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Scant Progress Made in Electing Women Parliamentarians Worldwide


FILE - Labour Party member of Parliament Emily Thornberry holds a placard at an event to mark the 100th anniversary of the enfranchisment of some, but not all women, outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain, Feb. 6, 2018.

In advance of International Women’s Week (March 5), a report by the Inter-Parliamentary Union finds little progress is being made in increasing the number of women parliamentarians around the world.

Before 2016, the Inter-Parliamentary Union reports the number of women being elected to Parliaments around the world was increasing annually on average by six percent. But it says this encouraging upward trend seems to have come to an end.

Over the past two years, the IPU finds the number of women in national parliaments globally has increased only by about one percent. It says women represent fewer than one-quarter of world parliamentarians.

IPU secretary-general, Martin Chungong says women are faring better in countries that have electoral quota systems than in those that do not.

“So, this actually calls for more countries to adopt quota systems to try to level the playing field," he said. "We need more and more women in parliament to create a critical mass so that parliamentary decisions and outcomes are adequately informed by the interests of both men and women. And this... is a very major factor for legitimacy and effectiveness in decision-making processes.”

Progress in Africa

A look at the IPU’s League table of 193 countries, shows a number of bright spots. As in past years, Rwanda comes out on top in the rankings, with more than 61 percent women parliamentarians. Senegal in ninth position outranks 10th placed Norway, with nearly 42 percent female representation. These compare favorably with the United States, which ranks 100, with a dismal showing of just over 19 percent women lawmakers.

Regionally, the report finds the Nordic countries leading. It says Europe, which has made the greatest gains in the number of women MPs, also recorded the greatest losses. It shows some improvement being made in Latin America, with Argentina, Chile and Ecuador as trailblazers.

IPU says sub-Saharan Africa has stabilized at nearly 24 percent and Algeria was the only country in the Arab region to hold elections for its legislature last year. While female participation in Asia’s electoral process remains low, the report says the Pacific region, with 15.5 percent women MPs, holds up the bottom of the rankings.

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