Parliamentary Oversight of Gender Equality

Parliaments are key stakeholders in the promotion and achievement of gender equality. Parliamentary oversight processes provide and opportunity to ensure that governments maintain commitments to gender equality. While women parliamentarians have often assumed responsibility for this oversight, many parliaments are taking a more holistic approach by establishing dedicated mechanisms and systematic processes across all policy areas to mainstream the advancement of gender equality.

The oversight role of parliamentarians is linked to the very notion of external accountability, the democratic control of the government by the parliament, among other bodies. Since gender equality improves the quality of democracy, the parliamentary oversight of gender equality is a key aspect of modern parliaments and a fundamental contribution for the achievement of sustained democratic practices.

Against this backdrop and to contribute to the forthcoming second Global Parliamentary Report on Parliament's power to hold government to account: Realities and perspectives on oversight - a joint publication of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) - iKNOW Politics is moderating an e-Discussion on 'Parliamentary Oversight of Gender Equality'. The e-Discussion runs from 25 January - 28 February 2016 and seeks to highlight the willingness and capacity of parliaments to keep governments accountable

on the goal of gender equality and ensure parliamentary oversight is gender-sensitive, as well as the opportunities available to both women and men parliamentarians to engage in oversight. One of the main objectives of this e-Discussion, thus, is to find best practices that will help to strengthen external accountability and the consolidation of sustained democratic practices.

The conclusions of this e-Discussion will be incorporated into the global report. More information on the report is available at 

iKNOW Politics members (politicians, experts, academics, CSOs, and think tanks) are encouraged to respond with concrete examples, experiences and recommendations to the questions outlined below. Please follow the following steps to send your comment(s):

Please fell free to respond to as many, or few, questions as you like. There is no requirement to provide responses to all the questions. Please participate by emailing or by posting your comments online in the iKNOW Politics forum below. 

Please click here to read the full concept note of this e-Discussion.

Access the Consolidated Reply here and the full report following this link.


1. PARLIAMENT MECHANISMS FOR OVERSIGHT                           

-Has parliament created mechanisms to oversee the government’s gender equality commitments? How effective have they been? What are the reasons for their successes and shortcomings, and what could be improved?

-To what extent does parliament scrutinize the budget from a gender perspective? Are parliamentarians able to hold government to account for the extent to which expenditure has produced results for women and men?

-To what extent does parliament engage with the national reporting process on Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women? Does parliament monitor the executive’s response to recommendations by the CEDAW Committee?

-Is it possible to identify specific outcomes of parliamentary oversight of gender equality? Where a particular result has been achieved, what produced these outcomes?

2. MONITORING OF GENDER EQUALITY                              

-To what extent does parliament monitor the impact of gender equality / non-discrimination legislation after it has been adopted? Do you have concrete examples how this has been done? What is the role of parliament when legislation is not put into practice, or does not have the intended effects?


-What can be done to build political will for women and men parliamentarians to engage equally in oversight of gender equality issues?

-Where caucuses of women parliamentarians exist, have they provided effective in building cross-party support for work on gender equality? To what extent have they been able to engage with government and hold it to account?

-How extensively does parliament engage women’s groups outside parliament to support monitoring progress and setbacks with regard to gender equality? What the opportunities to strengthen these partnerships?

-To what extent are parliamentarians supported in undertaking gender-sensitive oversight training, staff, and budgets?


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kevin deveaux's picture

Thank you to iKNOW Politics for hosting this discussion. The topic is one that has received too little consideration, but that seems to be slowly changing.  To start, I think there has been too much emphasis on establishing Gender Equality or Equal Opportunity Committees as a means of promoting oversight of a government's actions with regard to the rights of women and girls. I am firm believer that ALL sectoral committees of a parliament have a mandate, inherent in their work, to consider the impact of their work on both men and women equally. This should include the development of work plans and annual legislative agendas that actively identify and encourage inout from civil society and stakeholders who reflect the needs and interests of women.

We have seen in places such as Scotland and Sweden, where the parliament has adopted an overarching policy of gender equality, that this can result in all committees understanding their mandate to include active engagement and outreach to women and women's organizations in order to ensure their perspectives are considered as part of the deliberation of the committees.

iKNOW Politics's picture

To celebrate the 100th endorsement of the ‘Common Principles for Support to Parliaments’ (1), which came from UN Women and include specific calls for parliamentary support on gender equality, the iKNOW Politics Team - in the framework of the current e-Discussion - would like to share some of the key guidelines with you to further stir the debate:

Principle 2: Parliamentary support partners are attentive to the multiple, overlapping social, economic and political contexts in which parliaments operate

Women’s participation may be encouraged by systematically engaging with women’s grassroots organizations, women community leaders, gender-focused research institutes and think tanks.

Parliamentary support partners have an obligation, therefore, to inform themselves about the country’s institutional history and should have a good sense of the country’s general political environment (electoral system, political parties, relevant provisions of the Constitution, human rights situation, gender equality, recent experience of conflict, the budgetary and fiscal situation, the economic context and national development plans.

