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Building capacity for social development

The two years covered here, from July 2013 to June 2015, were a period of transformation for the Commonwealth Secretariat as we worked to translate into practical action our Strategic Plan from 2013/14 to 2016/17. The Plan is a clearly signposted roadmap, following implementation of the most fundamental reforms for a generation, both of the work we do and of the way we do it.

The Commonwealth Secretariat worked to increase the number of women leaders and their participation in decision-making at all levels of public and political life. The under-representation of women in national and local politics is a serious concern.

Supporting gender-responsive social development

The Government of Trinidad and Tobago asked the Commonwealth Secretariat for assistance in building the capacity of government officials to implement gender-responsive budgeting in ministries. In The Bahamas, the government uses the Secretariat publication, The Impact of Women’s Political Leadership on Democracy and Development to train prospective women leaders to take part in national elections in 2016. Uganda commissioned a follow-up report, Making a Difference Beyond Numbers: Towards Women’s Substantive Engagement in Political Leadership in Uganda by civil society organisation Isis-Women’s International Cross Cultural Exchange.

Supporting women’s land rights

The Commonwealth Secretariat prepared Women’s Land Rights Handbooks for Cameroon, Kenya and Nigeria. In Cameroon in 2014, the Secretariat worked with the Samaritan House of Empowerment to produce information and radio jingles in local languages to raise awareness of women’s land rights. With support from the Secretariat, the Cameroon Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and the Family worked with women judges on a national strategy for legal reform of women’s land rights. In Nigeria and Kenya, the Secretariat promoted the handbooks to raise awareness of women’s rights and access to justice in partnership with the International Federation of Women Lawyers in Nigeria and Kenya.

Ending violence against women

The Commonwealth Secretariat continued to support member countries in efforts to end violence against women. The Secretariat presented a policy paper on violence against women and girls at the 2014 Commonwealth Law Ministers Meeting in Botswana. Ministers called for the Secretariat to continue supporting member countries to address violence against women and to facilitate co-operation among national law ministries, judiciaries, national women’s organisations and other agencies.

In partnership with UN Women and the Government of Canada, the Secretariat convened a consultation on multi-stakeholder co-operation to end impunity for violence against women and girls in Asia. The Secretariat also commissioned an analysis of the law on sexual harassment in India, which was published in the April 2014 issue of the Commonwealth Law Bulletin. In Mozambique, the Secretariat supported training for judges and prosecutors in dealing with violence against women in the country’s justice system.