Photo: IPU. Women speakers have shaped their parliaments, both in the way they operate and in their outputs
21st century sure looks very different from how past politics used to look like. Women’s voice overall has gained more power and the current momentum allows the public to realize that there needs to be more women parliamentarians. It’s not just about the presence of women parliamentarians being crucial for more legislative changes toward gender equality, but also that they have every right and competence to be the representatives of our society. Plenty of words emphasize the need for gender parity within parliaments, however the data provided by IPU tells us words aren’t sufficiently conveyed into action.
After the Beijing Conference in 1995, there has been somewhat significant changes. Twenty countries now have women heads of state and government. As of 1 January 2020, 6.6 per cent of elected heads of state are women (10 out of 152) and 6.2 per cent of heads of government (12 out of 193). For the first time since 2015, the number of countries without women’s representation in executive cabinets has dropped into single digits, with nine countries remaining without women ministers (Brunei Darussalam, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Viet Nam).
However, more than half of heads of state and government in Europe are women, and the Americas, Asia, Africa and the Pacific region still lack in the cases of women heads significantly. Except for Israel, no other countries in the Middle East and North Africa have had a woman head of state or government. In the 190 countries for which data is available, men continue to dominate certain ministerial positions. For example, there are only 25 finance / budget portfolios and 22 defense portfolios led by women ministers. Despite noticeable progress in the last decade, women ministers tend to assume duties in family and social affairs, followed closely by environment and energy portfolios.
In parliaments, women leadership has made visible advancement within 25 years; the share of women Speakers doubled to 20.5 percent in 2020. Women now serve as parliamentary Speakers in nearly all regions of the world, apart from the Pacific. In 2019, seven countries appointed women speakers of parliament for the first time (Andorra, Belarus, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Malawi and Togo). We ask parliaments to continue on with efforts to allow more participation of women to be represented in politics, step forth by analyzing the obstacles that lag the process of going toward gender equality, and seek for solutions that could create a more equal political environment overall.
The results show that although there seems to be effort and progress regarding embracing more women within political spheres, continuous lags are in presence, which is a major issue global parliamentarians need to highlight. Since 2005, IPU has brought these heads of parliament together by holding regular Summits of Women Speakers of Parliament. These high-level events enable women parliamentary leaders to exchange their national experiences, discuss issues of common concern, and set the tone for the work of the global parliamentary community. Not only in IPU, but also major forums and sessions hold women’s parliamentary meetings. The discussion to strengthen women’s political impact, within IPU and in their own countries, is ongoing.
IPU. (n.d.). Women Speakers of Parliament. Retrieved from https://www.ipu.org/our-impact/gender-equality/women-in-parliament/women-speakers-parliament
IPU. (n.d.). Women in parliament. Retrieved from https://www.ipu.org/our-impact/gender-equality/women-in-parliament
IPU. (2020, March 10). In 2020, world "cannot afford" so few women in power. Retrieved from https://www.ipu.org/news/press-releases/2020-03/in-2020-world-cannot-afford-so-few-women-in-power
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