Equality in the Commonwealth

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Equality in the Commonwealth

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Fighting discrimination against women and girls, LGBT+ people and other intersectionally disadvantaged groups requires the development of an enabling environment – in which local decision-makers and civil society actors are better able to advance equality and inclusion in politics and society. 

Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) and Kaleidoscope Trust (KT) implemented a joint programme that focused on 16 Commonwealth countries in Africa, the Eastern Caribbean, Asia, and the Pacific that retain laws and policies that discriminate against women and girls, and LGBT+ people. The programme supported local decision-makers and civic actors as they progress towards a more equal and inclusive world.  

The programme was funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) through the Conflict, Security and Stability Fund (CSSF) as part of the Commonwealth Equality Project (CEP). 

Avenues to equality and inclusion 

By creating space and opportunity for enhanced collaboration and engagement between lawmakers and civil society organisations, CEP worked to foster an environment in which local decision-makers and civil society actors were better able to advance equality and ensure that women and girls, and LGBT+ people were included in politics and society. 

Activities in the project focused on three main avenues to equality and inclusion: evidence and incentives, skills and tools, and links and relationships. 

Between October 2020 through to March 2021, CEP supported changes in policy, increased capacity, and strengthened key relationships between civil society and political decision-makers. Find out more by expanding the themes below. 

Research and evidence

The programme filled gaps in research and evidence when it comes to better outcomes for women and girls, LGBT+ people, and society at large. This will bolster decision-makers’ incentives to act and support them to make the case for change over the coming months and beyond. 

  • In Nigeria, a national research on the impact and barriers to implementation of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act was conducted. The research is the first national level evaluation and report of the law; it will serve as a reference for decision-making across the country. 
Skills and tools

The programme worked with civil society organisations (CSOs) that support and advocate for the rights of women and girls and LGBT+ people by ensuring they have the skills and tools they need to bring about change, including through tracking and assessing legislation. 

  • Civil society organisations (CSOs) can engage in post-legislative scrutiny (PLS), whether by monitoring the process initiated by state actors or undertaking the process on their own. For this reason, a guide to post-legislative scrutiny for CSOs was developed under CEP. The guide strengthens the ability of CSOs to effectively engage in the PLS process through documentation, campaigning, empowerment, public education, and legal advocacy. 
  • WFD, in partnership with the Uganda Women Parliamentary Association (UWOPA) and Centre for Policy Analysis (CEPA), developed a policy brief on the impact of COVID19 on women and girls. The policy brief – presented to the Parliament of Uganda – guides on key issues that the 11th Parliament needs to consider on COVID19 and women/girls, during the exercise of its functions of representation, legislation, oversight over the executive and the judiciary. 
  • In the Maldives, there were no CSOs or national agencies that worked on integrating an intersectional approach to gender analysis prior to CEP. By WFD engaging with key stakeholders, including national authorities and CSOs, a contemporary gender training manual, which can be used by those working, or interested in working, towards the advancement of gender equality across the Maldives was developed. 
  • Kaleidoscope Trust (KT) built regional capacities in Eastern Caribbean that are intended to be regenerative. For instance, Training of Trainers (ToTs) programmes on diversity and inclusion. 
Links and relationships

The programme worked to help create space and opportunity for enhanced collaboration and engagement between civil society, thought-leaders, and decision-makers. This strengthened their relationships and enabled change-makers to learn from one another – making it easier for them to work together for equality. 

  • In Nigeria’s Oyo State, CEP facilitated the tackling of violence against women and  girls through the passage of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) bill in December 2020. The programme created a platform where stakeholders, including CSOs, media, security agencies, and government stakeholders made their input in the review of the VAPP bill in the state. This gave opportunity for both the parliament and the stakeholders to discuss and clear proposed provisions and amendment in the bill 
  • In Uganda, the programme addressed inequality, the marginalisation of women and girls after the death of a spouse and sexual violence and harassment in the workplace by supporting the passage of two crucial gender responsive legislations – the Succession Amendment and the Employment Amendment Bill. This was made possible by CEP creating an enabling environment for minority rights groups that strengthened the internal organizational capacity of LGBT+ focused CSOs/human rights defenders in the East African country. 
  • In Sri Lanka, CEP formed an informal network of LGBT+ CSOs and stakeholders that provided technical input to the design and quality control of the survey and gap analysis. Additionally, the network provided a collective voice for LGBT+ organisations. 
  • In Tonga, KT strengthened the dialogue and engagement between CSOs and government and created technical evidence for legal and policy change on hate crimes and sexual offences.  
  • In Kiribati, KT supported CSOs to expand and deepen their relationships with government line ministries and parliamentarians. For instance, Boutikaanm Inaomataia ao Mauriia Binabinaine Association (BIMBA) and Nei Mom Uprising (teen mothers’ rights organisation)’s relationships with local media outlets, women’s rights organisations and government line ministries and parliamentarians have expanded and deepened. 
  • In Mauritius, the Children’s Act was passed in December 2020 as a direct result of consultations, recommendations, and advocacy by civil society partners – Gender Links, Collectif Arc En Ciel (CAEC) and Kolektif Drwa Zanfan Morisien (KDZM). This was a culmination of long-term support to these partners by KT, including through their Equality & Justice Alliance (EJA) programme.  
Key results

Supported Nigeria’s Oyo State House of Assembly in the Passage of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) bill.

Supported the passage of gender responsive legislations in Uganda – the Succession Amendment and the Employment Amendment Bills.

Supported passage of the Children’s Bill that abolishes child marriage and provides greater protection from violence in Mauritius.

Conducted a perceptions survey and gap analysis in Sri Lanka.

Finalised the first Strategic Framework of the Diversity Alliance of Namibia (DAN), which has a diverse membership of organisations working with sex workers, LGBT+ persons, and marginalised women.

Confirmed support from the Ministry of Justice in Tonga for a series of recommendations to amend the Criminal Offences Act to decriminalise same-sex consensual relationships and provide better protection from violence for Tongan LGBT+ persons and women.

Demonstrated increased knowledge that an intersectional lens will improve the design and delivery of effective policies and processes among key stakeholders such as CSOs and national authorities in the Maldives. A contemporary gender manual regarding work on gender equality in the Maldives has been developed.



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