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Parliaments & Representatives


“COVID-19 is a crisis with a woman’s face… The damage is incalculable and will resound down the decades, into future generations. Now is the time to change course. Women’s equal participation is the game-changer we need.”  Antonio Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General, opening remarks at CSW 65

The gender gap in politics remains the largest gender gap across sectors. In 2022, women are still marginalized and unfairly represented at all levels of government globally, making up 36% of local deliberative bodies and 26.1% of national parliaments. Only 8.3% of Heads of Government and 7.2% of Heads of State are women.[1] 

Although increased women’s participation in decision-making leads to more inclusive policies and service delivery, achieving parity remains a challenge as persisting barriers hinder women’s equal access and participation in public life, including the lack of financial resources and access to networks, discriminatory laws and institutions, and gender-based violence. At the current rate of progress, the World Economic Forum estimates that gender parity in politics will not be attained before the year 2166. 

Disasters and crises often exacerbate existing inequalities, and the COVID-19 pandemic is no exception. While an estimated 80 countries and territories postponed national and local elections, at least 158 held elections despite COVID-19 related concerns and restrictions.[2]  In 2020 and 2021, it is estimated that voter turnout declined in 66% of countries. Similarly, civic and democratic spaces have shrunk: 155 countries introduced limitations on the freedom of assembly, which in many cases were supplemented by additional restrictions on civil and political rights; and 60 countries targeted freedom of expression. 

Many national parliaments reconfigured or reduced their activities by introducing remote and hybrid plenary sessions, committee meetings, voting, government oversight, and public engagement. While remote arrangements can break down some of the practical barriers to in-person participation for women with domestic care responsibilities and women with disabilities for instance, virtual participation can disadvantage women as it could increase their exposure to domestic violence and reinforce domestic gendered roles and expectations.

Additionally, parliaments with virtual participation may reinforce political power imbalances, favoring those physically present in meetings – more likely to be men – and reducing the visibility and impact of remote participants – more likely to be women. Similarly, restrictions on in-person political campaigning activities can widen the gap between elite and nonelite women candidates, favoring those with existing networks, resources, and name recognition.

Virtual participation and internet use are also associated with increased exposure to online abuse and violence against women in politics, which can discourage women from engaging in public debates and voicing their political opinions and aspirations publicly. Reports in 2020 show that women in politics were targeted by intense online abuse and harassment during their mandate as well as during electoral campaigns and elections. 

Although there are many women leaders receiving global praise for their crisis-management performance in the past two years, women in most contexts continue to be largely left out. Women elected officials, women candidates, and women voters are particularly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and its backsliding effects that further exacerbate inequalities and reinforce barriers. 


This e-Discussion seeks to raise awareness and collect experiences, knowledge, and good practices on women’s political participation in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as explore how to best mitigate the crisis’ effects on women voters, women candidates, and women elected officials to ensure women’s full and equal political participation at all levels of public decision-making processes. 

Electoral management bodies, women and men in politics, political party leaders and members, civil society and women’s rights activists, practitioners, and researchers are invited to join this e-Discussion from 21 March to 11 April 2022 by answering the below questions. The submissions will contribute to the elaboration of a report that will augment the knowledge base available on the topic.     


  1. How did COVID-19 related restrictions affect the turnout of women voters in local and national elections in your country/region? What are the best measures to ensure greater women voters’ turnout in the future?
  2. How did COVID-19 related restrictions affect women’s ability to run for office and get elected at the local and national levels in your country/region? What can electoral management bodies, political parties, lawmakers, and governments do to make sure women have equal access to elected positions?  
  3. What is the gender impact of virtual parliamentary work and participation? Have remote parliamentary arrangements affected your parliament’s gender-sensitivity and diversity?
  4. Has violence against women in politics, including online harassment and abuse, increased in the last two years in your country/region? If so, please provide details and concrete suggestions to make politics a safe space for women.

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[1] Average as of 1 March 2022 based on UN Women calculations.