Principle 6: Parliamentary support addresses the needs and potential of women and men equally in the structure, operation, methods and work of parliament

The importance of gender equality for parliaments is threefold: • Democratic parliaments derive their legitimacy from their ability to represent all the citizens of their country. Therefore, where the role of women is hampered or limited, overall institutional legitimacy suffers. • The small number, or even absence, of women in some parliaments undermines parliaments’ institutional ability to take full account of the needs and interests of a major segment of the population when performing its core legislative, oversight and representative functions. This seriously lowers the quality of a parliament’s legislative and other core outputs. • The parliament is a country’s window to the international community. Most countries seek to demonstrate and 30 promote the implementation of international standards in social and economic policy and benefit fully from participating actively in the community of nations. Parliaments reflecting gender imbalance thus present a distorted image of their country

Parliamentary support activities should address gender equality issues from at least two distinct but complementary points of view. First, activities should aim to support and respond to the current specific needs of women parliamentarians, secretariat staff and specific parliamentary bodies working on gender equality/women’s rights issues such as a women’s parliamentary caucus or parliamentary committees dedicated to gender equality

These are powerful incentives for parliamentary authorities to promote measures to transform the institution into a gender-sensitive one that ensures balanced participation in parliament, sets the example by ensuring respect for gender equality in its functioning and mainstreams gender throughout its work so as to deliver on gender equality goals.

The latest document ‘Common Principles for Support to Parliaments’ can be accessed here.

Other useful sources:

-IPU’s Gender- Sensitive Parliaments Report , 2011

-IPU’s Plan of Action for Gender-Sensitive Parliaments, 2012.


(1) Working Group comprising of representatives from the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), the French National Assembly, the European Parliament, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) which identifies new guidelines on the best ways of supporting parliaments.



RiccardoPelizzo's picture

In 2013, Pelizzo and Stapenbhurst noted in their Parliamentary Oversight Tools that the effectiveness with which legislatures perform their oversight function depends on the oversight tools that are at the disposal of legislatures, on the presence/absence of relevant contextual conditions and on the political will to exercise legislative oversight effectively.

One issue that the book neglected to address was whether and to what extent gender balance and the presence of women in parliament affects the effectiveness with which legislatures perform their oversight function.

In a note eventually published on the Agora portal, Pelizzo reported that the effectiveness with which legislatures perform the oversight function, measured on the basis of their ability to contrain the power of the executive branch, was directly related to the presence of women in parliaments.

Parliament with a greater gender balance are more effective overseers.

More recently, Kinyondo, Pelizzo and Umar (2015) suggested that the effectiveness of legislative oversight should be assessed on the basis of a broader set of indicators which include the level of trust enjoyed by the legislature.

If we correlate the data on the level of trust in parliament made available by the Afrobarometer  with the data on women in parliament made available by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, we find the trust of legislatures increases as the percentage of women in parliament increases. See Figure 1.

This evidence sustains the claim that a larger presence of women in parliament is highly beneficial. Parliaments with greater gender balance are more representative, are more responsive, are more effective in overseeing the executive and enjoy higher levels of trust.

The key policy implication for the international community is simple. Promoting gender balance in parliament is essential for increasing legislative capacity, performance and legitimacy.

Riccardo Pelizzo


Kinyondo, Abel Alfred, Riccardo Pelizzo, and Aminu Umar. "A functionalist theory of oversight." African Politics & Policy 1, no. 5 (2015): 1-25. 

Pelizzo, Riccardo, and Frederick Stapenhurst. Parliamentary oversight tools: A comparative analysis. London. Routledge, 2012.

iKNOW Politics's picture

[Comment posted by iKNOW Politics on behalf of International IDEA]

International IDEA is committed to ensuring that gender equality is integrated in democracy building. As a cross cutting dimension of democracy, gender is addressed through two complementary and critical approaches; gender mainstreaming and women's political empowerment. Through the global programme on Democracy and Gender as well as the Regional Programmes in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, we support knowledge transfer and capacity building on gender equality and women's empowerment in electoral processes, political parties, constitution building processes, state of democracy assessments and democracy and development processes.

Also, International IDEA commenced working with Parliament in 2014 through consultations with various parliamentary committees and with the Parliamentary Centre, Canada. As a first initiative to strengthen engagement amongst current female legislators, International IDEA in partnership with the Parliamentary Centre, Canada, held a workshop in September 2014 on ‘Strategies for Women Legislators to Succeed’.

In addition, International IDEA is working in partnership with the Parliamentary Centre since mid-March 2015 to build the capacity of the Union Parliament’s Public Accounts Committees as well as the Planning and Financial Development Committees to fulfil their parliamentary oversight roles in the budget process more effectively. Furthermore, a needs-assessment survey will be conducted among this historic cohort of parliamentarians, which is the first in many years, to inform the further development of the institution as well as the orientation programme for the next group of parliamentarians after the anticipated 2015 elections.

According to Rumbidzai Kandawasvika-Nhundu, International IDEA’s Democracy & Gender Senior Programme Manager, “In line with the Parliaments’ mandates and functions on representation, law-making and oversight, parliaments have an obligation to ensure the achievement of gender equality in all spheres of life. As democracy is supposed to transform gender inequalities, the parliamentary oversight role on gender equality is a key aspect of modern parliaments and a fundamental contribution for the achievement of sustainable democratic processes and practices.”

