Women's participation rate in parliaments slows, even as more gain top seats – IPU

Female politicians at a meeting of women lawmakers from Arab States and members of the European Parliament in November 2014 in Brussels, Belgium. Photo: UN Women/Emad Karim

4 March 2016 – Despite an increase in the number of women Speakers of Parliament, the number of female parliamentarians across the world rose by only 0.5 percentage points in 2015, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) today reported, dashing hopes that gender parity in parliament could be achieved within a generation.

In its annual report, Women in Parliament 2015: the Year in Review, the IPU stated that women now account for 22.6 per cent of the world's Members of the Parliament.

“Although this figure is an all-time high and represents the continued upward trend for women in parliament, the rate of progress in 2015 was another setback from the 1.5 percentage points witnessed in 2013,” the IPU said.

The overall growth in the past decade has been 6.4 points, and with the “snail-pace” growth rate in 2015, the IPU said the trend does little to inspire confidence the situation will change any time soon.

This is particularly disappointing given the push to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls by 2030, as part of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

'Urgent need for creative solutions and changing mindsets'

“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.

In areas of success, the IPU highlighted that quotas and proportional representation systems are more effective in getting women into parliament.

The IPU report also highlights the need to tackle impediments to women running for office, such as the lack of adequate finance for their campaigns, and reiterates the critical role of political parties in changing the status quo.

Regional successes

While the overall number of women is not rising as quickly as had been hoped, the IPU noted that women are in increasingly higher positions.

Out of 273 Speakers of Parliament worldwide, 49 are now women, an increase of six positions since 2014.

“As parliamentary leaders are among the most powerful political figures in their countries, women Speakers are not only critical role models and mentors for other women MPs, they are also vital to changing mindsets on delivering change,” the IPU reported.

There were 58 parliamentary elections in 2015, with the Americas, sub-Saharan Africa, Europe and the Arab world seeing increases in women's representation.

Both the Asia and Pacific regions remained virtually static, regions which IPU said have shown the least progress on women's parliamentary participation over the past decade.

The report has been released today ahead of International Women's Day on 8 March.

IPU works closely with the United Nations and other multilateral bodies to ensure there is a parliamentary dimension to international cooperation, global governance as well as in the resolution of major international issues.


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