GLOBAL | summer 2003
A report on women's political participation around the world
A new report by the United Nations Development fund for Women (UNIFEM) shows that although women have progressed relatively slowly in the last two years in the areas of education, literacy and employment, there have been encouraging signs of improvement in women's legislative representation.
The report, called Progress 2002, shows that 11 countries have reached the benchmark of 30 percent women in parliament: Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Finland, Norway, Iceland, the Netherlands, South Africa, Costa Rica, Argentina and Mozambique. Rwanda and Uganda aren’t far behind, with 25.7 percent and 24.7 percent, respectively.
On the other hand, in the United States, France and Japan, women's shares of legislative seats are 12 percent, 11. 8 percent and 10 percent, respectively, lagging behind those of 13 developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa, which is experiencing the greatest regional poverty in the world. On the whole, women are still largely absent from the world's parliaments, accounting for only about 14 percent of members.
The overall increase in women’s share of seats in parliaments was attributed mainly to political measures in several countries, where quotas were legislated or adopted on a voluntary basis. The goal of increasing women's political participation is a long-standing one in the international community, and the target of 30 percent representation in key decision-making positions has been agreed on at numerous international conferences in the last decade.
Noeleen Heyzer, executive director of UNIFEM, reiterated the need for women’s presence in political decision-making positions. "There is much more to be done to ensure that women are accepted as equal partners in key decision-making processes."