Sonia Palmieri's picture

I welcome this e-discussion on parliamentary oversight of gender equality, and thank the iKNOW Politics team for facilitating these contributions. 

In 2007, the IPU’s report Tools for parliamentary oversight: A comparative study of 88 national parliaments referred to parliamentary oversight as “the review, monitoring and supervision of government and public agencies, including the implementation of policy and legislation.” While this definition might be considered gender-neutral, there is an important synergy between this, and the definition of gender mainstreaming:

... the process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action, including legislation, policies or programmes, in all areas and at all levels. It is a strategy for making women’s as well as men’s concerns and experiences an integral dimension of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes in all political, economic and societal spheres so that women and men benefit equally and inequality is not perpetuated (United Nations, 1997, Report of the Economic and Social Council).

Gender mainstreaming in parliaments can essentially be seen as an oversight process. Just like oversight, gender mainstreaming is a process of questioning: assumptions, actors, benefits, processes, policies, and outcomes. What assumptions have been made about the beneficiaries of a process or policy? Who does that process or policy seek to target? Will all groups be affected equitably? Will all groups benefit equitably?

Importantly, gender mainstreaming is more than the ‘insertion’ of women in acts/processes of oversight. It is the re-organisation of parliamentary review processes to ensure that no policy, no piece of legislation, no parliamentary motion discriminates against women or men, girls or boys.

To fully implement gender-sensitive parliamentary oversight, four elements are key:

  1. parliamentary leaders need to accept, and understand the need for, and principles of, gender equality and the means by which to achieve this. There needs to be some buy-in from those in charge;
  2. there needs to be some kind of institutional mechanism that is ultimately responsible for the gendered oversight – whether it be a women’s caucus, a dedicated gender equality committee, a human rights committee. Alternatively, all committees can be mandated to consider policy and legislation from a gender perspective;
  3. effective, context-appropriate tools need to be developed for staff and MPs to use, such as checklists of questions to ensure policies and legislation are gender-sensitive;
  4. gender‐sensitive training should be provided for all Members. Training can be used to highlight the gender dynamics of specific parliamentary oversight practices, such as responding to questions without notice or chairing committees. This could be part of induction programs for new Members and Senators or as part of an ongoing professional development course for all MPs.

 The tools of oversight should always be gender sensitive. Using the IPU’s 2007 report, the following table provides examples of how each ‘tool’ can be gender sensitised. 


It is equally important that women MPs have the same opportunities to engage in oversight as their male counterparts. There is, unfortunately, very little systematically collected data to investigate this area. More information is needed to ascertain how frequently, and from what positions of leadership (e.g. committee chairs, ministers), women and men MPs engage in oversight activities; the specific challenges faced by women MPs when engaging in oversight activities; and the common issue areas where women feel more comfortable engaging in oversight, compared with men.

Marilyn Cham's picture



UNDP promotes inclusive and participative parliaments and political parties by ensuring they have the structure, legal framework and capacity to engage all citizens - particularly women - in the political process. UNDP has helps ensure women have the skills and support to work effectively within and with political parties and parliament. 39 of UNDP’s 68 parliamentary strengthening projects specifically promote parliamentary oversight of gender equality and women’s empowerment.  The projects include for example gender mainstreaming in parliament (quotas, rules of procedures, etc.), gender legal reviews and promoting gender-sensitive laws, candidate training, induction and mentoring programmes; and awareness campaigns to counter gender stereotyping of candidates. 


In Colombia, UNDP participated during 2014 and 2015 in an advocacy strategy, along with civil society organizations and Colombian congresswomen, intended to give constitutional status to the principles of parity, alternation and universality to women political participation. This bill has been approved in its first debate, and UNDP aims to support it until the final adoption of the law. The activities held during this period are related to the fifth SDG, specifically to the target: “Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision making in political, economic and public life”.


In Swaziland - Advocacy meetings were also held with the Gender and Children Portfolio Committee and Deputy Prime Ministers Portfolio committee for the enactment of the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Bill 2015. The latter bill has taken over 10 years and being re-tabled for the 5th time in Parliament.


In Nepal – UNDP conducted interaction programme on Role of Parliamentarians on Gender based Violence (GBV). From the interaction, the Parliament members committed to review the policy and ensure the effective implementation of existing law and policies in order to end the GBV.

The project organized a meeting with Female Parliamentarians in which they expressed their views and the possible areas of support for the women parliament members from the project. Based on their needs, the project organized an event on effective communication skills for 22 women parliament members, enhancing the capacity of women parliamentarians to  deal with media and making concise and effective communications during the parliament debates.

Since the beginning of the Constituent Assembly in 2008, UNDP provided technical support to the constitution writing process through more than 10,000 dialogues, workshops, and interactions at national and local level, and prepared more than 70 knowledge products. In order to ensure citizens’ participation in constitution making process, UNDP organized more than 200 trainings, workshops, meetings and interactions over 7 years, - 11 in 2015 - for the women and excluded groups to enhance their technical knowledge and leadership skills, which helped them to give voice to their agenda in the CA. This contributed that, the new constitution accepted proportionate inclusion as one of the core principles of the Constitution and the constitution ensures the representation and fundamental rights of women and excluded groups, leaving some provisions aside especially in citizenship provisions.  In four months (September to December 2015), the project- immediately after the promulgation of the new Constitution raised public awareness on provisions of the new constitution by organizing 19 civic education events in 10 districts. These events reached 1140 persons. The project also organized interaction between the Parliament members and Women groups as well as with Dalit groups. From the interactions, the groups became more aware of the constitutional provisions especially on dalit and women’ issues.


