Across Eastern Europe Roma women are virtually excluded from representation in public life and their involvement in decision-making remains below international benchmarks. Photo: UN Programme ‘Women in Politics’/Ramin

Across Eastern Europe Roma women are virtually excluded from representation in public life and their involvement in decision-making remains below international benchmarks. Photo: UN Programme ‘Women in Politics’/Ramin Mazur

Leading the way for gender parity in politics

As Heads of State and CEOs of corporations, as parliamentarians, civil servants and at the helm of civil society organizations, women have moved into prominent leadership roles around the world thereby changing how decisions are made. Gender balance in leadership, however, remains elusive; just 1 in 5 parliamentarians globally is a woman.

UN Women is a powerful advocate for parity at all levels in political, economic and public life by 2030 and in line with commitments affirmed in the SDGs. We are making equality a reality around the world by backing constitutions, laws and policies that guarantee women opportunities to lead, including through temporary special measures. We assist national stakeholders to manage gender-aware elections, whether that means ensuring all women can reach a ballot box or protecting women candidates from electoral violence. New leadership skills equip women who serve in parliament, civil society or elsewhere as highly effective champions of change.

A first in Moldova: Laura Bosnea is one of two Roma women to be elected as local councillor in the town of Rascani after receiving UN Women-supported training. Photo UN Programme ‘Women in Politics’/Ramin Mazur
A first in Moldova: Laura Bosnea is one of two Roma women to be elected as local councillor in the town of Rascani after receiving UN Women-supported training. Photo: UN Programme ‘Women in Politics’/Ramin Mazur

Roma women make history

In the 25 years since independence, not a single Roma woman had ever run for office in the Republic of Moldova until history was made in 2015. Two Roma women won seats in local elections and a record seven ran for office. One successful candidate was 28-year-old Laura Bosnea. When she first decided to run, local political party leaders advised her not to bother as women were better suited to be home with their children or working in the bazaar rather than in politics. While the Roma are highly marginalized as a community, Roma women also face deep gender discrimination.

8

gender-responsive constitutional reforms were completed

32

new laws were adopted in 2015 alone

15

new gender equality committees in parliaments were created in countries where UN Women works

Blanca Arguella, congresswoman from Ecuador, makes a statement at a Parlatino general assembly meeting. Photo Courtesy of Parlatino
Blanca Arguella, congresswoman from Ecuador, makes a statement at a Parlatino general assembly meeting. Photo Courtesy of Parlatino

A region commits to gender parity

The Parliament for Latin America and the Caribbean, known as the PARLATINO, has put its region on track for ‘parity democracy’. After three years of advocacy and expertise provided by UN Women, the assembly, representing 20 countries and three territories, drafted and approved in November 2015 a new regional provision guiding national parliaments to achieve gender equality and parity in decision-making. The resolution defines a new model of an inclusive state aimed at ending all forms of inequality and exclusion. For example, it will require countries to eliminate remaining gender biases in legislation, provide resources to close gender gaps and ensure that men and women are equally represented in parliaments, the judiciary and the executive.

Allow me to highlight the critical role of UN Women in facilitating the exchange of best practices that could help us learn from each other’s successes and collectively promote the advancement of women’s rights.”

Statement by Brazil, UN Women Executive Board Annual Session, June 2015
Around Nigeria’s general elections, the Women’s Situation Room received more than 7,000 calls from the public and election monitors combined, reporting incidents ranging from voting complaints to gender-based violence. Photo: UN Women/Ikechukwu Atta
Around Nigeria’s general elections, the Women’s Situation Room received more than 7,000 calls from the public and election monitors combined, reporting incidents ranging from voting complaints to gender-based violence. Photo: UN Women/Ikechukwu Atta

Innovation in elections

Since 2011, UN Women has supported the implementation of Women’s Situation Rooms in Africa with various partners, including the Angie Brooks International Centre. The Women’s Situation Room is a comprehensive citizen engagement effort that focuses on the role of women and youth in keeping elections peaceful and participatory. During 2015, in Nigeria’s Women’s Situation Room, 40 youths answered over 2,700 calls from the public over two days. In addition, 300 women were deployed to 10 states and reported nearly 5,000 incidents of election-related unrest, gender-based violence or voting complaints. Eight nationally renowned women leaders mediated by engaging political leaders and security personnel to respond. Police and electoral commission officials were stationed in the Women’s Situation Room to immediately resolve many of the issues that arose.

Las mujeres de Nariño en la política local

Lucía del Socorro Basante

Photo courtesy of Lucía del Socorro Basante

SDG 5: Gender equality Lucía del Socorro Basante, 60, is a lawyer and the only woman Councillor in Pasto, in the Department of Nariño, Colombia. She was elected in October 2015, shortly after obtaining the Political Leadership with a Gender Perspective diploma developed by UN Women and provided to 143 people, primarily women, in the municipalities of Pasto, Ipiales and Tumaco. Her work is related to SDG 5, which seeks to ensure full and effective participation of women and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life.

Lucía del Socorro Basante: “I ran as a candidate and I won! The process has been really successful... with seven women reaching city halls.”

“I was scared to become a candidate [in the Department of Nariño, Colombia], despite all my years of experience as a lawyer. Fear paralyses you. The fear that male councillors will raise their voices, the fear of not being capable, of being in men’s territory. More is demanded of us and we are fewer, because we have fewer opportunities. You can feel the weight of the machismo— I feel it!

UN Women’s project gave us insight into the reality of women’s participation in local politics, through figures and statistics, highlighting why there are no women in the Assembly, why in the Pasto Municipality Council there is only one and in a number of municipalities in the Department [State] there are none, and why we only have one female senator and one representative in Parliament. The different socioeconomic causes: fear and that ingrained sense of absolute responsibility for the home as if we didn’t have partners. These are all preconceptions that can be broken!

I ran as a candidate and I won! The process has been really successful in Nariño, with seven women reaching city halls. We didn’t manage to get any into the Provincial Assembly but we must now push for the Senate too and strengthen existing leaders. Local authorities should support this process in their development plans, generating spaces for female participation. The law should be changed— there should be 30 per cent participation of women elected, not just on lists. If not, there’s no difference. Knowledge and freedom of speech will help us break the chauvinist tendencies that are so powerful in our country.”

Leadership and political participation and the flagship programmes