Boosting women’s political participation vital for democracy, UN forum stresses

Executive Director of UN Women Michelle Bachelet. UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras

19 September 2011 – Boosting women’s political participation and decision-making around the world is fundamental for democracy and essential for achieving sustainable development, women leaders taking part in a high-level event at the United Nations declared today.

“We stress the critical importance of women’s political participation in all contexts, including in times of peace, conflict and in all stages of political transition,” they said in a joint statement on advancing women’s political participation.

The event, among a series of meetings being held this week on the margins of the 66th session of the General Assembly, brought together women heads of State and government, including President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, Kamla Persad-Bissessar of Trinidad and Tobago, Roza Otunbaeva of Kyrgyzstan and Finland’s Tarja Halonen, as well as numerous government representatives and UN officials.

“We are bound by a common goal – to open the way for women to participate in all decisions affecting the development of our world, at the global, regional, national and local levels,” said Michelle Bachelet, Executive Director of the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) and former president of Chile.

“By making full use of half the world’s intelligence – the intelligence of women – we improve our chances of finding real and lasting solutions to the challenges that confront us,” she told the gathering.

UN Women estimates that women make up less than 10 per cent of world leaders. Globally less than one in five members of parliament is a woman. In addition, the 30 per cent critical mass mark for women’s representation in parliament has been reached or exceeded in only 28 countries.

Ms. Bachelet noted that there is now data to show that countries with greater gender equality have higher gross national product (GNP) per capita, and that women’s leadership in the corporate sector results in improved business performance.

“In the history humankind there are key moments that enable breakthroughs unimaginable just a short time ago,” she stated. “Today we find ourselves in one of those moments for gender equality and women’s rights.

The statement issued today called on all States to eliminate all discriminatory barriers faced by women, particularly marginalized women, and encouraged all States to take proactive measures to address the factors preventing women from participating in politics, such as violence, poverty and lack of access to education, and to actively promote women’s political participation.

Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro said that today’s focus on women and democracy is especially timely in light of the movements for change that are taking place across the Middle East and North Africa.

“At this moment in our global world, thriving societies are those which are inclusive and place a premium on women’s empowerment,” she stated. “A democracy cannot be called a true democracy, unless women participate fully.

“The transitions currently under way must move those societies towards empowerment, engagement, and equality for all women,” Ms. Migiro added.

Also addressing the meeting from the UN was Helen Clark, the Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), who stressed that women’s participation is crucial in a nation’s efforts to advance development and prosperity.


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