[2] Data valid as of 1 February 2022.


More than 40 years after the entry into force of CEDAW and 26 years after the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, progress around women’s full and equal political participation has stalled and gender balance remains a long way off. Women only make up 25% of all national parliamentarians, 36% of local government members, and 21% of ministers.[1] Only 23 countries are headed by a woman Head of State or Government, and States have yet to have a woman leader.[2]

While some countries have made progress towards gender balance in politics, the vast majority are lagging behind. In 114 countries, between 10% and 29.9% of parliamentarians are women, and in 25 countries, women make up less than 10% of parliamentarians. Women account for less than 30% of ministers in 130 countries, 12 of which have no women's representation at all.[3] Gaps in politics persist because of structural barriers and challenges that reinforce discriminatory beliefs, norms, practices, and policies.

In this year’s Agreed Conclusions of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW 65), States agreed to a raise the bar to 50/50 gender balance in all elected positions by taking all necessary measures to break barriers and accelerate progress, including: set specific targets and timelines to achieve gender balance in all branches of government and at all levels through temporary special measures such as quotas and appointments; encourage political parties to nominate equal numbers of women and men as candidates; eliminate, prevent and respond to all forms of violence against women and girls; and develop, fund and implement policies and programmes promoting women’s leadership.

At the current rate of progress, gender parity will not be reached in national legislatures before 2063, and among Heads of Government before 2150.[4] The world cannot afford to wait any longer to achieve equal representation for women. With 50/50 gender balance in politics as a global goal, fast tracked actions are needed to close the gender gap in politics once and for all. 


Following the CSW 65’s outcome, this e-Discussion seeks to raise awareness about the slow progress towards achieving full and equal participation of women in politics and to gather experiences and recommendations on how to best accelerate progress and close the gender gap in politics. Women and men in politics, civil society activists, practitioners and researchers are invited to join this e-Discussion from 11 May to 1 June 2021 by answering the below questions. The submissions will contribute to the elaboration of a report that will augment the knowledge base available on the topic.     


  1. What are the levers of success in countries with high representation of women in politics?
  2. More than half of countries have no temporary special measures, several of which have less than 10% of women in parliament. What can be done to ensure gender balance in politics is achieved in such countries? What role can political parties play?
  3. Women are under-represented in all spheres of public life, including in public administration and the judiciary. What measures do you propose to ensure women have equal representation in all public life sectors?

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[1] Women’s full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, as well as the elimination of violence, for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls: report of the Secretary-General:

[2] Based on calculations by UN Women, as of 1 April 2021.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Women’s full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, as well as the elimination of violence, for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls: report of the Secretary-General:


The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) is the most important treaty on women’s human rights. Adopted in December 1979 and ratified by 189 States, it is a leading tool in eliminating all forms of discrimination against women and advancing women’s empowerment and gender equality, both in the law and in practice. The implementation of CEDAW is critical to the achievement of all the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly Goal 5 on gender equality and Goal 16 on peace, justice and inclusive institutions.

State parties to CEDAW are legally obliged to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women, including in politics, to guarantee women can exercise their human rights in the same way as men, and to regularly report to the CEDAW Committee on their progress towards achieving these goals.

No country in the world has fully achieved gender equality, and none “are fully transforming laws, policies, or public budget decisions on the scale needed to reach gender equality by 2030.”[1] Discriminatory laws are still widespread, affecting more than 2.5 billion women and girls across the world. It is estimated that women enjoy only 75% of the legal rights of men.[2]

When laws guaranteeing equality are adopted, their implementation is often hampered by persisting gender stereotypes, discriminatory social norms and the economic exclusion of women. CEDAW mandates that States guarantee substantive equality between men and women – not only equality in the law or equality of opportunities, but also equality of outcomes, bearing in mind the diverse experiences and backgrounds of women.