In Guinea-Bissau, in partnership with the specialized Standing Committee for Women and Children, UNDP contributed to the dissemination of Law No. 6/2014 of February 4 (law against domestic violence) in 7 regions of the country. This resulted in the appropriation/ownership of the Act by the actors participating in the sessions: MPs, judges, regional administrative authorities, defense and security forces, civil society, youth organizations, women's organizations, traditional and religious leaders and student associations. During the dissemination sessions, stakeholders developed a strategy paper on promoting the Act and its inclusion in the plans of activities of institutions, organizations and bodies active in the defense of the cause of vulnerable groups (women and children). This document will be finalized and signed in all regions of the country in 2016. Dissemination / ownership of the law has led to greater awareness of its scope particularly regarding the criminalization of domestic violence. With UNDP technical support and funding of the EU, the People's National Assembly conducted a training for members of the Network of Women Parliamentarians of Guinea - Bissau in gender-sensitive analysis of the state budget. This allowed the network to deepen its knowledge of this issue and present / discuss the data (evidence) that could support gender mainstreaming and integration of gender in the state budget during the parliamentary debates. The leadership training (11-13 May 2016) developed the skills of 8 members of the network members with regards to technical and budget analysis instruments and developing gender-sensitive budgets.

In Moldova - During 2015, UNDP focused on providing support and technical assistance to Parliamentary Committees, MPs and the Secretariat on promoting gender and human rights considerations in domestic legislation, as well as assessed Parliament’s capacities to contribute to effective combatting of corruption. With UNDP’s assistance women MPs established the cross party women caucus – the Women MPs Platform[1] and assisted them in preparing the Strategic Plan. UNDP assisted women MPs facilitate better participation of women in decision-making, and initiated regular policy consultations with underrepresented women. This was achieved through 5 Regional Forums that have debated the issues pertinent to the SDGs framework, where above 200 women preponderantly from vulnerable groups for the first ever time received the opportunity to address their concerns directly to decision-makers. The Forums had been organised in partnership with the joint UNDP/UN Women programme “Women in Politics”. The latter also helped to develop a gender-mainstreamed catalogue of services to be provided by the Parliament’s Regional Offices. UNDP supported a Gender Audit of Parliament and the elaboration of a follow-up Parliament’s Gender Equality Action Plan that is being in the process of the official adoption by the Parliament. The Programme’s advocacy efforts towards strengthening the role of the Parliament in the national anticorruption efforts resulted in the corruption self-assessment of the Parliament based on which the draft Anti-corruption Action Plan of the Parliament for 2015-2018 was developed and a Code of Conduct (Code of Ethics) for MPs was elaborated. In 2015, 73 MPs, 199 parliamentary staffers and 80 personal MP assistants received capacity development trainings organized by the Programme on legislative drafting techniques, human rights and anti-corruption vetting of legislation, on approximation of the legislation with the EU legal standards and on effective communication. As a result of previous support rendered by the Programme, Parliamentary Committees organized independently, using developed by the programme SOP, around 20 public hearings, debates and consultations, as well as 5 field visits on social protection, human rights, agriculture, finance, security and education topics. Women MPs made up at least 40% of members of any study visit delegation and over 50% of participants to all training provided.

During 2015, UNDP provided technical assistance to Women’s MPs in establishing a cross party caucus – the Women MPs Platform (WMPP), as well as in its structuring and institutionalization of work. Specifically, the Programme assisted WMPP develop its Strategic Plan[2] and draft internal regulations. In efforts to facilitate the all-encompassing representation of women in public and political life, the Women’s Platform advocated with the Speaker of the Parliament and Heads of Parliamentary Factions to support the approval of the Temporary Special Measures Law that requires at least 40% of women on any political party’s candidate list.[3] Moreover, the Programme provided WMPP with coordination and administrative support to assist its day-to-day functioning. Other results of the Programme include:

-          55 members of Parliament and staff, including 38 women, were trained on scrutiny of legislation from a gender perspective and on use of gender-disaggregated data, and

-          8 newly elected women received training on law making techniques.

-          13 women MPs had received training on public image and communication and on the use of social media, as a joint effort by the parliament project and UN Women/UNDP Women in Politics programme.


UNDP supported a Gender Audit of Parliament and subsequent Gender Action Plan of Parliament. In follow up to these, the Speaker of the Parliament supported the initiative to institutionalize WMPP and to approve the Gender Action Plan of Parliament.[4] Support related to gender equality and human rights remain a priority and will be integrated in the design and implementation of the future support to the Parliament (2016-2019). Additionally, UNDP assisted in gender mainstreaming of Guidelines for the Parliament's Constituency Offices on organizing Parliamentary Forums.


In Rwanda - Parliament conducted public out-reach for citizens input into draft legislations e.g. 90% of the draft law on matrimonial regimes, family donations and successions was revised; and reviewed the application of gender related laws (GBV, Land laws, and Penal code). 


