- A total of 7 developing countries, with Rwanda and Mozambique in the lead, rank among the 17 top performers with more than 30 percent of women parliamentarians (MPs), a new report shows. Rwanda now holds the "world record" with 48.8 percent of women in its Lower House, while the Mozambican parliament is number two in Africa, although somewhat behind the Nordic countries.
This was informed in the new World Map of Women in Politics (2005) published by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women (UNDAW). The report concludes that many developing countries now are closing in to the earlier lead by northern European countries regarding women representation in politics.
Ten years after the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, progress is steady but slow. Between 2000 and 2005, the proportion of members of parliaments in the world who are women has risen from 13.4 percent to 15.7 percent. In a major change since 2000, Rwanda now holds top place on the chart, with 48.8 percent of women in the Lower House of parliament and 34.6 percent in the Upper House.
Mozambique comes on second place in Africa, with 35 percent of the seats in the new parliament being occupied by women and being one of the few countries on earth where the head of government is female, according to reports by the Portuguese language service of afrol News. "At the moment, the country has a female Prime Minister, six women ministers, for vice-minister and to governors," said Sansão Buque, Mozambique's National Director on women's issues.
Presented yesterday at UN Headquarters in New York, the IPU map is the result of a global survey conducted by the IPU that gathers data on the number of women in both the legislative and executive branches of government as of 1 January 2005. It is an update of a similar map published in 2000.
According to IPU's comments to the map, "the case of Rwanda testifies to measures taken by post-conflict countries to ensure women's participation in decision-making bodies." Rwanda's constitution sets a minimum of 30 percent for women in parliament and in the executive. Other post-conflict countries - Burundi, Afghanistan and Iraq - have followed suit, developing mechanisms to ensure that a minimum number of women take part in decision-making bodies.
The parliament of Sweden, where results have also improved since 2000, now has second place, closely followed by the other Nordic countries. The Rwanda-Sweden duo illustrates another general point that emerges from this year's map, according to IPU. "Developing countries - Rwanda, Cuba, Costa Rica, Mozambique, Argentina, South Africa and Guyana - are almost as likely to be among the top performers as developed ones."
Indeed, sub-Saharan Africa is not longer lagging behind the richer north regarding women representation in politics. Both Mozambique and South Africa now have more than 30 percent women in their parliaments and a long list of African countries are following suit. Only in most of North Africa, women MPs still remain a seldom sight.
There is however hope in North Africa. The biggest change from the 2000 to 2005 maps entails the doubling of the percentage of women MPs in the Arab world - from 3.5 percent to 6.5 percent. Although only a few countries account for much of this improvement - for example, Morocco climbed from 4 women MPs to 38 and Tunisia from 21 women MPs to 43 - the upward trend is likely to continue with the results of elections in Iraq and of political reforms in a number of countries.
However, the performance of the North Africa and Middle East region is still well below the world average and "will therefore continue to require particular attention," IPU notes. Apart from the improvement in the Arab world, IPU especially noted the progress in sub-Saharan Africa, where the situation in 2000 already was relatively positive.
To provide as complete a picture as possible of the role that women occupy in today's political world, the 2005 map also presents data on the number of women in ministerial positions. Sweden, with 52.4 percent of women ministers, tops the chart here together with Spain (50 percent). This makes Sweden virtually the only country in the world that has fulfilled the principle of gender parity in politics.
What, according to IPU, is most disappointing in the data on women ministers is that they continue, for the most part, to be assigned social portfolios such as children and women affairs, social affairs, education and health. Women are still much less likely than men to occupy an economic portfolio, to be Minister of Defence, or to be their country's top foreign affairs representative.
In other important political posts, women's participation remains low all over the world. Only 8.3 percent of the world's parliamentary speakers are women, surprisingly one third of those come from Caribbean countries. Very few Heads of State are women, and no African country is headed by a woman.
This low percentage of women in the highest positions was "disappointing," IPU noted. "It confirms the persistent obstacles and cultural prejudices that many societies still nurture against women," throughout the world.
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