Although progress has been achieved in the past few decades, legislative and public decision-making processes continue to be largely dominated by men. The latest data reveals that women make up only 24.3% of all world parliamentarians and 20.7% of all government ministers. While this represents an all-time high for women in politics, it shows women’s voices are still vastly absent from political decision-making.

Most recently, the CEDAW Committee has taken a strong stance on women’s political participation through a joint statement with the Inter-Parliamentary Union, titled “Women’s political leadership:  Striving for balance: 50/50 by 2030”.[3] Moving away from the idea that minimal targets should be set, the Committee affirmed that gender parity in decision-making should be the norm, as a prerequisite for democracy, sustainable development and lasting peace.

The CEDAW Committee has a unique approach to the role of parliaments in bringing about equality between men and women through laws, policies and budgets, and calls them to be involved throughout the CEDAW review process – namely the drafting of state reports, the dialogue with the Committee based on the report, and the implementation of the Committee’s ensuing recommendations.[4]     


The 40th anniversary of CEDAW’s adoption is a unique opportunity to draw attention to the role the Convention has played in repealing and amending laws that discriminate against women and in advancing gender equality, as well as identify solutions to accelerate positive change for women and girls everywhere. iKNOW Politics and its partners are convening this e-Discussion to facilitate an online exchange of knowledge and experiences based on the guiding questions below. Civil society representatives, women and men in local and national politics, experts, practitioners, and researchers are invited to contribute from 2 to 23 December 2019. The submissions will contribute to the elaboration of a Consolidated Reply that will be published here.


  1. Parliaments are key institutions in achieving gender equality in society. Can you share examples of how CEDAW was successful in pushing parliaments in repealing and/or amending laws that discriminate against women and girls?
  2. CEDAW calls State parties to eliminate discrimination against women in politics and public life and to ensure women can fully and equally vote and vie for elections and hold political office at all levels of government. Can you share examples of how CEDAW was used in establishing laws and practices to promote women’s political participation?
  3. Progress towards ending all discrimination against women and girls has been slow. Please share innovative methods you know of that have proved to be successful in facilitating and accelerating the Convention’s implementation, or solutions you believe would be successful.

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[1] Harnessing the Power of Data for Gender Equality: Introducing the 2019 EM2030 SDG Gender Index, p.48. (accessed on 27 September 2019)

[2] Remarks by Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, at the G7 ministerial meeting on gender equality and women’s empowerment in Paris, France, 10 May 2019: (accessed on 27 September 2019)

[3] Joint statement issued on the occasion of International Women’s Day and the 40th anniversary of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, Geneva, Switzerland, 8 March 2019: (accessed on 8 October 2019).

[4] Statement on the relationship of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women with parliamentarians, adopted by the CEDAW Committee at its 45th session (January—February 2010): (accessed on 8 October 2019).


For more than one year, the groundbreaking #MeToo movement and related Time’s Up initiative have broken taboos and sparked an unprecedented global conversation about the sexism, harassment and violence many women face in professional environments.

Women politicians have also been saying #MeToo in politics. With women comprising just 5.2 per cent of Heads of Government, 6.6 per cent of Heads of State,[1] and 24 per cent of parliamentarians[2] globally, politics is overwhelmingly male-dominated. But as in workplaces in other sectors, women are increasingly present in parliaments and elected assemblies, government bodies and political parties. As women continue to defy gender norms that have traditionally kept them out of politics, they encounter hostility and violence in these institutions.[3]

Violence against women in politics can be physical, sexual or psychological in nature. Both men and women can be affected by violence in politics, but violence against women in politics is gender-based. It targets women because of their gender and the acts of violence are gendered in form, such as sexist remarks or sexual harassment and violence. Violence against women in politics is a violation of human rights, and by hindering women’s political participation, it is also a violation of women’s political rights.[4]

An Inter-parliamentary Union (IPU) global study published in 2016, and a 2018 study focused on European countries, found that violence against women in politics is widespread. Both studies revealed that more than 80 per cent of surveyed women Members of Parliament (MPs) had experienced acts of psychological violence, which included, inter alia, threats of death, rape, beatings or abduction during their parliamentary terms. The studies also revealed that acts of psychological violence against women MPs are especially profuse online and on social media. Sexist and misogynistic remarks, humiliating images, mobbing, intimidation and threats against women in public life or women who express political opinions publicly have become commonplace. Young women MPs and those women active in the fight against gender inequality and violence against women were often singled out for attack.

