Using BRIDGE to build a Voter Education Program for Vanuatu

4 May 2012

For many years the Vanuatu Elections Office has been interested in developing a Voter Education program that would be appropriate to the Vanuatu context. Following a Gender and Elections BRIDGE module conducted in Port Vila at the end of 2010, the issue was again raised by the then Principal Electoral Officer.

In April 2012, a 3 day, AusAID funded BRIDGE Workshop, comprising elements of the Civic Education and Voter Information modules, was conducted in Port Vila (by Ross Attrill and Jess Carney (from the Australian Electoral Commission) and Tina Ilo (from the Vanuatu Women’s Affairs Department) for 20 Vanuatu Voter Registration Officers, 2 members of Transparency International Vanuatu (TIV), 2 members of the local theatre group, Wan Smolbag, 1 Vanuatu Elections Office (VEO) staffer, one Vanuatu Women’s Affairs Department staffer and one UNWOMEN Vanuatu staffer.

The objectives of the 3 days were to:

• Sensitize and motivate the participants about potential content and methodologies for a Voter Education program in Vanuatu

• Consult with the group as to what they believed should be included in such a program for the citizens of Vanuatu

The workshop was a great success, meeting both objectives. The Voter Registration Officers finished the workshop feeling they knew a great deal more about their potential roles as Voter Education providers and the Facilitation team collected some very useful information that will assist us in the design of the curriculum for the Voter Education Pilot Program. And, as always, participants were glowing in their praise of the content and methodology of BRIDGE. Not only did we all learn a great deal from the experience, we all enjoyed it and it has helped to build networks across Vanuatu’s Civil Service and Civil Society.

Once again, BRIDGE has shown that it can be of direct, practical use in the building of programs and capacity in Electoral management bodies. The next steps will hopefully be to use BRIDGE materials as a basis for a two hour Vanuatu Voter Education Program (VVEP) and to develop a Training of Trainers package for those who will pilot the VVEP.

Two highlights of the workshop for me were that Jess was able to complete her accreditation as a Workshop Facilitator and that we were lucky enough to work again with Tina Ilo who is fast becoming one of the most accomplished BRIDGE Facilitators in the Pacific. Congratulations to you both on a great job and thanks for being such a wonderful team to work with.

Thanks once again to AusAID for their support and to the Management of the AEC and Vanuatu Elections Office and Commission for support and participation.

Comment from Jess Carney – Newly Accredited Workshop Facilitator:

‘After participating in a TtF in February in Melbourne, I was very excited and fortunate to be involved in such a significant project for Vanuatu. The difference from facilitating in a TtF environment to facilitating an actual BRIDGE workshop quickly became apparent. It was great in that it allowed me to develop a range of new skills and confidence as a facilitator. Being part of a workshop that was delivered in both Bislama and English was also a fantastic way to be introduced to BRIDGE in an international context, and made for a very memorable accreditation experience.
My sincere thanks go to Ross, Tina and all of the participants for making my first workshop as a facilitator an extremely rewarding and enjoyable experience. I hope the participants got out of the workshop as much knowledge as they instilled in me, and I look forward to working with them in the future – hopefully in Bislama!’

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