate access only to their wives and daughters, a common practice in other countries. According to a research from IBOPE/Pagu Institute, 9 out of 10 Brazilians believe that a greater number of women in politics would be beneficial for democracy and society.
Table 1. House of Representatives Members Elected by Sex
|Source: Tribunal Superior Eleitoral|
One of the main challenges to increase women political participation is the insertion of young women in the political arena. In order to address this challenge, UNDP and UN Women Brazil partnered in 2014 to create the «Young Women Leaders» (YWL) project. The main goal was the direct empowerment of 15 young women, by setting up a mentoring programme between them and established women leaders in the executive, legislative and social movements. The specific objectives were to strengthen the leadership of 15 young women of a diverse group and facilitate the expansion of their networks and alliances. It also aimed to increase their capacity to organize themselves to participate politically in an effectively manner. Additionally, it aimed to facilitate the connection of women at top positions with young activists to foster the exchange of experiences from intergenerational viewpoints. Finally, the program aimed to increase the communication capacity and sensitize media professionals about gender equality and young women issues, decreasing stereotypes and discriminatory images of young women in the media and promote alternative images.
15 young women selected from 345 applications
The selection criteria to participate in the mentoring program was to be a young woman from 18 to 29 years old, a cover letter/video explaining the willingness to participate in the program, a recommendation letter from the organization/community in which the candidate developed activism/community work for women’s rights and having access to internet to develop the online part of the program. The process received 345 applications, of which 173 meet the criteria and 15 young women were selected, including 2 indigenous, 3 quilombolas, 3 afrodescendants, 1 Calon Gipsy Clan, 1 lesbian and 2 rural women. At the regional level there were 2 from the Centre West, 2 from the North, 5 from the Northeast, 3 from the Southeast and 3 from the South.
The project invited 15 women leaders as mentors from the executive, legislative and social movements, including Senators, Members of Parliament, top officials from Secretariat of Human Rights (SDH), Secretariat of Women Policy (SPM), Secretariat of Youth (SNJ), UNFPA, UN Women, CFEMEA NGO, that were committed in Brazil with women rights and gender issues.
Young women empowered
The main results of the programme were, according to the young women themselves: strengthening of their image and self-esteem; greater recognition of their peers; the development of a network; the access to new institutional spaces; the achievement of results of their advocacy work; their engagement in new forms of communication, being empowered with new communication skills and capable of building new relationships with the media.
According to the mentors, the programme was a space of fraternity between women; an opportunity of interchange, pluralism and understanding of the approaches and views of young feminist movement.
How was it achieved?
During 2014, the YWL group had three field visits in Brasilia and gathered together to develop the structuring pillars of the program: i) Acquaintance and knowledge sharing, (ii) Immersion and convergence and (iii) Planning and communication.
i.Acquaintance and knowledge sharing: to highlight individual and collective trajectories of group members, starting from their life stories. During narrative of life experience, one can update it and acknowledge values and facts that determined their social engagement in women policies. Likewise, it is relevant to reflect what the group has in common and their differences, at many levels: the young women among themselves, the young women and the mentors, the young women and the program coordinators and also among the three collectives. This acquaintance contributed to the mentorship matching selection.
The YWL group also visited and met with representatives from the House of Commons (Women Committee and Women Secretariat) and Senate (Women Prosecutors’ Office), Federal Government’s Secretariat of Women’s Rights, Youth, Human Rights, Racial Equality, UN Women, UNDP and CFEMEA NGO.
During these meetings the work of these organizations was presented to the young women and they had the opportunity to meet some of the mentors and make them questions. During the first visit the young women get acquainted with the work of the different organizations and had the opportunity to choose two mentors, according to their interests, to carry on their mentorship program. After a matching done by program coordinators, one mentor was assigned to each of the 15 young women.
ii. Immersion and convergence: The immersion intends to make the young women think about long term work on women policies and to learn how the mentor build her trajectory, network and speech. All of them visited the institutions, had interviews with their mentors and were inserted in the institution’s dynamics, participating in some activities. These activities were conceived to strengthen the leadership skills of the young women and to have an impact in their communities. The exchange resulted in an immersion of the young leaders in different spaces of power and for mentors it led to new perspectives on youth, gender and political and social movements.
iii. Planning and communication: In the third visit, the participants were trained in communication skills and knowledge exchange. Conceptual and technical aspects were addressed through the communication dimension as Humans Rights, freedom of speech and freedom of press, as well as the importance of the media democratization, the critical analysis of the media and its social control. Hence, through dialogue on concepts, routines and practices of journalism and press office the communication skills of the young women to reach the media. The training was focused on how to respond journalist demands, how to include articles and agendas on the press and interact with media regarding women rights. The interaction of the young women with journalists and communication specialists was very interesting, as they offered clues on how to qualify the communication practices of the young women.
It has born as a UNDP pilot project aiming to continue with new editions in the future. The «Young Women Leaders» (YWL) attempts to be the start of a new circle of projects focused on women and their empowerment as leaders of a new future.
1. About the Young women Leaders Program Dec 9th 2014 Final Event
2. Be a young woman in spaces for political action Dec 15th 2014 Final Event
3. Gender Equality : Feb 20th 2015, International Day for Social Justice
4. Women in the media March 8th 2015, International Women´s Day
5. Racism and Discrimination Mar 21st 2015, International Day for the elimination of racial discrimination