The studies also showed that a quarter of the women parliamentarians interviewed were the target of sexual harassment perpetrated by male parliamentarian colleagues, both from their own political party and from parties opposed to their own.

Objective of the e-Discussion

The global fight to promote women’s equal participation in decision-making and to end all forms of violence against women is receiving unprecedented attention as more women in politics speak out through the #MeToo movement. Likewise, the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals have put a global spotlight on the commitments of all countries to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls (SDG Target 5.2) and ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life (SDG Target 5.5). iKNOW Politics and its partners will launch this e-Discussion alongside the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. Contributions in Arabic, English, French and Spanish are welcome from 26 November to 21 December 2018. The e-Discussion seeks to raise awareness on the issue of gender-based violence against women in politics and expand the dialogue on how to make political spaces safer and more inclusive for women.   


  1. What is causing violence against women in politics to occur so widely across the world?
  2. IPU reports that about half of the women MPs subjected to acts of violence do not report them to the parliamentary security service and/or the police. Reporting rates for acts of sexual harassment are even much lower. Why do you think that is? What needs to change to ensure all incidents are reported?
  3. Social media is a top place in which psychological violence (e.g. sexist and misogynistic remarks, humiliating images, mobbing, intimidation and threats) is perpetrated against women in politics. How do you explain this? How can we make sure social media is a safe space for them?
  4. Violence against women in politics makes the work of women politicians difficult and potentially dangerous and therefore unattractive as a career option. What message would you give to women who are discouraged from engaging in political life because of the fear or threat of violence? 
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[1] Situation as of 1 November 2018. Data compiled by UN Women based on information provided by Permanent Missions to the United Nations.

[2] Situation as of 1 October 2018. Women in National Parliaments World Average, IPU: (accessed on 6 November 2018).

[3] IPU, “Sexism, harassment and violence against women in parliaments in Europe”, Issues Brief. October 2018.

[4] United Nations, “Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences on violence against women in politics”, para 11. August 2018. See also UN Women, “Violence against women in politics: Expert Group Meeting report and recommendations”, 2018, and NDI, Not The Cost: Stopping Violence Against Women in Politics, 2016. 

The under-representation of women at any level of governance and decision-making results in a democratic deficit. It has been proven time and again that diverse groups make better decisions. This is particularly true when it comes to a task as challenging as representing the interests of citizens at the local level. Often influencing policies in housing, security, transport, and the economy, local government makes important decisions that affect the lives of women and men. Women’s equal participation and representation in local decision-making processes is critical for prioritizing women’s practical needs and issues in local governments’ agendas and for localizing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Gender-balanced local councils may be an important step in helping to attain gender balance at the national levels.

Although some countries have information on how many women and men are local councilors and mayors, a standardized system to provide comparable statistical evidence across all countries and regions has been missing until recently. Some reasons for this are the vast number of local governments and the diversity of their structures worldwide. The methodology of the new SDGs indicator on the ‘proportion of seats held by women in local governments’ (5.5.1b) developed by UN Women provides a model on how to generate comparable data across countries. The harmonized measurement and reporting of data for the SDG indicator 5.5.1b will enable to build the first global measurement of the proportion of women in local governments. This will generate strong statistical evidence that will help to raise awareness and accelerate progress on a range of aspects of women’s political participation.

