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Statement by Senator Gabriela Cuevas Barron, President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union
On International Women’s Day, the Inter-Parliamentary Union proudly joins the worldwide efforts to achieve gender equality. As IPU President, I call upon male and female parliamentarians and men and women of all ages to join the fight for a better society marked by justice, equality and parity.
In its work the IPU focuses on promoting gender equality and increasing the number of women parliamentarians which, I acknowledge, has been a slow process. The IPU’s report titled Women in Parliament in 2017 shows that women’s low representation in parliament remains an issue as most legislatures continue to have a significant male majority. The 0.1 percentage point increase in 2017 - compared to 2016 - in women parliamentarians in the world is unacceptable. We have to move much faster.
Shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall almost 30 years ago, the average number of women parliamentarians stood below 10 per cent worldwide. Today that number has risen to 23.4 per cent, which represents both a remarkable advance but is also a reminder of the fact that in the world today there is only one woman to every three men legislators.
Progress can be achieved by ensuring that decision-makers design policies that positively affect women and girls. One example of effective action can be gleaned from the results of parliamentary elections held around the world in 2017. Countries that imposed gender quotas on their political processes garnered twice as many female representatives as those that did not – 30 per cent in 20 countries with quotas and 15.4 per cent in 16 countries without quotas.
I am proud of the fact that my region of origin, the Americas, has more women parliamentarians than other regions and that women make up 28.4 per cent of the total number of parliamentary representatives. This is in no small part due to the fact that many countries in the Americas have promoted parity in their legislative frameworks, and have simultaneously adopted provisions on quotas where between 40 and 50 per cent of female political participation is guaranteed.
I invite my colleagues from other countries and regions to study our experience, which can be useful for the challenges we still have ahead of us. The IPU welcomes all those interested in advancing global parity and invites them to consult our research publications and obtain information about our programmes on promoting gender equality in politics.
I recognize that progress has been achieved thanks to the activism of millions of women throughout history. One of these women is Margaret Mensah-Williams who currently heads the IPU Bureau of Women Parliamentarians. A tireless fighter for equal rights, Mensah-Williams has accrued in her lifetime a series of impressive firsts in her home country of Namibia. Rising through the ranks in Parliament, Mensah-Williams has constantly stood for equality both in matters of gender and race.
As Chair of the Parliamentary Meeting at the 62nd session of the Commission on the Status of Women and President of the National Council of the Parliament of Namibia, Margaret Mensah-Williams urged her parliamentary colleagues to continue standing up for their political rights and to participate in global leadership. She celebrated the fact that the IPU is currently presided by a woman, the second time in IPU’s 129-year history. Fighting the underlying hierarchical structures that create inequality and promote division has been at the core of her efforts. Mensah-Williams’ vision has undoubtedly informed much of what the IPU’s goals are in terms of female inclusion and empowerment.
The participation of women in political life requires a new and strong impetus. If we continue at this pace we will achieve parity in 250 years, which is clearly unacceptable for us, our daughters, grand-daughters and great-granddaughters. So, let’s get to work!