Towards a greater participation of women in politics: strategies and realities

Casablanca, Morocco, 28-29 May 2002


The empowerment and autonomy of women are essential for achieving a society in which women and men are equal. Such empowerment must permeate political structures at all levels. Women make up at least half of the electorate, have obtained the right to vote in almost every country in the world, and have proven their capabilities as decision-makers in public life. However, they continue to be under-represented in most levels of governments and in legislative bodies. Some countries have even seen an alarming and significant decrease in the number of women in legislative bodies. Women's equal participation in political life is instrumental in enhancing the position of women in society as a whole. It is a precondition not only to ensuring that women's interests are taken into account by governments and society but also to strengthening and making democracy work effectively for the common good.

The traditional working patterns, mechanisms and practices of most political parties and parliamentary structures, as well as the political culture and electoral systems that relegate women to the margins continue to be barriers to women's proportionate and effective participation in political life.

Socialisation, particularly the stereotyping of women and men reinforce the notion that political decision-making is the domain of men.

While Socialist International Women welcomes the steps that have been taken by some political parties and governments to increase the participation of women in politics, it also recognises that much more needs to be done and reiterates that an equal opportunity policy requires a strategy for long-term change which involves a thorough review of the conception and implementation of political policy, as well as the adoption of affirmative action measures.

SIW, therefore, encourages its member organisations to:

  • encourage and actively promote alliances among women's organisations in order to coordinate activities and to give support to women in political and elected positions;
  • offermentoring programmes for young women, making use of the experiences and examples of women in political positions which will assist young women to acquire the knowledge needed for public office;
  • strengthen networking and co-ordination between the women politicians in both developed and developing countries;
  • share experiences and develop co-operation through common activities and projects.

Moreover, SIW calls on Socialist International member parties to:

  • examine party structures, mechanisms and practices that discriminate against the participation of women and replace these with alternatives that will enhance women's interests, potential and capabilities in politics and in governance;
  • develop and implementpolicies and adequately resourced programmes to integrate, train and encourage women to participate in political activities and elections. These policies would aim to implement organisational measures (establishment of a women's section within a political party), educational measures (organisation of courses aimed particularly at preparing women for the role of candidate or elected office holder) and logistical ones (provision of child-care services and holding political meetings at times compatible with family responsibilities);
  • promote, when non existent, the public financing of electoral campaigns, to ensure that expenditures are transparent and increase the participation of women;
  • ensure that party programmes and platforms adequately address issues and concerns affecting women in specific ways to facilitate a higher level of women's appreciation of the relevance of political parties and governance in their lives;
  • introduce strategies for achieving equality between women and men, which include positive actions such as quota and targets based on gender-segregated data within a specific timeframe and establish indicators and benchmarks to allow regular evaluation;
  • implement equal opportunity programmes which guarantee gender balanced democratic representation in the composition of all decision-making bodies and which incorporate gender-mainstreaming as a tool designed for equality between women and men as a general aim of the parties of the Socialist International; which help their members towards a better work-life balance; and which definitively strengthen the commitment to equality of the Socialist International and its member parties.

Finally, Socialist International Women urges governments to:

  • ratifythe Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW) and signand ratify the Optional Protocol to CEDAW where they have not done so;
  • implement the Beijing+5 Programme of Action adopted in June 2000 in New York;
  • review the impact of electoral systems and political cultures on the political representation of women and make progress towards gender parity, a condition for granting subsidies;
  • implement the dual approach of gender-mainstreaming and positive action in all policies, programmes and budgets, in order to clearly identify their effects on women and men;
  • review the criteria for recruiting and appointing candidates to decision-making bodies to ensure that such criteria do not discriminate against women but promote their full and effective participation.



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