In addition to measuring numbers, further information is needed on strategies to elect more women at the local level. With the focus of the 2018 CSW revolving around achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls, iKNOW Politics and its partners are convening this e-Discussion from February 2 to March 8, 2018 to seek input from politicians, experts, practitioners, and researchers on the challenges and opportunities for women’s representation in local government and its role in helping achieve gender equality and empower women at the local level.  


  1. What are the challenges that hinder women’s political participation and representation at the local governance and decision-making level? Are they any different from the challenges women face at the national level?
  2. What are the good practices that help advance women’s political participation and representation at the local level? What is the role of political parties in supporting women’s engagement in local politics?
  3. Do you know of any programmes or structures that support women elected at the local level to become leaders at the national level? Please share examples.
  4. What can local government do to achieve gender equality and empower rural women and girls?

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Young people are often excluded or overlooked as political candidates. Politics is typically regarded as a space for politically experienced men, and while women are often disadvantaged in accumulating experience to run for office, young people are systematically marginalized because of their young age, limited opportunities, and projected lack of experience. As the increased political participation of women benefits society as a whole, the presence of young people in decision-making positions benefits all citizens and not just youth. The Inter-parliamentary Union (IPU) reports that people between the ages of 20 and 44 make up 57% of the world’s voting age population but only 26% of the world’s Members of Parliament (MPs). Young people under 30 represent 1.9% of the world’s MPs and more than 80% of the world’s upper houses of Parliament have no MPs aged under 30. While young people often play central and catalyzing roles in movements for democracy around the world, they are less engaged than older generations in voting and party activism. Together, these trends have inspired many international organizations to study the lack of youth political participation and train youth activists to become political leaders.  

Recognizing the potential of youth, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) developed its first-ever Youth Strategy (2014–2017), called “Empowered Youth, Sustainable Future”, in line with the UN System-Wide Action Plan on Youth (2013) which calls on young generations to become more involved and more committed in development processes. 2013 also saw the publication of the “Enhancing Youth Political Participation throughout the Electoral Cycle: A Good Practice Guide“, UNDP’s first review of programming strategies for youth political participation beyond the ballot box. In 2016, to further boost the implementation of UNDP’s Youth Strategy and respond to both the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and United Nations Security Council Resolution 2250 on youth, peace and security, UNDP launched a Youth Global Programme for Sustainable Development and Peace – Youth-GPS (2016–2020). The Youth-GPS focuses on civic engagement and political participation, among other areas, and responds to the concerns young people have expressed in global, regional and national forums and the growing demand at all levels for cutting-edge and strategic support in youth programming in all development contexts. In 2016, as a joint initiative of a number of partners including UNDP and IPU, the “Not Too Young To Run” global campaign was launched to elevate the promotion of young people’s right to run for public office and address the wide-spread issue of age discrimination.

In 2010, IPU adopted the resolution “Youth participation in the democratic process” at its 122nd Assembly and in 2013, established the Forum of Young Parliamentarians. Since then, IPU published two studies, one in 2014 and another in 2016, using a questionnaire to gather data from its Member Parliaments around the world on youth participation in national parliaments. Through these studies, IPU provides a number of recommendations for action which, if acted on, will ensure young people are fully engaged in politics. These include designing strategies by national parliaments and political parties that target the inclusion of young MPs and ensure diversity among youth, addressing the disparities between the number of young men and young women entering parliament. IPU also recommends to align the minimum age for parliamentary candidacies with the minimum voting age and to establish youth quotas (e.g. reserved seats, legislated quotas, party quotas) as a means of increasing the number of young MPs. In 2016 the IPU membership endorsed the document “Rejuvenating democracy, giving voice to youth”, based on the principles promoted by the young parliamentarians of the IPU: “No decisions about us without us”, that outlines how parliaments and parliamentarians could help rejuvenate democracy and give the world’s young people a voice in political decision-making.

