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Government and Politics

Fifty Middle East, North African Women Leaders  in U.S. to Study Elections

Women leaders learning from U.S. to prepare for elections at home

By Jon Hussey

Fifty women political leaders from the Middle East and North Africa will participate in a program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State's Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), at the American University’s Center for Democracy and Election Management (CDEM) and Women and Politics Institute (WPI). The Election Exchange Program, to take place between October 14 and November 7, 2008, will allow program participants an opportunity to learn from the U.S. experience in electoral campaigning and the chance to witness local and presidential elections up close.

The women, representing Algeria, Bahrain, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen, are all involved in upcoming elections in their home countries. Some of the women have run in previous elections, but many are first-time candidates or campaign managers with little experience in running a campaign. The Exchange Program will provide them with an opportunity to learn from the U.S. model and particularly the experience of American women in politics.

The program is divided into two parts. First, the participants will attend a series of workshops on, the U.S. electoral system at American University in Washington, DC.  This will be followed by field visits to ten states in the U.S. where they will observe local campaign events. Finally, they will observe the U.S. Presidential election on November 4. Field visits to the ten states will be organized by Meridian International between October 25 and November 6.  Both parts of the program will include meetings with local political leaders and visits to government and non-government organizations.

Participants will observe elections in the following cities: Portland, ME; Seattle, WA; Raleigh, NC; Denver, CO; Miami, FL; Lansing, MI; Minneapolis, MN; Santa Fe, NM; Chicago, IL; New Orleans, LA.

The media is invited to provide coverage of the program events and to meet the dynamic women political leaders participating in the program.  As these women are planning to run in elections or support other women’s political campaigns in their home countries, this is an excellent opportunity to engage with them and get their perspective on women’s political participation and empowerment in the Middle East region.  Furthermore, it is an opportunity to better understand how the women believe their own political endeavors may benefit from witnessing U.S. elections and democracy up close.

The Middle East Partnership Initiative launched in 2002, serves as the principal U.S. Department of State initiative to foster democratic reform and the advancement of vibrant, prosperous societies in the Middle East and North Africa devoting more than $480 million to over 450 programs in 17 countries.