In Kosovo, UNDP provided support to the Gender Equality Committee in drafting the new designs, methods and techniques for monitoring of the law implementation. Socially sensitive laws, such as the Law on Gender Equality, were monitored with a new strategy which implied usage of online self-administered questionnaires for respondents and randomly sampled institutions to be visited by MP’s. This approach has shown to be more time and cost effective and has enabled the Committees to reach in-depth information and data from a broader number of institutions. 


In Bosnia and Herzegovina, Members of the Committee for Gender Equality  were made aware of international gender equality obligations (CEDAW, EU others) and the respective national frameworks (Gender Equality Law, Gender Action Plan, Strategy on Combating Gender based Violence, Law on Anti-discrimination, Action Plan for the Implementation of SC Res 1325);


UNDP El Salvador has been providing technical advice to the Parliamentary Group of Women in four areas:

ü  Design of legal reforms to improve gender equality: law against family violence, penal code, procedures, family code, social security laws.  A reform proposed by the Commission of women and gender equality (established in May 2012) on the law against violence was approved in 2013.

ü  Creation of an inter-institutional technical group to review the legal reforms.  The group was integrated by the General Prosecution of the Republic, General Attorney, ISDEMU (Salvadoran Institute for Women´s Development) and Supreme Court of Justice.

ü  Design of the first Gender Policy and Institutional Plan at the Parliament.

ü  Establishment of political participation quota of 30% of women as candidates (national and regional parliament and municipal councils). The law will be applied for the first time in 2015.

ü  The new Political Parties Law passed on February 14, 2013 mandates that 30% of a party’s candidates for municipal councils, the national legislature and the Central American Parliament be women.


In Nigeria, UNDP has supported the development of the 2-year strategic plan of Nigeria’s National Assembly Gender Technical Unit (GTU). The GTU supports gender mainstreaming and women’s rights agenda at the Parliament. Its main functions include: to provide accessible resource tools, research materials and skills for the analysis and articulation of gender-sensitive legislations by all law-makers in Nigeria; provide technical support particularly to female legislators to enhance quality participation and contributions to legislative processes; and provide links between legislators and civil society groups, corporate organizations and individuals doing gender work in Nigeria. The institutional capacity building and development of the GTU as well as support for specific activities, as outlined in the strategic plan, have been included in UNDP’s upcoming interventions.


In Jordan, UNDP helped develop a Gender Strategy and Action Plan for the Independent Elections Commission to mainstream gender in the electoral cycle. The Gender Strategy includes a political parties’ legal framework review (including a revision of the internal regulations of parties to promote a greater role for women) and a mapping of women participation in political parties, to inform the legal reform process from a gender perspective, and resulted in the introduction of a list of interventions to ensure active women political participation in political parties. 


The action plan to reach out to women and foster their participation in the electoral cycle was successfully implemented. Based on the outreach plan, 271 women were trained on political participation in local governance (ahead of the municipal elections) through 9 workshops organized by UNDP at the local level in partnership with the Jordanian National Commission for Women. The women were trained on their role in the electoral cycle, the role of municipalities in sustainable development, the municipalities’ law, and campaigning strategies for women candidates. UNDP established a forum for women in local communities to discuss issues such as the need to increase women awareness on why and how to participate in local governance and the need for their skill and knowledge building as candidates.


In Lebanon, a working paper was drafted for the Woman and Child Parliamentary Committee (WCPC) on “legislative reforms to lift the discrimination against women” on the occasion of the International Women Day organized by the National Commission for Lebanese Women on the 6th of March 2015 at the Lebanese American University (LAU).

UNDP participated in preparing for Lebanon’s CEDAW official periodic report combining the 4th and 5th reports by providing answers to CEDAW’s list of issues and questions relevant to the status of Lebanon in enhancing women’s rights in legislation.

A study onthe role of Parliament in women participation in political parties and parliamentary elections” was finalized, to enhance women’s participation in public policy and raise awareness among MPs of the WCPC and women in political parties on women’s political participation rights.

A draft law proposal on how to incorporate the women quota in the Constitution was drafted and validated by legal experts such as former Minister of Justice, Lawyer Ibrahim Najjar and former Minister of Interior and Municipalities, Lawyer Ziyad Baroud.

UNDP participated in the establishment of a coalition entitled “Women in Parliament” and drafted a strategy to include the women quota in the upcoming electoral law and lobby for its adoption.


Agender legal review of Lebanese legislation was conducted, setting forth a list of new laws to be drafted and current laws to be amended for the promotion of gender equality. It was submitted to the Head of the Woman and Child Committee who in return, disseminated it to committee members and relevant stakeholders for discussion and adoption. As a result, the Committee prioritized 3 laws related to the quota system, the protection of violence against women and  women's right  to grant citizenship to their children, and is working to redraft them and reach national consensus for their adoption by means of lobbying, education and organizing working group discussions. Heads of relevant parliamentary committees, independent women groups, women rights’ organizations and women members of political parties have engaged in discussions to address women participation in party structures and elections. The inputs were used to produce a strategy on promoting women in party structures and elections, contributing to raising awareness / increasing the knowledge on MPs, and encouraging parliamentary action. A study, recommendations, and implementation strategy on the role of Parliament and parliamentary committees in “Promoting women in party structures and elections” was produced and discussed during focus group meetings. Some of the recommendations were to develop the political parties’ programs by including equality between both genders to encourage and motivate women, to incorporate the quota concept within political parties’ programs, to raise awareness on this issue in different regions in Lebanon, to strengthen the partnership between Parliament, civil society and women members of political parties in implementing the International Conventions related to Women rights especially article 7 of CEDAW, to update the current laws related to women participation in Government and parties, to train women on leadership, decision making, public speaking and running electoral campaigns, among others.