In addition, UN Women established the Youth Forum at the CSW in March 2016, allowing global youth representatives to discuss the issues they face and to reflect on ways to help deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals, especially Goal 5 on gender equality. UN Women also published CEDAW for Youth in 2016, a youth-friendly version of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) elaborated by young people. International IDEA published in 2016 a report entitled “Increasing youth participation throughout the electoral cycle: entry points for electoral management bodies” documenting the challenges and practices directed at youth inclusion in politics and within different electoral processes.

Objective of the e-Discussion

This e-Discussion seeks to bring the voices of the iKNOW Politics and UNDP4Youth communities into this growing debate on youth participation in politics. Please join the e-Discussion from 03 April to 08 May 2017. Students, young parliamentarians, political party and social movement activists, civil society representatives, youth movements and networks, government and international organizations representatives, and academia are invited to contribute with their experiences by answering to one or more of the below questions. The submissions will contribute to the elaboration of a Consolidated Reply that will augment the knowledge base available on the topic of youth political participation. We look to an informative knowledge-sharing exercise on this topic.


  1. How do you explain the low representation of young people in parliaments and governments around the world?
  2. What is an enabling environment for young people’s participation in politics, in particular young women?
  3. What can parliaments, governments, political parties, and civil society do to increase young women and men’s representation in politics? Do you have examples of good practices?
  4. What are some of the most innovative alternative methods (marches, sit-ins…) to formal political participation that young people choose to bring about change and be heard?
  5. How can we support more young people who would be interested in channelling their activism through formal political institutions?
  6. What strategies and approaches have been successful in recruiting young men and women in political parties?
  7. What can be done to support young MPs in their parliamentary career? Please share any initiatives you are aware of.
  8. How can young parliamentarians better address gender equality and women’s empowerment? Are youth more likely to be active in combatting discrimination and gender based violence?
  9. How can we best measure youth political participation and policy influence? 

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Click here to access the summary of the e-Discussion.

As part of the IPU series 'A conversation with...', we interview parliamentarians from all over the world to find out who they represent and what motivates them.

In this edition, we discover Seiko Noda, a parliamentarian from Japan.

Click here to listen the full conversation published by the IPU on 1 May 2024.


THE HON JULIA GILLARD AC, HOST: Katy, it's not politics that brought you to Canberra, you were born and raised there, like no one's born and raised in Canberra. Can you tell me about that?

SENATOR THE HON KATY GALLAGHER, MINISTER FOR WOMEN: Yes, I'm one of those rare species at Parliament House that lives in the, you know, in the place where everyone comes to and then leaves. My parents came to Canberra in the late 60s. My dad had terrible asthma and had been told to leave the UK and he came and joined the parliamentary library actually and so started working there in the late 60s and I was born here in 1970. Yeah, it was a very small place and a place where a lot of people came to live, not where a lot of people had been born to live. But the kids that were born in the early 70s was sort of the first generation that were born and stayed. I mean, many went, but you know there's a good lot of us that were born in the 70s that stayed, and this became our home.

GILLARD: And tell me a little bit more about your mum and your dad. So, your dad's in the parliamentary library and I know that your mum has been honoured in a beautiful mural and through a mental health award that's named after her. Tell me about her story.

GALLAGHER: Yeah, so Mum was like this dynamo. She was born in the UK but I think had lived in a number of countries, so quite a kind of, for that time, probably someone who had you know all those international connections and found herself married with, in the end, four children, quite young, four under four, in the suburbs of Canberra with no car, no family, no friends and a husband that was working all the time. Very isolated. And instead of, I think, succumbing to that isolation, she turned around and started building a lot of connections and building up services and supports and really dedicated her life to that. Which is why, yeah, there's a mural of her close to where I grew up. But I think a lot of people when I'm going around and doing the work I do, always talk to me about how they remember my mum. Particularly services for women and women with children and people with a disability. She was just, she was one of those people that just rolled her sleeves up, got in, cause nobody else was doing it. And yeah, she was definitely a very powerful influence on all of our lives and many other peoples' as well.

Click here to hear the full interview published by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet of Australia on 02 May 2024.


