Express Bar, General Assembly building, UN HQ, New York
Subject: We have all heard the calls regarding the need for women in leadership roles in both politics and business. The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) tracks the number of women in national parliaments and the executive, and documents the contribution of women to effective governance and decision-making. UN Women supports Member States implement global norms and programmes to achieve gender balance in political decision-making and collects data on women’s representation in local governments. Influential global leaders, including UN Secretary General António Guterres, have made parity a keystone of their administrations. This session will address why moving beyond a critical mass to achieving parity is so important and what happens when it is achieved.
Background: The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), national laws to prevent discrimination against women, etc. Many promises have been made and broken when it comes to gender equality and its impact on society. Violence is rampant: the World Health Organization 2013 found that 1 of every 3 women has experienced physical or sexual violence at some time in her life. According to IPU, 44.4% of women in national parliaments have been threatened with violence against them or their families. 71% of the 24.9 million human trafficking victims are women or girls. Impunity for such acts is pervasive in every corner of the world. When do we say enough is enough?
IPU research shows that women in parliament focus more on social welfare, child welfare and gender equality. According to Jay Newton- Small in Time Magazine, November 9, 2017, “When women reached 20% in the (United States) Senate, they went after the Pentagon to reform the military’s sexual-assault protocol. When they reached 25% of Hollywood producers, they took down Harvey Weinstein and his casting-couch culture. And when they reached a third of the White House press corps, Fox’s Roger Ailes, NPR’s Michael Oreskes and other serial harassers in the media began to get called out.”
The idea of a critical mass of 30% has emerged as proven leverage for women to exercise influence in decision-making. But transformative and institutional change requires going even further. Already in 1990, the UN set the objective of reaching gender parity, with 30% being an intermediate objective. A recent IPU resolution goes in the same direction (http://archive.ipu.org/conf-e/135/item4.pdf). At present, while the global average of women in national parliaments is 24%, 49 out of 193 national parliaments have more than 30% women members and four countries have at least 50% women in a parliamentary chamber: Belgium’s upper house, the lower houses of Bolivia and Rwanda, and Cuba’s single house. Notably, Bolivia is the one country to have enacted a specific law to combat political violence against women.
The event will provide a forum to discuss how women leaders have brought about positive change, especially in the area of social protection programmes, and in efforts to eliminate gender-based violence against women.
Participants will also discuss
- What are some of the achievements and barriers as a result of the numbers?
- How can civil society enable more participation by women in government and leadership positions?
Speakers will include representation from Member States Albania and Fiji, as well as experts on women’s participation in decision-making from the Inter-Parliamentary Union and UN Agencies.
Along with ICJW, the event’s co-sponsors include: Inter-Parliamentary Union, FAWCO, PPSEAWA (Pan Pacific and South East Asia Women’s Association), League of Women Voters, and Member States: Albania and Fiji.
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