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Study: Too Few Women In Politics

  • Lisa Schlein

A new report finds too few women around the world are in politics, with the notable exception of the Nordic countries which, according to the report, essentially enjoy gender parity. The report by the Inter-parliamentary Union (IPU) says the number of women elected to parliament last year does not reflect the dramatic political changes in many parts of the world. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from IPU headquarters in Geneva.

Last year, the report finds the global average of females elected to parliament stood at 19.5 percent. This is just one half percent higher than in 2010. It says women account for fewer than one in five parliamentarians in the world today.

The report says the Arab world has the lowest regional average in the world at 10 percent and the number of women in government has stayed virtually the same at 7 percent since 2005.

The uprisings in North Africa and the Arab world may have created shock waves around the world. But, IPU spokeswoman, Jemini Pandya, says it did little to shake up the old political systems.

“Egypt’s recent elections saw the percentage of women MP’s drop from 12.7 percent to just below 2%. There are now only 10 women MP’s out of 508 in Egypt. Women were at the heart of the Arab Spring, but that role has not translated into concrete political participation. The Arab Spring still has to deliver for women in politics. We feel that the opportunities for change are there. They just have to be taken,” Pandya said.

However, the study notes there were some encouraging developments in Tunisia, which adopted a law securing parity on candidate lists. And, it says Morocco introduced quotas for women parliamentarians, which resulted in a six percent increase in the number of women MPs last year.

The report finds quotas also work to the advantage of women in sub-Saharan Africa. it says the regional average for women holding seats in parliament is over 20 percent. It says 13 chambers on the continent now have 30 percent or more women MPs due mainly to special measures, such as quotas.

Jemini Pandya says countries emerging from conflict often provide opportunities for women to step into the political vacuum.

“More than one-third of countries globally with 30 percent of women MPs are countries in transition or post-conflict. South Sudan, for example, now has 26.5% women in its transitional, constituent assembly and that is mainly because of the quota system. And, that figure is well above both the African and global average,” Pandya said.

The IPU report says rightly or wrongly, quotas remain the most effective route to getting women into politics. Authors of the report argue until there is parity, women will continue to be denied the opportunity to effect social and economic change through political means.