In February 2013 Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, office Skopje in cooperation with Macedonian women’s lobby, ANTICO – Women’s Civic Initiative and National Council for gender equality (SOZM) have conducted 7 public debates titled „Women in Local Politics: Achievements and Challenges“.
Political strengthening of women in the Republic of Macedonia came as a result of insufficient participation of women in the politics and decision making process in the late 90-ties and furthermore results in increased activities in women’s organized movement. That kind of organized women’s movement connect and united the women in politics with women from civil society sector which put a strong pressure for introduction of quotas.
With the introduction of the legal quota as a mechanism for gender equality as well as the internal quotas political parties reached numbers of women present in the National Parliament as well as inlocal councils. Normative and legislative the existence of political action and participation of women is not disputable, but the actual situation according to recent local elections indicates that it takespractice for multiple mechanisms and tools in order to improve and increase the participation of women in politics and decision-making positions. Last local elections 2009 figures show a decrease in the number of women mayors of three (4% 2005) to 0 females (0% 2009), number of women councilors in local councils showed weak increase of 3% ; 315 (23% in 2005) and 377 (26.7% in 2009).
The public debates gave participants the opportunity to openly discuss the needs, problems and priorities of women at the local level related to the upcoming local elections, gender programs and plans of the political parties, as well as who and how much women are involved in the process of creating the candidates lists on local level, and particularly in decision-making structures in the local community. This kind of engagement on local level furthermore results in spreading the gender machinery as well as establishment of Gender equality Commissions which have goals to prepare the local action plans. From the experience with the field work, we ascertain the necessity of activating the issue of women’s participation in local politics and involvement the women from local councils, women from political parties and local NGOs which will talk about the future needs and efforts necessary for gender balance programs and creation of effective action plan and polices on local level.
This goal was put in agenda in conducting of 23 workshops on local level in bigger and smaller municipalities and multi-ethnic municipalities. The goal was to be ‘’relaxed’’ the relations between women after the events that happened in the National Parliament. The other goal was women to be introduced with the obligations and tasks of local councils and the level of citizen and political influence in incorporating the problems and issues in the framework of local politics. With the workshops we determine the ways of acting and working on the forthcoming elections through the candidates, through the election programs and we determine the ways of incorporating of the same in the local politics. In the same time we try to overcome the differences created with the latest events.
The workshops were organized with the partnership provided by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, office Skopje and Konrad Adenauer Foundation, office Skopje, as well as with the contribution of Macedonian women’s lobby, ANTICO – Women’s Civic Initiative, National Council for gender equality (SOZM) and local NGOs in financing the coordination, communication, analyze and organization of the workshops. FES Skopje have supported the public debates held in Chaska, Jegunovce; Arachinovo, Rosoman, Skopje (Aerodrom), Cheshinovo Obleshevo and Mogila.
Outcomes of these workshops / debates set at the beginning were to achieve greater visibility of issues about the lack of women in local politics and to put issues of gender policies and programs on the agenda at the local level. It was concluded that women are still not sufficiently informed about the democratic processes, gender component and the possibilities that they can give with its involvement in the creation of local policies, and the initiation of civil initiatives in terms of improving the status of women in society. Regarding the awareness of the work of local committees on equal opportunities stated that they are not sufficiently informed about the work of the same, of the existence of certain budgets and their use according to gender, i.e. gender budgeting. The need for greater cooperation with the Equal Opportunities Commissions (EOC) from local level and the Equal opportunity commission in the Parliament was emphasized as well as the cooperation between the local EOC with civil society, the need for permanent education of new members of the EOC, and potential candidate for counselors. Permanent education of women councilors and potentials councilors is needed in order to make them gender sensitive, informed and educated about gender equality and gender programs. The participants unanimously cited the need for the insertion of gender balance and non-discrimination by political parties in their programs and action plans. They emphasized especially the need for education and encouragement of young women in politics and better work regarding gender issues which is needed for overcoming the parties and ideological barriers. Women in general, nevertheless coming from urban or rural areas, are still not sufficiently informed about the democratic processes, gender component and the possibilities that they can give with its involvement in the creation of local policies, and the initiation of civil initiatives in terms of improving the status of women in society. Civic society has made a small step forwards in its responsibility to recognize: Needs of organized activity with aim to make coordinative pressure and approach towards institutions for putting the issue of women’s candidature into the local policy; raise awareness among the participants about the role and the position of women in political scene in Macedonia; Increase the motivation for active participation of women in creating gender sensitive politics; Introducing and developing new models of action which will contribute to strengthen the role of women in the decision making structures of the political parties.