In Somalia, 2013 has seen continued UNDP support to the participation of women in workshops and has encouraged the Federal Parliament to be more inclusive and equitable. Collaboration with the UNDP Gender team has also included activities in support of Women MPs' understanding of the legislative process. The project has supported the hiring of 5 young female graduates. Women MPs have also been supported to participate in a seminar on Parliament and civil society relations and engaging women organizations in the work of Parliament. In Somaliland, assessments of women's political participation and law-making procedures as well as public consultations have been conducted. An initial review of the Rules of Procedure has also been undertaken. Women's political empowerment activities have also been included in the SL Parliament Strategic Plan. 


In Sudan, the State Standing Committees on Empowerment of Women have been established at regional level by support of UNDP in five states of Sudan. Sudan in terms of Legislative Assembly structure has several types of regular and permanent committees operating at national as well as state levels. The State Standing Committees on Empowerment Women fit into this larger picture. The mandate of this Committee is to review and make legislative proposals with respect to the situation of women in the state, to study problems in connection with the quality of women’s lives and their human rights in order to make improvements required to existing legislation and to monitor relevant legal developments in the region. The Committee has also mandate to make proposal on the changes needed to bring national legislations in line with provisions of international agreements which signed but have not been observed, as witnessed by the constant violations of women’s rights. Within the framework of UNDP programmes, the capacity of the members of the Standing Committees have been built in areas of human rights, gender budgeting, planning and oversight. In addition to this, Committees were supported in design and development the Women Empowerment Strategy for 2012-16 in each state of Eastern Sudan and two states of Darfur. As results of long-term UNDP engagements, the State Standing Committees are now able to propose revisions to the national legislations on the protection of women in region. With respect to violence against women, with the support of UNDP, the legislative proposals have been drafted to criminalize such violence for the last 10 years, at national level has been postponed for the time being. Indeed, violence against women remains the greatest problem in Sudan. It is perpetrated against their physical, psychological and sexual well-being. The number of victims in sexual gender based violence has in fact increased in some of the regions, and remained unchanged in other states. In light of these negative trends, additional assistance has been provided to them through UNDP rule of law activities. The Legislative Assembly of Sudan might not consider the issue of violence against women as a high priority, vis-à-vis priorities on economic development, political stability and security. Nevertheless, the consideration of legislation to criminalize violence against women is very important and UNDP will continue to provide support to the Committee on this matter.


In The Gambia, the Domestic Violence Bill 2013 has been adopted by national Assembly members during the fourth meeting of the National Assembly in the 2013 Legislative Year. Funded and fully supported by UNDP at all stages of the process it is seen as a great achievement for proponents of the Act which spans from Development organizations including Civil society and indeed the Gambia as a whole. The  Act seeks to curb domestic violence in communities whilst also targeting and bringing perpetrators to justice and in addition serves as a testimony of The Gambia’s commitment to the empowerment of women and girls in line with international conventions. The provision of the Domestic Violence Bill 2013 is aimed at the elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls amongst other social groupings.


In Tunisia, UNDPsupported Tunisian parliamentarians’ knowledge of international best practice on gender equality, quotas, and constitutionalization of equality provisions. The new Constitution of Tunisia(adopted on, January 26, 2014) is ground-breaking in its provisions to assure women’s equality, in explicitly committing to eliminate violence against women, in promoting women’s assumption of positions of responsibility in all sectors, and in working towards parity in all elected bodies within the country. UNDP has also been promoting equal access for women candidates to political parties campaign funding. 120 representatives from Tunisian political parties were trained on party regulations and disclosure mechanisms to redress gender inequities in political party campaign funding. (A workshop on political parties campaign funding and its effect on equal access for women candidates was convened by UNDP on 23-24 November 2013, in Tunis).


In Argentina - UNDP helped develop a Toolkit for legislators on gender mainstreaming. This guide aims to provide practical tools for mainstreaming gender in legislative work in Argentina. Its target audience are the national, provincial and municipal legislators. To read the full report, please click here.

Executive Summary   /   Complete text (PDF) 


Resources developed with support from UNDP to strengthen parliamentary oversight of gender equality


·         Iraq- Draft Bill establishing the Independent High Commission on Gender Equality 


·         Jordan -Political parties’ gender strategy


·         Lebanon -Gender legal review of Lebanese legislation


·         OPT - The Political System and the Status of the Women and Youth Leaders


·         Regional - ‘Algiers Declaration on Arab Women’s Political Participation’


Parliaments and Gender Equality in Latin America and the Caribbean


UNDP produced a tool for developing capacities in gender mainstreaming in parliaments, based on the experiences developed in Latin America and the Caribbean. The proposed tool consists of a series of strategic steps or stations that guide a process oriented towards legislative change with gender equality as the arrival point. Parliaments that decide to involve themselves in this challenge will set out on a journey that includes a process of self-diagnosis, the definition of a Plan for the development of capacities and their implementation and evaluation. The methodology will be useful in reinforcing the political control activities under the Legislative Branch and in strengthening its responsibility to offer public information to the citizenry.

