Democracy Action Partnership: Driving momentum to end violence against women in politics in Asia

A group photo of participants at the 2023 democracy action partnerships
Location
News

Democracy Action Partnership: Driving momentum to end violence against women in politics in Asia

WFD hosted the inaugural Democracy Action Partnership (DAP) in Bali, Indonesia, gathering democratic changemakers in the Asia region to dive into the interrelated forms of violence against women in politics and elections and facilitate responses.

Violence against women in politics (VAWP) is a pervasive norm that is both a cause and consequence of the exclusion and silencing of women in politics. The threat of VAWP has been significantly rising due to increased visibility of women’s leadership, anti-democratic trends, and the proliferation of technology-facilitated gender-based violence (TFGBV).

During the International 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, and in response to this horrifying global phenomenon, on 29th and 30th November 2023, with support from the UK Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office, WFD hosted the inaugural Democracy Action Partnership (DAP) in Bali, Indonesia. This event invited democratic changemakers in the Asia region to dive into the interrelated forms of violence against women in politics and elections and facilitate multi-layered and multi-stakeholder responses through action dialogue. The DAP was a side event of the 6th Bali Civil Society and Media Forum which WFD co-hosted with the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung.

The theme of VAWP was selected to build on WFD’s learning and research on the barriers to women’s political leadership (WPL) from the first phase of its ASEAN multi-country WPL programme.

Four critical themes explored in-depth

During the forum, four working groups – each consisting of specialists from across Asia – examined important and interrelated topics under Chatham House rules. They included:

  1. The violent and harmful narratives impacting women in politics 
  2. The critical role of data and monitoring in coordinating responses to VAWP  
  3. Institutional safety and gender sensitivity in formal political spaces 
  4. Gendered disinformation as an early warning system to peace and security

Together, they created a collective vision for a future of politics and elections free from violence, and developed recommendations and actions for individual, collaborative, and coordinated next steps.

Voices from the forum

During the opening plenary session, participants examined the various gaps and biases surrounding VAWP and identified actions for stakeholders to undertake to effectively tackle this issue.  

Former Thai parliamentarian Pannika Wanich emphasised the urgent need for gender-based violence to become a thing of the past when she said, “The next generation need not focus on the same topic again.”

Allison Merchant of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) highlighted the importance of open data and collaboration to address gender-based violence. She said the solution “requires working together, collaboration with open government, parliaments, civil society organisations and other service providers, so we can stop filling the same gap every year.”

The UN Women Indonesia Country Representative and Liaison to ASEAN, Jamshed M. Kazi, stressed the need to fix the system that promotes VAWP, warning against ‘performative allyship’—a term used to describe people who display superficial support on an issue. "We shouldn't be fixing you, we should be fixing the system,” says Jamshed M. Kazi, indicating that rather than asking women to change, we should focus on fixing the system that causes violence.

The road ahead

Through collaborative participation, the working groups at the event made several concrete recommendations. These include the need to establish an alert system and rapid response protocols to address VAWP, building mechanisms to monitor and document online and offline instances of VAWP in the region, expanding civic education programmes that teach effective strategies to counter harmful narratives and gendered disinformation about women’s political participation, and make policy and legislative changes to accelerate those efforts. The groups also stressed the value of making VAWP data visible to all stakeholders, as it facilitates policymaking and advised that members of the media are trained to identify misinformation and disinformation, so they do not contribute to wider spread of false and harmful information.

A Cambodian journalist said the DAP made her realise that "our countries are fighting very familiar problems” and that she is not “alone in the battle against authoritarianism". This echoes some of the common next steps identified by all four thematic groups: from enhancing regional cooperation and aligning intervention strategies to monitoring the enforcement of laws that protect women.