Commonwealth Local Government Forum

International Women's Day 2024: a conversation with our members

07 March 2024

 

International Women’s Day is a great opportunity to think about the role of women in our communities. The Commonwealth spans many continents, comprising a diverse range of member countries. Diverse in terms of size, nature and the opportunities available to afford women equal chances to men.

 

Local government is the sphere of government closest to the people and, while national laws provide the framework for our lives, it is councils, and councillors, at the local level that make many of the decisions that have a profound effect on our well-being and our future.

 

To mark International Women's Day 2024, CLGF spoke to two of our women members, both members of the CLGF Board, to get their views on women’s representation.

 

Frazette Gibson is Chief Councillor for the City of Freeport, Grand Bahama, in the Bahamas. She is a firm believer that there is much more that can be done to improve the representation of women in local government, both as political representatives, and also at the administrative level. She contends that, “Women representing their communities ensure that their voices are heard and issues affecting women are recognised.”

 

When considering what advice she would give to a young person wanting to enter local government, she asserts that it is vital to “be confident in who you are. To believe in yourself. Build connections. Partnerships, and take it one day at a time.” 

 

This very much accords with our experience of the work undertaken by country chapters of the CLGF Commonwealth Women in Local Government. It is important to have the skills and expertise to enter public office, but the considerations of confidence in your ability are so necessary in general, but also because of the additional barriers that affect women. Issues like having multiple responsibilities, such as childcare and running a home; or facing personal abuse and intimidation. A large part of the work of the Women As Local Legislatives or WALL project in India and Bangladesh (featured in the image to this story) is about developing the person as well as their skills.

 

With this year’s IWD2024 emphasisting the need for investing in women, Cllr Frazette stresses the importance of economic inclusion, saying it leads to the success of local leadership as it “ensures that every single person, especially the poor, have fair access to a safe, secure and a good service.”

 

Watch the interview in full on our YouTube channel.

 

Our second interview is with Jeannette Nyiramasengesho, Chairperson of RALGA, the Rwanda Association of Local Government Authorities; Chairperson of EALGA, the East African Local Government Association; and Board Member of CLGF. She is also one of the partners of the successful Commonwealth Local Government Conference 2023, held in Kigali in November.

 

She became a councillor to strengthen the capacity of the local leadership; to contribute and advocate for the less represented members of the community, especially women. Cllr Nyiramasengesho believes in the importance of being involved in implementation as well as making decisions.

 

Her advice to young women wishing to enter local government politics is that they should make sure they understand how the system and leadership work, and “to have all the information before you decide to go into leadership.”  A common thread, she also stresses the need to have confidence in your ability, and the strength that comes with confidence.

 

Watch this interview in full on our YouTube channel.

 

Our website contains a lot of information and materials about the CLGF Commonwealth Women in Local Government (ComWLG) network, including a number of materials you can use to support more women into entering public service. In our first IWD2024 article, we provide a table showing the numbers of women councillors in many of the Commonwealth countries and a toolkit to help you begin a dialogue in your community about this important issue. For further information about ComWLG contact Janine Xavier Cross, CLGF's Senior Programme Officer - Networks.

 

We wish you all a very good International Women’s Day.

 

 

 

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