·         The English version is available here.

·         The Spanish version is available here.

  • An analysis of experiences that promote equality in parliaments – accessible here.
  • Tips to institutionalize these efforts - accessible here.
  • Analysis of Diversity in Parliaments – accessible here





iKNOW Politics's picture

[Contribution posted by iKNOW Politics on behalf of Maissan Hassan, Programs Manager of the Women and Memory Forum in Egypt]


-What can be done to build political will for women and men parliamentarians to engage equally in oversight of gender equality issues?

Collaborative work between feminist groups, civil society organizations and the national machinery is needed to educate and motivate women and men parliamentarians on pressing gender equality issues in Egypt.  

-Where caucuses of women parliamentarians exist, have they provided effective in building cross-party support for work on gender equality? To what extent have they been able to engage with government and hold it to account?

Cross-party support has been taking place in spaces facilitated by civil society organizations. While new results have not been achieved yet, many of the 87 women parliamentarians show interest in supporting gender equality issues.   

-How extensively does parliament engage women’s groups outside parliament to support monitoring progress and setbacks with regard to gender equality? What the opportunities to strengthen these partnerships?

Women's groups initiate most of the collaboration with the parliament. The large number of women parliamentarians and diversity in their age groups might allow for further collaboration with feminist and women's groups.  

-To what extent are parliamentarians supported in undertaking gender-sensitive oversight training, staff, and budgets?

Less than two months have passed since the first session of the parliament was held on January 10th 2016. The National Council for Women and several NGOs have been providing support in different forms to the women parliamentarians. This support will hopefully materialize into concrete achievements in the future.

Lotte Geunis's picture

Even the most progressive, gender-sensitive and reformist piece of legislation counts for little if it’s not properly implemented.  The role of parliamentarians in ensuring that well-intended policies translate into results, however, tends to be overlooked. They are often not given enough time, resources and technical support to assess what’s happening (or not happening) on the ground. 

Holding the responsible officials or institutes to account is further complicated by limited information sharing and transparency, and – regrettably – by the politics of parliamentary agenda setting.  ‘Soft’ issues such as gender often fail to be awarded the same attention and seniority as ‘hard’ issues such as budgeting, energy or defense. 

Wading into the subject of political will, the waters get even murkier.  Most political parties have a strong hold over their members and fail to appreciate MPs who criticize the work of ‘their own’ in government.  Unsurprisingly, challenging your own party’s minister for failing to implement gender legislation is rarely met with applause. 

A lack of political will is a real and pervasive problem, but it is not the only factor.  Some of the shortcomings where gender equality is concerned flow, at least in part, from financial and technical constraints.  Limited resources only stretch so far; parliament, like any other public body, has to prioritise.  When research and technical support are costly, calls for gender-segregated data, gender-sensitive reports and gender-responsive budgets can fall on deaf ears. Many institutions simply don’t have the technical expertise to add to their existing workloads, create new departments and hire new staff.   

This, among others, is why mainstreaming is so critical. If gender equality is to be taken seriously, it has to be taken up by every sector and in every committee.  Costs can be kept down by sharing specialized staff across different services and committees.  Staff profiles could be revised for future recruitments to ensure that those who join the institution – where possible and appropriate – are familiar with the subject.  Budget & Finance Committees and PACs should ideally be stacked with MPs who, at a minimum, have a reasonable awareness of gender equality and its implications.  Committee mandates and agendas should reflect the need to review proposals and assess implementation from a gender perspective.

Beyond that, gender workshops can support MPs and staff in streamlining these issues more effectively, in particular where oversight is concerned.  It is true that such trainings will not convince those who hail from the more conservative sides of the political spectrum.  That said, the often heard criticism that such trainings merely preach to the converted is too dismissive.  When done well, they can and will inspire those on the fence to take the jump. 

Targeted trainings can also offer concrete, tangible parliamentary strategies for moving the gender agenda forward.  Workshops on Gender Responsive Budgeting (GRB), for example, help MPs explore how they can take effective action to further gender equality.  This is from AGORA’s upcoming E-learning course on ‘Public Financial Management: the Role of Parliament, Supreme Audit Institutions and Civil Society’:

“Gender responsive budgeting (GRB) allows parliaments to analyze government revenue and expenditure from a gender perspective.  Have laws and gender initiatives been translated into adequate budget allocations?  Are targets and indicators sufficiently clear and concrete?  Can budget allocations across different sectors – agriculture, education, health - be tweaked to deliver more gender-responsive results? 

SAIs can facilitate gender responsive budgeting by collecting and sharing the required information throughout the entire budget cycle.  In the planning stages, Ministries of Finance need reliable revenue projections to outline macro-economic policy frameworks and make realistic allocations.  Parliament needs access to facts and figures on a regular basis to review revenue projections, assess proposed allocations and monitor spending. 

