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Women make up half of world leaders

September 17 2013




It will take 120 years before women make up half of world leaders and more than 50 years until women are equally represented in parliaments around the world according to a new report by the VSO.

The sheer scale of the under-representation of women across parliaments and governments will be a wake up call to all those who think that the battle for women’s rights has been won.

At a national level the divergence between male and female representation is striking. Out of 193 heads of government around the world only 13 are women whilst just one in five of the world’s parliamentarians is a woman.

There is a similarly concerning picture at a local level with only 20% of elected councillors being women and just 10 of the world’s 195 capital cities having a female mayor.

One of the central points that the report makes is that women need to be more firmly embedded in the political process not only as ‘a matter of justice’ but because ‘it is essential to making the best, most informed decisions about how to tackle poverty.’

It is estimated that two-thirds of the 1.4 billion people who live in extreme poverty are women. It is also estimated that although women perform two-thirds of the world’s work and produce 50% of all food, they receive only 10% of world income and just 1% of world property.

The report from the VSO, Women in Power: Beyond access to influence in a post-2015 world” urges the UK government to be at the forefront of achieving the UN’s next set of development goals and also ensure that it advances the UK government’s own plans to reduce world poverty.

There are further shocking statistics about the political representation of women around the world that the report highlights:

  • Women hold just 17% of ministerial positions.
  • In the highest levels of the United Nations only 29.5% of staff are women.
  • Just 35 countries have reached the benchmark figure of 30% women in parliament.

The barriers to women entering parliament that the report identifies includes: patriarchal societies and gendered social norms, political institutions and the political system itself, gendered division of labour, lower educational attainment level for girls, violence towards women, and sexual and reproductive rights.

The VSO report is informed by the experiences of volunteers and women’s rights campaigners from around the world. The VSO has worked with women in 90 countries for over 55 years.

The UK Director of VSO UK, Angela Salt, has said:

“Every day, VSO’s volunteers are seeing first-hand the barriers women face in political and public life. Women’s voices must be a part of the solution to poverty. It is about making sure women everywhere have an equal say in public decisions affecting them, their family, community and country.

“With the UN working towards a new global development agenda, it’s time for the UK to demonstrate its commitment to women’s rights across the globe. Women experience poverty in different ways to men. For example, they might prioritise installing a well in the village as they are the ones walking for miles each day to collect water.

“Women may also have a better grasp of the health needs of their community since they often act as unpaid carers for children, the sick and the elderly. Such understandings must be brought to the decision-making table if communities and governments are to make the best, most informed decisions about how to tackle poverty.”

Originally published by Left Foot Forward 

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