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By Cherith Sanger on behalf of Sonke Gender Justice, South Africa. 

1. How do you explain the low representation of women in decision-making around the world, whether in village development committees, parliaments, governments, or intergovernmental organizations?   

Social construction which define gender norms and roles for women across the various spheres of life position men opposed to women as leaders. This entails that women and men are nurtured to take up roles or positions in various spheres of life in line with social gender norms. Structures in government, the private sector and in communities adopt, favour and perpetuate these gender norms which exclude women from progressing and taking on leadership roles.

While women’s representation in decision-making positions are key, it is important that women are meaningful represented. Often women are represented but are not able or allowed to make decisions due to patriarchal dominance which dictates that women’s decisions carry less weight than men’s or are simply over-ruled. 

2. How can men as leaders take meaningful action to foster an increase in women’s representation in decision-making bodies? How can men as husbands/partners, fathers, sons, and other family members, support women’s role in political life? Share concrete examples.

  • Men need to be critical about how patriarchy operates. Men need to be progressive in questioning and rejecting broadly accepted patriarchal values and practices.
  • Men need to willingly develop or train young/upcoming women to take on positions.
  • Men as father’s need to raise their children in non-gender binary/gender non- conformist fashion allowing girl children to take on leadership roles without limitation (and supported)
  • Men should make a specific effort to give children opportunities for developing leadership abilities through training and participation in relevant processes

3. What strategies and approaches have been successful in engaging male champions in shifting the gender disparity of women in decision-making bodies?

  • Creating/Realising/Enforcing legal/constitutional duties for women’s rights to equality and non-discrimination to be respected, protected, promoted and fulfilled.
  • Creating/Realising/Enforcing policy commitments which facilitates practices and puts in place standards for ensuring women’s rights to opportunities to attain skills and experiences to take on leadership roles.
  • Civil society support through engagement with the state to increase the number of women in decision making positions through lobbying and other forms of advocacy.
  • Monitoring interview and appointment processes for decision making positions i.e. for judicial appointments.
  • Lodge complaints with human rights bodies or authorities tasked with ensuring gender equality/human rights (where such institutions exist).
  • Building networks of support across various sectors i.e. academia, communities, civil society organisations etc. to support existing advocacy for women’s equal representation in decision making positions.
  • Persistent media coverage on the importance of women in leadership positions, the framing of women’s under-representation is decision making positions as a human rights issue and the discriminatory nature of the exclusion of women from decision making positions.

4. What potential challenges do male champions face in being active and vocal supporters of women in politics (or in women’s empowerment and gender equality)?

  • Certain forms of feminist thought exclude men’s participation from the fight for women’s rights to equality and non-gender discrimination.
  • Men can be accused of using paternalistic approaches to attaining gender equality as the historic and continuing beneficiaries of patriarchal values and practices (noting that patriarchy places unrealistic expectations on men which can be harmful to men too).

5. What can be done to catalyze and encourage more male champions of women's political participation?  Please share any initiatives or good practices that you are aware of.

  • Media advocacy through traditional and social media on topic and men to participate in discussions to ensure that men are given exposure to and become familiar with the need for men as women’s partners and allies for women’s rights to equality and nom-gender discrimination
  • Include gender training in primary and secondary level education (social context training) 
  • Include gender training (social context training) in professional training courses i.e. for judges training, attorneys training, advocates training, law students training etc.

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