– As the world celebrates International Women’s Day March 8, the International Parliamentary Union (IPU) revealed a disappointing low for women’s participation in parliament.
The new Women In Parliament 2015 report has found that women’s parliamentary representation increased only by 0.5 percent in 2015.
Though women currently account for 22.6 percent of the world’s members of parliament (MPs), described as the largest proportion than ever before, progress has slowed since 2013, which saw a 1.5 percent increase in women MPs.
“IPU’s 2015 statistics on women in parliament underline the urgent need for creative solutions and changing mindsets if there is any chance of meeting goals on political participation and empowerment,” said IPU Secretary-General Martin Chungong during the launch of the report.
Such goals are included in the newly adopted 2030 Agenda, which aim to achieve women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making.
In a message marking International Women’s Day, Executive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka stressed that greater participation of women is a necessity to achieve the agenda: “To arrive at the future we want, we cannot leave anyone behind.”
According to the report, the Asia-Pacific region experienced the greatest stagnation, registering just a 0.1 percent increase in the number of women MPs. IPU noted this was due not only to countries’ failures to meet their 30 percent target, but also the existence of widespread discrimination and prejudice against women in politics.
In Myanmar, as Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi campaigned for presidency in 2015, the 800 women who ran for parliament faced harassment as their campaign posters were ripped down and false and fabricated information was distributed. Some candidates even turned down nominations due to family concerns.
In other countries, political violence proved to be another challenge for women’s parliamentary participation.
During the Nigerian elections in 2015, numerous party members, supporters and voters were killed. There were also reports of vote-buying and false declaration of results, hindering the inclusion of women in politics. Women won only 5.6 percent of seats in Nigeria’s lower house.
However, some major gains were also made for women in politics around the world, IPU stated.
The number of women Speakers of parliament increased globally to an all-time high, as women now comprise of 17.9 percent of all Speakers. Namibia, Nepal and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) particularly made history by swearing in their first ever woman Speaker.
In the Americas, the number of women MPs rose by 0.8 percent to 27.2 percent, the highest of all the regions. Suriname made the most significant progress, with an increase of 15.7 percentage points in women’s representation.
In Canada, newly-elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed the country’s first gender-balanced cabinet. While explaining this decision, Trudeau stated: “Because it’s 2015.”
Chungong noted that government leaders, including in Canada, have been setting the pace on equal participation of women at the ministerial level. “Parliaments must not lag behind,” he continued.
In its report, IPU urged for the implementation and enforcement of quotas to ensure the inclusion of women in parliament. It also highlighted the need to provide access to campaign financing as well as encouraging political parties to change the status quo by facilitating women’s political participation.
Mlambo-Ngcuka also emphasized the importance of such action, pointing out “the participation of women at all levels and the strengthening of the women’s movement has never been so critical, working together with boys and men, to empower nations, build stronger economies and healthier societies.”