Gender response budgeting highlights the added value of performance-based budgeting and oversight.   Launching a few well-intended initiatives in health and education is not enough. Carefully designed targets and indicators will maximise the impact of (limited) resources, and are more likely to deliver sustainable results.  Successful gender mainstreaming calls for sustained measures across all sectors, and is only possible with the full support of ministries, parliament and the SAI.”

Effective parliamentary oversight of gender equality, then, is dependent on a complex constellation of factors. It also requires thick skin on the part of those taking it forward.  For those looking to do so, there are also some truly inspiring examples. 

UNDP’s Pro PALOP-TL SAI project, which aims to improve economic governance in the PALOP countries and Timor-Leste, has successfully supported Cabo Verde’s Network of Women Parliamentarians in tackling budget oversight from a gender perspective.  With the assistance of gender experts and UN Women, the Network produced a result-based analysis of the 2015 budget proposal.  It then successfully pushed for the re-allocation of funding towards the ‘Strengthening Gender Equality and Equity’ programme (more information available here).  In short: the Network’s consistent legislative oversight and advocacy efforts resulted in a more gender-sensitive budget. 


Where gender equality is concerned, the road to success is paved with pushy parliamentarians.  Luckily, there are usually plenty of those around. 

HelgaStevens's picture

I. Parliament Mechanisms for Oversight

1.1. Has parliament created mechanisms to oversee the government’s gender equality commitments? How effective have they been? What are the reasons for their successes and shortcomings, and what could be improved?


This week in Strasbourg we voted on a report which was concerned with gender mainstreaming in the European Parliament. I was happy to be able to support some key parts of this report concerning calling on the Parliament to work on specific measures to promote work life balance. This is crucial if we are to have a staff and politicians who reflect the communities we represent. It is vital that we have mums and dads and men and women with personal commitments on our staff or as elected politicians. 


What could be improved? For me, there is one simple thing that would make work life balance immediately better- it is ridiculous that we travel back and forth between Brussels and Strasbourg every month. In case you are not aware: the European Parliament works on two locations: in Brussels (most of the time) and in Strasbourg (4 days in a row every month). I am lucky, my children are a bit older now and I have a supportive husband but I am aware of parents with young children who struggle to meet the demands of moving back and forth between Brussels and Strasbourg.


1.2. To what extent does parliament scrutinize the budget from a gender perspective? Are parliamentarians able to hold government to account for the extent to which expenditure has produced results for women and men?


I'm glad you asked this question. I work across a range of issues in the European Parliament and am particularly active on policy for people with disabilities, men and women, EU citizens and refugees. Gender budgeting is only a small part of making sure that a female perspective is taken into consideration when we make policy. I am cautious about establishing a fixed gender budget- what happens when other groups of people require additional policy interventions? We don't have a disability budget, a black person's budget. If legislators and policy makers are doing their job properly and impact assessments are carried out thoroughly, gender perspectives should be present in all our laws. To refer back to question 1- if we can improve work life balance so that we have more women and more mothers in the European institutions, we get a broader range of individuals working on EU law.


1.3. To what extent does parliament engage with the national reporting process on Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women? Does parliament monitor the executive’s response to recommendations by the CEDAW Committee?


I am not a member of the Women's Rights committee in the European Parliament but I understand that there are monitoring and reporting processes between the European Parliament and UN Women who oversees the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. On a personal note, I work with colleagues on the Women's Rights committee to ensure that we make policies which address "double victimisation"- women who are disabled are vulnerable to violence because of their gender and their disability. This is a big problem and I work closely with expert groups to identify how we can best tackle this.


 II. Monitoring of Gender Equality

2. To what extent does parliament monitor the impact of gender equality / non-discrimination legislation after it has been adopted? Do you have concrete examples how this has been done? What is the role of parliament when legislation is not put into practice, or does not have the intended effects?


The European Commission is robust in checking that all 28 member states do transpose and implement EU law that relates to equality and non- discrimination. I'm aware, for example, that the Commission worked with a number of member states to make sure that the Directive on Combating Trafficking in Human Beings was properly implemented. This is something we take very seriously at EU level.


III. MPs Experiences in Oversight Activities

3.1. What can be done to build political will for women and men parliamentarians to engage equally in oversight of gender equality issues?


I'm not sure you necessarily have to have equal numbers of each sex to engage with equality issues. Of course it helps but it's not strictly necessary. I work with colleagues who advocate for members of their regions, no matter who they are. I'm deaf but I don't work just represent deaf people, I represent all people with disabilities. I'm female but I represent men. I'm a mother but I represent those who don't have children. 


3.3. How extensively does parliament engage women’s groups outside parliament to support monitoring progress and setbacks with regard to gender equality? What the opportunities to strengthen these partnerships?


Elected politicians as well as advisers and assistants have the opportunity to speak with women's groups. We do this within our own regions and on at an international level. In March 2015, for example, I travelled to Ethiopia with 3 other female colleagues from the ECR Group to meet with female politicians and women's rights groups from all over the world. These meetings mean that we are better informed about what women want from their politicians as well as understanding better the issues that women care about.