Viewing cable 09CONAKRY203
Title: Embassy Promotes Women's Engagement in the Electoral

09CONAKRY2032009-04-02 17:33:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Conakry
R 021733Z APR 09
E.O. 12958: N/A 
SUBJECT: Embassy Promotes Women's Engagement in the Electoral 
1.Summary:  In recognition of Women's History Month, Embassy Conakry 
hosted a workshop on Women's Engagement in the Electoral Process in 
collaboration with the Club des Femmes d'Action, a local women's 
organization.  Guinean subject area experts gave outstanding 
presentations on "Women as Complete Citizens" and "How to Choose my 
Candidate."  In the discussion that followed, the women, many first 
time participants in an Embassy program, shared experiences and 
described how their behavior would change after the seminar. 
Finally, 78 women, representing women's organizations, political 
parties and unions from throughout the five main neighborhoods of 
Conakry, as well as from other areas in Guinea, divided up into 
teams and developed action plans to carry out voter registration 
drives in anticipation of the closing of the electoral rolls on 
April 16.  End Summary 
¶2. Ambassador Elizabeth Raspolic, Charg d'Affaires, opened the 
conference with a speech calling on women to take a leadership role 
in Guinea's transition to democracy. She explained the evolution of 
women's rights in the United States and highlighted the role of 
grassroots action in the advancement of women in American society. 
She called on Guinean women to take a similarly proactive role to 
seize their place in Guinean society through active engagement in 
the democratic process. 
¶3.  Mariama Cir Keita, President of the NGO Guinean Association for 
the Involvement of Women in the Electoral Process and Good 
Governance (AGUIFPEG) spoke about the hurdles facing Guinean women 
in the current system. She noted that when women hold elected 
positions within their party, they are often "Secretary General of 
Food" and that Guinean women are frequently exploited by the party 
for their ability to mobilize at the grassroots, but that they are 
not included in upper level decision making.  She called on women to 
refuse to accept a subordinate role in party politics since Guinean 
women make up 52 percent of the population and have the right to 
equal representation. 
¶4.  Michelle Koundouno, project coordinator for the National 
Democratic Institute (NDI), outlined criteria that women should take 
into account when deciding which candidate to support.  She noted 
that many of the criteria are the same for men and women, but that 
women must be especially vigilant to ensure that the candidate's 
platform takes into account issues of concern to women.  She cited 
several examples, including the need to enforce existing laws 
regarding the rights and protection of women, access to water and 
electricity, childcare for working women, and the recognition of the 
economic contribution of market women. 
¶5. The audience, composed of 78 representatives of grassroots 
organizations from across the 5 communes of Conakry, as well as 
other areas of Guinea, labor unions, political parties, and 
journalists participated actively in the discussion.  For many of 
the women, this was the first Embassy event they had attended.  In 
an effort to make the women from the grassroots organizations feel 
at ease, participants were welcomed to speak in the language they 
felt most comfortable in; thus the dialogue took place both in 
French and various local languages. 
¶6.  Comments from participants were extremely positive.  Many women 
said that they will now examine the party platform before choosing 
their candidates and will not allow themselves to be utilized to 
cook, sing and dance for the party, without being included in the 
party's decision making process.  Michelle Toundouno of NDI, a 
veteran presenter at seminars on this topic, remarked that the 
discussion taking place gave her goose bumps, as the message was 
being absorbed so quickly by the audience. 
¶7.  In the afternoon, women divided themselves into teams by 
neighborhood and developed action plans to educate and engage the 
women of their own communities by sharing the information gained at 
the conference.   The electoral rolls for the upcoming elections in 
Guinea are scheduled to close on April 16, so the women chose to 
focus on voter registration.  Actions plans included door-to-door 
voter registration promotion, visits to schools, markets and other 
places where women congregate to share the information and encourage 
women to register to vote. In one group, each woman committed to 
visiting two neighborhood imams to ask them to include the 
importance of voter registration in their Friday sermon at the 
¶8.  Comment:   This seminar reached a new, but very important, 
audience for the Embassy.  Women at the grassroots in Guinea have 
not had a strong political influence; however, more and more, they 
are pushing for inclusion. By supporting this trend, the Embassy is 
advancing its goals of promoting a swift return to democratic rule, 
and also developing contacts with an emergent group of active and 
committed women.  End comment.