Research and experience has documented that gender diversity yields better outcomes in political decision-making and that women’s role in local and national political processes greatly improves democratic outcomes. Women’s right to equal voice and participation in political life has a strong foundation of international commitments - from the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) to the Beijing Platform for Action and more recently the Sustainable Development Goals. Yet women continue to be under-represented across every area of political life – including in political parties, being part of inclusive constitution-making processes, as candidates, elected representatives, voters, etc. As of June 2017, women make up only 23.4% of national parliamentarians, 7.9% head of state, and 5.2% head of government, with unknown numbers in local government.
Gender balance in politics, however, can only be achieved if men work side by side with women to share the responsibility in breaking harmful cultural norms and practices, as well as the institutional, structural and legal barriers that hinder women’s equal and influential political participation. Proactive work by male champions, in partnership with women, is necessary to establish an environment that empowers women’s political participation at all levels of decision-making.
Men’s partnership is required in addressing issues that hinder women’s political engagement, including: structural barriers, discriminatory practices and violence that prevent women from exercising their right to vote; unequal access to education, networks and resources; discriminatory institutional practices and laws that prevent women from being recruited, nominated for standing for office, or getting elected; institutional discrimination against women in office resulting in their not being appointed to committees where they can have influence; violence, sexism and harassment against female candidates and female elected officials, and negative gender-based stereotypes perpetuated by the media.
Men can help lead the charge with women in enacting legislation that promotes women’s rights, repealing laws and policies that discriminate against women and limit opportunities. They can also support the advancement of women in decision making bodies by advocating for temporary special measures. In political parties, men and women can work together to champion women’s participation including nominating more women, having hard targets or quotas for women in leadership roles in the party, and ensuring women have the same professional development opportunities as men to enable their advancement within the party.
Beyond legal reform, quotas, and capacity building, gender balance in politics requires a reconfiguration of gender dynamics and power relations, breaking down social norms and stereotypes that limit women’s participation in decision-making. It requires men to question and challenge the status quo, to change practices, and to lead other men in doing the same. It also requires a normative shift for women who may contribute to sustaining gender stereotypes and narrow gender identities regarding leadership roles for women as well as men.
Men can be powerful advocates in their community to promote women’s role in political life, speaking out about the importance of women’s role [in political life], advocating for women to run for office, supporting registration of female voters, or canvasing for female candidates. Male leaders can also utilize media appearances to make targeted statements advocating for change, raising awareness on the lack of women’s representation and leadership in their communities, or supporting the realization of women’s right to participate in elections.
As fathers, men can help re-shape gender identities by emulating shared decision-making and leadership in the home, and speaking to their children about the importance of women in politics. Fathers also play a fundamental role in cultivating a culture of equality by sharing the duty of caregiving for children and by setting equal standards for boys and girls within the family, thus opening opportunities for women and girls to participate in public life.
Objective of the e-Discussion
This e-discussion is a platform to promote an active and fruitful dialogue on how men can be catalysts for enhancing women’s participation in politics with the goal of drawing out best practices and lessons learned.
Structure of the e-Discussion
The e-discussion is co-convened by iKNOW Politics and the International Gender Champions, a leadership network that brings together female and male decision-makers to break down gender barriers, from 06 September to 12 October 2017. Public officials, political party leaders, civil society activists, government and international organizations representatives, academia and technical experts are invited to contribute with their experiences by answering to one or more of the below questions. The iKNOW Politics team and the International Gender Champions teams look forward to an informative knowledge-sharing exercise on this topic.
The e-discussion will be supported halfway through with a Facebook Live of a roundtable discussion in Geneva on 2 October 2017 on the topic with male and female International Gender Champions based in Geneva. Stay tuned!
- How do you explain the low representation of women in decision-making around the world, whether in village development committees, parliaments, governments, or intergovernmental organizations?
- How can men as leaders take meaningful action to foster an increase in women’s representation in decision-making bodies? How can men as husbands/partners, fathers, sons, and other family members, support women’s role in political life? Share concrete examples.
- What strategies and approaches have been successful in engaging male champions in shifting the gender disparity of women in decision-making bodies?
- What potential challenges do male champions face in being active and vocal supporters of women in politics (or in women’s empowerment and gender equality)?
- What can be done to catalyze and encourage more male champions of women's political participation? Please share any initiatives or good practices that you are aware of.
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