1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Gender Equality: Striving for Justice in an Unequal World


From Chapter 9 – Women in public office: A rising tide

One resolution in the Beijing Platform for Action to have enjoyed marked progress is that calling for women’s greater access to public office. Even if governments have been uneven in their responses and there is still far to go, nonetheless the entry of more women to representative office is an achievement that deserves celebration as a contribution to deepening democracy around the world.

Although the average proportion of women in national assemblies has only increased from 9 per cent in 1995 to almost 16 per cent in 2004, a level far short of the Beijing call for equality, 16 countries have managed to put 30 per cent or more women into their national legislatures. In 2003, Rwanda achieved a world record with a parliament in which almost half of members were women, a higher proportion than in the highest-ranking OECD country. In the same year Finland achieved the simultaneous tenure of a woman head of state (president) and head of government (prime minister)—another “first” for elected women in political life. However, such achievements remain exceptional. In the absence of measures such as affirmative action to boost numbers of female candidates, the level of women in politics worldwide remains low, increasing at the painfully slow pace of only 0.5 per cent a year

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