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Next stop: gender parity in parliament

Photo: European Parliament / Flickr / 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

10.3.2014 - More women than ever before are being elected to Parliaments around the world. And if the current trend continues, gender parity is achievable in less than a generation.

That’s the positive news from the latest annual review of Women in Parliament released this week at UN headquarters in Geneva by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), an international organization of parliamentarians, which works closely with the United Nations.

"We actually saw a 1.5 percentage increase globally in Parliaments as a result of elections that took place in 2013. That doesn't sound like a lot, but if you consider that we are now at almost 22 per cent of women in parliaments, if we were to continue with this rate of increase of 1.5 it means that within a generation, actually within 20 years, we should be able to reach globally gender parity in Parliament,” IPU Secretary-General Anders B. Johnsson said. “That is something we never imagined.”

Rwanda led the list of 189 countries surveyed, with its Chamber of Duties recording more than 60 percent women.

As a region, the Americas – Latin America that is – recorded the highest electoral gain with women in Ecuador, Grenada and Argentina occupying more than 30 percent in those three countries – a percentage considered a critical mass to effect change.

Thirty-nine countries have reached the “above-30 percent” club. Newcomers to this “30 per cent club” include Austria, Cameroon, Grenada and Zimbabwe (both houses).

However, the United States and Canada are not doing as well. The United States ranked 83rd out of the 189 countries surveyed as of January 1, 2014 and Canada was 54th.

A number of sub-Saharan African countries have recently enacted electoral laws that afford women greater access to political party backing and candidate lists, and thus greater representation and political leverage. The number of parliamentary seats occupied by women more than doubled in the lower houses of Cameroon and Zimbabwe.

On the occasion of International Women’s Day, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka lauded the “record-breaking” increase by the gains made by women in political life around the world and vowed that her organization will keep fighting gender-based bias.

“The record-breaking increase of women in national parliaments in 2013 is encouraging, but we are still far from equality,” Mrs. Mlambo-Ngcuka told the UN News Center. “Around the world, women are excluded from parliaments by discrimination, violence, party structures, poverty and a lack of finance.”

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