Charoula Kafantari is a member of the Greek Parliament.

Interview conducted by iKNOW Politics during the 145th Inter-Parliamentary Union’s Assembly in Kigali, Rwanda, in October 2022.


As part of the IPU series 'A conversation with...', we interview parliamentarians from all over the world to find out who they represent and what motivates them.

In this edition, we discover Gabriela Morawska-Stanecka, a Senator from Poland and a member of the IPU's Executive Committee.

Click here to listen the full conversation published by the IPU on 25 April 2024.


Lucia Witbooi is a Namibian politician and Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, Immigration, Safety, and Security. A member of SWAPO, Witbooi was elected to the Namibia's National Assembly in the 2009 general election.

Interview conducted by iKNOW Politics during the 145th Inter-Parliamentary Union’s Assembly in Kigali, Rwanda, in October 2022.


In this on-the-record briefing, Professor O’Brien discusses gender and politics. She also speaks about the impact of electing more women, the importance of women’s representation in the political and economic decision-making process, if the number of women running for office globally are increasing or decreasing, and gender differences in voter turnout.

Diana O’Brien is the Bela Kornitzer Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Washington University in St. Louis. Her teaching focuses on the causes and consequences of women’s political representation across the globe. Her areas of study are gender and political parties, legislative politics, executive branch politics, and citizens responses to women’s presence in politics.

MODERATOR:  Hello and welcome to the Washington Foreign Press Center’s virtual briefing on Women in Politics.  My name is Doris Robinson and I am the briefing moderator.  Our briefer today is Diana O’Brien; she is the Bela Kornitzer Distinguished Professor in the Department of Political Science at Washington University in St. Louis.  Her research and teaching focus on the – focuses on the causes and consequences of women’s political representation in high-income democracies, including Western Europe and the United States, as well as across the globe.  Her areas of study are gender and political parties, legislative and executive branch politics, as well as citizen responses to women’s presence in politics.  

And now for the ground rules. This briefing is on the record. We will post the transcript and a video of the briefing later today on our website at  And a quick reminder, please make sure that your Zoom profile has your name and media outlet that you represent. And finally, before Professor O’Brien makes opening remarks, just a quick reminder that she is an independent subject matter expert and the views expressed by briefers not affiliated with the Department of State are their own and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Government. Their participation in FPC programming does not imply endorsement, approval, or recommendation of their views.  

And with that, I will now invite Professor O’Brien to provide opening remarks. Over to you.

Read here the full briefing published by the USA Department of State on 16 April 2024.

Image by USA Department of State

This online resource will guide you in implementing the OECD Recommendation on Gender Equality in Public Life. In addition to better familiarising you with the Principles, the Toolkit lets you compare indicators and good practices in use in numerous countries. The self-assessment tools will help governments assess the strengths and weaknesses of their gender policies, which in turn, will help policy makers set priorities for improvement.

Source: OECD

This action kit is a practical tool for unpacking gender responsive budgeting (GRB) and engaging parliaments and parliamentarians in strengthening scrutiny and oversight of gender responsive budget formulation, execution, and evaluation. As a result of their interventions, the budget process can be more participatory, inclusive, and effective.

This publication is directed primarily to actors who want to build an effective system for integrating GRB into the annual state budget process. This includes Members of Parliament (MPs), parliamentary staff and committees, caucuses of women MPs, as well as other actors, including UN Women or other United Nations entities who may want to initiate and support a stronger role for parliament and MPs in GRB.

The action kit is divided into sections:

  • Building government systems to support GRB through the budget cycle;
  • Parliament’s role in engaging with GRB in the budget process; and
  • Programmatic interventions to support parliaments in the GRB process.

To ensure the guidance and information provided in the publication are grounded in practice, country examples of GRB implementation and entry points for parliamentary engagement are included.

Click here to access the publication.

