In honor of UN International Day of Parliamentarianism, Women for Women International celebrates the amazing women in political leadership all over the globe who have set trailblazing standards for human rights. Future generations are heavily impacted by important political decisions made today, and women’s participation in public service is essential for stronger, more equitable communities and nations.
Women’s power is greatly limited when it comes to decision making worldwide. According to the United Nations, only about 25 percent of the world’s national parliament members are women and only two countries have reached gender equality (50 percent or more women) in their local governments. In this blog, we will be discussing how maximizing women’s political participation and leadership can transform lives for millions of women.
What is “women’s political power?”
Women across the world depend on women leaders to advocate for them. Women’s political power creates a bond across communities and nations for women to rely on each other’s strength.
"Women’s political power creates a bond across communities and nations for women to rely on each other’s strength."
Women have a right to participate actively in civil society by voting in elections, being elected into political office, and playing a decision-making role in issues which affect them most. But, millions of women are kept away from civic roles due to cultural norms or their governments, especially in the world’s most conflict-affected areas. In some countries, there are no women in national leadership.
Women’s political power and leadership can be shown at any level, either through casting a vote or speaking to international crowds. Each layer of women’s leadership is crucial to closing the gap on issues that disproportionately affect women such as gender-based violence, economic inequality, and access to education. This is because women leaders use a “gender lens” when making decisions, meaning they consider the issues women and girls face and propose solutions to specific challenges. This creates a ripple effect through families, communities, and countries.
How does women’s leadership promote peace building in war-torn areas?
In thousands of peace agreements from 1990-2019, only a small fraction mentioned women and girls. Less than half of that mentioned violence against women, a large component of most conflicts that devastates families and communities.
Everyone is affected when women are excluded from the peace building process in the world’s conflict zones. As central caretakers from the family, women play a large role in the daily lives of those around them. Women’s position gives them the skills needed to make durable decisions that last, especially in peace agreements. When women’s organizations participate in peace agreements, they are over 60 percent less likely to fail in the long run.
Women in powerful leadership positions tend to resolve crises by focusing on social issues that benefit communities at large such as education and healthcare, and are less likely to resort to violence in conflicts. Other than their advanced knowledge of day-to-day life, women also play a large role in gathering intelligence and deterring potential security risks in war-affected countries.
What can we do to maximize women’s political power and leadership?
Support women’s leadership aspirations in politics, organizations, and business.
Women have a proven ability to lead communities and nations, but many of them lack the resources to turn their dreams into reality. Fostering women’s aspirations gives them the ability to be strong agents of change and inspires other women to also follow in their footsteps to lead.
We see it every day in our Stronger Women, Stronger Nations program. Women realize their own power through skill building, vocational training, resource provision, and access to community networks in safe spaces dedicated to helping women fulfill their potential.
Anyone can play a part in supporting women leaders, either by buying from women-led businesses (you can learn practical steps to maximize women’s financial power here) or playing a role in our operations. You can even sponsor a sister currently taking part in our program.
Invest in women running for political positions.
Currently across the world, there is a historic number of women running to lead in office. Women running for office make issues women and families face an utmost priority, but they need our help in the democratic election process. Anyone can take action by donating, volunteering, or voting for women leaders.
According to UN Women, at our current rate, women will not reach equality within national government positions worldwide for another 40 years. The power of women can’t wait; these estimates stall progress on gender equality such as the elimination of gender-based violence, parental leave and childcare, pensions, gender-equality laws, and electoral reform.
Uphold the power of women currently in office.
When women rise to the top, they often face discrimination, stereotypes, and in some instances, community resistance due to social norms. Continual support is key to make sure women don’t just make it to the table but continue to have their voices heard when they take their seats at it. Double standards often play a part in politics and business for women, and women can be judged due to reasons outside of their control. When women do express their opinions to civil society, they are held to a much higher standard than men. In order to combat this inequality, we must provide continuous care for women leaders.
Increased training for communities in order to deter harmful stereotypes towards women also plays an important role. Programs such as our men’s engagement program play a role in shifting unwritten rules that marginalize women, even women leaders, who have reached a place of power. In our program, men are taught about gender equality and then taught how to lead discussion groups about women’s rights with other men in their communities.