Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer today discussed the political and economic power of women in a spirit of realistic optimism.
“Democracy that Delivers for Women” Conference, Ms. Verveer noted that women-Led ouncils deliver much-needed public services more effectively.
“We know that progress for women and progress for democracy go hand in hand. Political and economic realities are intertwined.” -Ms. Verveer
According to Ms. Verveer, women’s political participation has been slowly improving. She noted that in the last ten years, the rate of participation in Parliaments has grown from 13% to almost 18%.
She stated that currently there are fewer than 20 women heads of state or government, and women hold about 16% of ministerial portfolios.
“Let me state this reality another way, women are 1/2 of the population yet hold 1/5 of the positions in national governments. They are significantly outnumbered in the chambers of parliaments, provincial councils and more often than not missing from the negotiating tables where conflicts are to be resolved.” -Ms. Verveer
She pointed out that all too often decisions that affect women, their families and societies are made without women having a voice.
According to Ms. Verveer, in the South Pacific, female political participation is marginal at best. In Papua New Guinea, there is one female parliamentarian out of 109 members.
“Why should we care? For one, democracy without women is a contradiction in terms. Many of you may be familiar with the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Report. It looks at the equality of women and men in a given country in four areas: access to education, health survivability, political participation, and economic security.” -Ms. Verveer
She stressed that when women are discriminated against in the political arena, their experiences, talents and perspectives are shut out of political decisions, and democracies and the prospects for a better world are shortchanged.
She highlighted that according to the World Bank, increases in female participation in government leadership correlate with decreases in corruption.
Ms. Verveer pointed out that she has seen first-hand the differences women make when they are empowered politically. She added women target public resources to benefit the community and are responsible for considerable gains at the local level.
She underscored that women must also be at the table in peacemaking, peace negotiations and work on post-conflict reconstruction.