News / USA

    Record Number of Women Serving In Parliaments Worldwide

    Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., center, accompanied by fellow Democratic Women Senators, speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 30, 2014, to show their support on raising the federal minimum wage.
    Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., center, accompanied by fellow Democratic Women Senators, speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 30, 2014, to show their support on raising the federal minimum wage.
    Lisa Schlein
    A survey finds a record number of women are serving as members of parliament worldwide.   The report by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) shows last year, women occupied nearly 22 percent of parliamentary seats.  That is an increase of 1.5 percentage points - double the average rate of increase in recent years. 

    A 1.5 percent increase in the number of women who are members of parliaments globally may not sound like a lot.  But the Inter-Parliamentary Union says if this trend continues, it could lead to gender parity in parliaments in 20 years. 

    The IPU says the increase in the number of women MPs is due to more countries using measures such as legislative and voluntary quotas to make it easier for women to become elected or appointed to houses of parliament.

    A survey of 189 countries shows Rwanda, Andorra, Cuba, Sweden, and South Africa top the rankings of women in national Parliaments.  Micronesia, Palau, Qatar, and Vanuatu, which have all male legislatures, are at the bottom of the rankings. 

    The report notes the Americas lead as the region with the highest average of women MPs at 15.2 percent.  But, it says the Arab world made the largest gains last year, with the appointment of 30 women to Saudi Arabia’s Shura Council and 18 women elected to the Jordanian parliament.

    IPU Secretary-General Anders Johnsson says Africa continues to make steady progress.  He says almost 20 years ago, Africa had fewer than 10 percent women parliamentarians.  Today it has 22.5 percent.

    “Some of the world’s best performing countries are in Africa, including the best performing country, which is Rwanda where it is the first country ever to have more than 60 percent women in parliament," he said. "When there is public focus, public pressure, public attention and public support - and that is the case particularly in African countries - then you get results.  So, you have seen that last year in Cameroon.  You have seen it in Kenya.  You have seen it in Togo.  You have seen it in Zimbabwe - all countries that did very well.”

    While the number of women MPs continues to grow in Europe, the report notes the Asia-Pacific region is bucking this healthy regional trend.  It says without Australia to shore up the numbers, women would count for just 3.2 percent of all parliamentarians in the Pacific.

    Manager of IPU’s Gender Program Kareen Jabre tells VOA a parliament without women is not representative of the world.  She says a parliament without women cannot be effective because it is not aware of the realities and priorities of half of the population of the world.

    “We carried out a survey of parliamentarians three, four years ago where we asked them what did women bring when they came to parliament and the first thing that MPs responded, they changed the priorities that were discussed in parliament and brought new priorities to the floor of parliament and one of the first issues they brought up was violence against women, in particular domestic violence, which, of course, concerns women more than men and which, of course, if you were in a gathering of only men will be less likely to come up as an issue, than if you have women around the table as well,” she said. 

    The IPU report finds more women last year were targets of political violence.  It says electoral violence - which includes intimidation, threats, physical assault and other aggression - acts as a deterrent to keep women out of politics.

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora