Photo: UN Women

Photo: UN Women

Leading the way to parity in politics

Most decision-makers in governments, parliaments and local councils are still men. The disparity not only denies women the right to participate and lead, but also means lawmaking often overlooks their experiences and needs. To close the gap, UN Women backs legislative and constitutional reform, and helps women gain traction through electoral processes, among other measures. Empowering gender equality advocates equips them to unleash change.

Parliaments

Turkey's June 2015 elections brought encouraging news as women took nearly 18 per cent of parliamentary seats, up from just over 14 per cent. While this remains far below parity or even the global average, it signals the stirrings of change beginning within the soaring white marble walls of the Grand National Assembly.

Elections

Gender imbalances in political representation can sometimes be dramatically redressed during election processes. In Bolivia, engagement with the electoral tribunal and UN partners to advocate for political parties to comply with new regulations on gender parity led to spectacular results in the 2014 elections. Bolivia became the third country in the world to reach political parity in its lower house, with women Parliamentarians at just under 51 per cent. Previously, women comprised less than 30 per cent.

Time to step it up for gender equality. We have waited long enough!

Call to action signed at the high-level event on "Women in power and decision-making: Building a different world"Santiago, Chile, 27-28 February 2015

Leadership

In more than 60 countries in 2014, UN Women backed measures to promote women's leadership and participation in politics, including by strengthening a cadre of aspiring women leaders. Under our Beijing+20 campaign, we partnered with the Government of Chile to bring 300 women leaders to Santiago, including heads of state, ministers, parliamentarians, senior UN officials, Nobel laureates, business representatives and activists, all drawn by their commitment to rapidly increase the number of women in places making major decisions. With political leadership key to propelling progress across the Beijing Platform of Action, they signed a Call to Action to rev up political actions behind full implementation by 2030, including by ending gaps in funding for gender equality.

“Concentrate on your work and do it to the fullest. Be confident. The patriarchal society will oppose every action. (But) once you achieve success, everyone will start appreciating your efforts.”

Vandana Baharu Maida: A woman's place is on the village council

Few in her sleepy village would have once imagined that mother and home-maker Vandana Baharu Maida would be planning roads and building schools today. But in Khankhandvi, India, Maida bucked family opposition and cultural norms to win election as the first woman head of her village council.

India's quotas for local political offices have spurred one of the greatest successes globally for women's empowerment and grass-roots democracy. Just a decade ago, women comprised less than 5 per cent of leaders elected to village councils. Today, they make up over 40 per cent.

Articulate and determined, Vandana aims at nothing less than a better life for her community. Using vital leadership skills developed through training by UN Women, she has mobilized her council to build new sanitation systems, a village pond to counter chronic water shortages and the village's first primary school. But she considers her greatest achievement is inspiring her neighbours to regularly participate in the council and demand that it respond to their concerns.