Women in Politics - The New Challenges

Geneva, Switzerland, 15 and 16 December 2014


Recognising that significant progress has been made on the UN Millennium Development Goal 3 (MDG 3) of promoting gender equality and empowering women leading up to 2015, the Socialist International Women notes with concern the continuing gender disparity evident within the global political arena. While there are a number of initiatives which have been highly effective at championing and supporting the active involvement of women in politics, substantial gaps still remain where women continue to be aggressively marginalised and publicly disparaged in their efforts to participate in political dialogue.

Socialist International Women asserts that achieving gender equality across the full spectrum of political processes, as well as being a principle of human rights, also plays a pivotal role in successfully integrating the changes needed to eradicate gender discrimination, both within nations and globally. Gender inclusive governance is a vital contributing factor in achieving many MDGs and is essential for the full achievement of MDG 3.

Socialist International Women notes with satisfaction that the Women in Politics Map 2014, produced by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and UN Women, shows healthy progress in some areas, demonstrating that gender bias in politics is gradually dissolving. There are now 36 countries with 30% or more women ministers which is an encouraging increase from 2012 when there were only 26. The portfolios of women ministers are also developing positively to cover a wider range of socio-economic areas. Education, Social Affairs and Women’s Affairs posts are still the most frequent, but there are now also women ministers in Defence, Environment and Foreign Affairs posts. Overall, the Americas, Europe and Africa show the most significant change, with Arab, Asia and Pacific regions showing slower progress at present.

One area of continuing concern is the challenge of the glass ceiling in politics which prevents many women politicians from taking up the most influential senior level posts. Again, this is gradually changing as the number of women politicians rises, allowing them to demonstrate their skills and effectiveness, and some regions incorporate working policies which make it easier for women to participate. Socialist International Women affirms its support for initiatives and frameworks which promote increasing the numbers of women in politics in general as well as increasing the numbers in senior political posts.

Women remain the primary carers of children and the family home, which raises both practical and cultural challenges to pursuing a political career. Time spent away from the home and children can in some cases be culturally interpreted in a way that suggests women in political roles are neglecting their duties as women. This cultural pressure can result in the suppression of women’s political aspirations, effectively excluding them from political and legislative debate. This has been witnessed as being a particularly extreme challenge in some of the emerging new democracies where gender discriminatory cultural norms are still firmly entrenched and actively supported. In other cases it can simply be an absence of available and affordable childcare during political activities, or a political culture of extremely long working hours, which prevents participation. In the most deeply concerning cases, extreme violence and aggression towards women politicians prevents women’s participation in any political processes at all. Socialist International Women notes with deep regret that such incidents are still occurring and reaffirms its continuing passionate commitment to the ending of gender discrimination in politics, the encouragement and support of women in politics, and the total elimination of violence against women in any area of life.

The economic challenges many countries are facing has also impacted on the advancement of women in politics. The issues of women and gender discrimination are often relegated to a lower priority while the majority of focus is given to economic improvement. In addition, women are more likely to take low paid roles with long hours to help support the family financially, while still providing unpaid child rearing, social replenishment and house management functions. This leaves many women with little time or thought left over to become involved in political activities. This means that not only do women lose their political voice and ability to influence policies and legislation; the wider political community also loses the value of their contribution and perspective.

Having higher percentages of women politicians improves the image of parties. This can improve their reputation with the electorate. They are more likely to be perceived as representing and taking into consideration the views of both genders when formulating policies. Electoral campaigns and strategies can also be strengthened with a higher participation of women as they will connect more empathetically with the issues and concerns of women voters.

Socialist International Women supports the quota system of electing women into government as a temporary measure to get women into political positions and to achieve parity democracy, while also emphasising the proven effectiveness of robust and politically sustainable gender-sensitive frameworks, legislation and policies to encourage and support women in pursuing political careers.

Socialist International Women calls on governments, member parties of Socialist International, the UN and NGOs to help accelerate the progress of increased participation of women in politics and improve working conditions within political structures which support this by:

promoting the institutionalisation of gender equality within party and national/state government structures, processes and practices

formulating and adopting frameworks, programmes and initiatives which champion and support the participation and advancement of women in politics, for example: allocating extra campaign funding for parties which have 30%, and more, women candidates in electable places in the list

ensuring equal access for both genders to financial and other resources and campaign funds

raising the profile of gender issues by making them an integral part of party electoral strategy

encouraging gender-responsive governance at the local, state and national level

campaigning for legislative and policy changes across all political processes which support the increased participation of women politicians

introducing the practice of gender budgeting to be monitored on all levels of governance: municipal, regional and national.





Coucil Meeting

Geneva, Switzerland, 28 and 29 June 2018

For a World 50-50 in 2030 – The Great Challenges

Socialist International Women denounces brutal attacks on Palestinian demonstrators

17 May 2018

The Socialist International Women strongly denounces the use of lethal fire by Israeli military forces against Palestinian demonstrators in Gaza on Sunday 14 May 2018...

Connecting Rural Women – E-Development and Rural Women's Empowerment

16 March 2018

62nd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), United Nations, New York, from 12 to 23 March 2018

Side Event hosted by the Permanent Mission of Mongolia to the UN; the Mongolian People’s Party; Socialist International Women(SIW) and PES Women

Empowering Rural Women: Granting Universal Rights to Sexual and Reproductive Health Services

15 March 2018

62nd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), United Nations, New York, from 12 to 23 March 2018

Parallel Event hosted by the Socialist International Women (SIW), PES Women and Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS)

International Women's Day Declaration

08 March 2018

In solidarity and recognition of the immense societal, economic and political achievements of women and girls worldwide Socialist International Women is proud to support International Women’s Day (IWD) 2018...

Statement on Unilateral Decision by the United States of America to Recognise Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel

07 December 2017

The Socialist International Women (SIW) disapproves the decision of President Trump to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and relocate the US embassy there from Tel Aviv...

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

25 November 2017

Socialist International Women affirms its support for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women as an opportunity to focus on the continuing suffering and oppression of women and girls worldwide, and the vital roles that governments and individuals have in creating positive change...

Council Meeting

Barcelona, Spain, 21 and 22 November 2017

Democracy in Crisis, Populism on the Rise - Where do Women's Rights fit in?

Council Meeting

United Nations, New York, 14 July 2017

Rural Areas, Media and ICT - New Challenges and More Opportunities for Women’s Empowerment

In Memory of Carmen Chacón

13 March 1971 - 09 April 2017

The Socialist International Women was deeply saddened to receive the news of the death of Carmen Chacón on 09 April 2017 at the age of 46 years...

Council Meeting and XXI Congress

25 - 27 February 2017

Gender Inequality in the World Today – Understanding the New Challenges and Ending Gender Inequality by 2030

UN Climate Change Conference 2016

Conference of the Parties (COP22), United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Marrakech, Morroco, 07 to 18 November 2016

Parallel event hosted by the Socialist International Women (SIW), the Forum of the African Women Post 2015 and Jossour Forum of the Moroccan Women, Bab Ighli Site, Green Zone, 14 November 2016

Former SI President António Guterres to become next UN Secretary General

06 October 2016

The Socialist International Women (SIW) would like to congratulate António Guterres on being chosen as the next Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Council Meeting

28 and 29 June 2016

The UN Sustainable Development Goals – Gender Sensitive Budgeting and Climate Change


The First Hundred Years

A Short History of Socialist International Women

By Irmtraut Karlsson

This book tells the history of the first one hundred years of the Socialist International Women