The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA) today published a “Participatory Gender Audits of Parliaments, a Step-by-Step Guidance Document,” which offers comprehensive tools and detailed steps on how parliaments can fully capitalize on their potential to implement a gender-sensitive and intersectional approach to legislative processes.

The PA and ODIHR collaborated on the publication, which sets out how to implement participatory gender audits through a clear framework and step-by-step process. The Guide recognizes that each parliament is unique and will undertake the audit in unique circumstances and it allows parliaments to choose the scope of the audit, the format and the timescale within which it will be conducted. As such, it adds to the extensive OSCE acquis in support of all parliaments of the region and it is in line with institutions’ respective mandates to advocate for ensuring transparency and accountability of all parliamentary procedures, practices, and standards, including those aimed at gender mainstreaming and conducting gender audits or assessments.

The “Participatory Gender Audits of Parliaments, a Step-by-Step Guidance Document” complements the “Realizing Gender Equality in Parliament: A Guide for Parliaments in the OSCE Region,” published in December 2021, which brought together lessons learned and good practices from 46 national parliaments in North America, Europe and Central Asia on introducing and improving gender sensitivity in parliaments, on which the two Institutions have also closely co-operated.

Click here to access the report.

The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association’s Gender Sensitising Parliamentary Guidelines: A Seven-Step Field Guide (‘Field Guide’) provides a blueprint for Commonwealth parliaments interested in undertaking a Gender Sensitive Parliament (GSP) review of their institutions with the objective of making their parliaments more representative and inclusive. The Field Guide builds on earlier Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) and Commonwealth Women Parliamentarian’s (CWP) gender sensitising reports, in which a GSP is defined as a place that responds to the needs and interests of women in its structures, operations, methods, and work and is a workplace that removes barriers to women’s full participation.

GSP reviews have the potential to respond to the needs of parliamentary members and staff who identify as women or as belonging to another marginalised group, and in some Commonwealth contexts, this includes people with intersecting identities, such as Indigenous People, Black People, and People of Colour, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer+ People (LGBTQ+), and people living with disabilities.

Click here to access the guide.

This course, written by Dr Sonia Palmieri, explores why and how to build gender sensitive parliaments. Rich in case studies, it sketches the international framework for action and outlines opportunities for shaping contextually-appropriate parliamentary processes and norms. 

Click here to access the course.

Parliaments have a key role in ensuring not only that everyone is properly represented in decision-making, but also that legislation and government actions take account of the needs and experiences of women and men on an equal basis. However, the achievement of gender equality requires more than commitments and good intentions. It is reliant on action.

This Guide is designed to help parliamentarians, officials, civil society and democracy-support organizations undertake gender-sensitive scrutiny. It provides a model for gender-sensitive scrutiny and demonstrates how the techniques can be used when carrying out pre- and post-legislative scrutiny, conducting oversight and monitoring budgets. It also provides case studies and resources.

Click here to access the guide.

This guide is designed to help Members and staff of the Parliament of Malaysia undertake gender-sensitive scrutiny of laws, budgets, and policies.

Click here to download the guide published by INTER PARES.

This guide is designed to help Members and staff of the Parliament of Bhutan undertake gender-sensitive scrutiny of laws, budgets, and policies.

Click here to download the guide published by INTER PARES.

This practical guide is intended to support the full range of parliamentary actors — from parliamentary leadership teams, members of parliament, and political and parliamentary staff, to parliamentary practitioners and civil society organizations dealing with gender equality issues — in transforming these institutions into gender-sensitive parliaments.

Click here to access the guide.

This Primer highlights practical ways Members of Parliament (MPs) and parliamentary staff can take action to ensure COVID-19 response and recovery decision-making address women’s needs. It is informed by the differential impacts of the disease on women as documented to date, and the common needs and challenges expressed by MPs and parliamentary staff adapting to new priorities and ways of working around the world. A Checklist is included to guide MPs and parliamentary staff on gender-sensitive options for COVID-19 response and recovery both during and beyond the pandemic.

Click here to see the primer.