National Forum Women's Participation at the decision-making levelApr 4, 2016
WOMEN’S PARTICIPATION AT THE DECISION-MAKING LEVEL
4 April 2016
Opening Remarks by Ms. Beate Trankmann, UN Resident Coordinator & UNDP Resident Representative
H.E. Mr. Enkhbold, Speaker of the Parliament of Mongolia,
Honorable Members of Parliament,
Distinguished delegates of Citizens’ Representative Hurals,
Distinguished participants from the Civil Society Organizations and the media,
I am delighted to join you at this big gathering of women leaders. With elections less than 3 months away the Forum’s topic on Women’s Participation in decision making couldn’t be more timely.
Today is also a memorable day for another reason. Exactly 4 years ago, the Government of Mongolia and UNDP hosted a regional conference titled “Charting the path of action for political equality in Asia”, which was attended by prominent scholars and women leaders from the region, and put forward a six-point action plan to advance gender equality in politics in the Asia-Pacific region.
Since 2000, UNDP together with our UN partners and the rest of the global community has put gender equality at the center of our work, and we have seen some remarkable successes. More girls are now in school than ever before, and most regions have reached gender parity in primary education. Women make up to 41 percent of paid workers outside of agriculture, compared to 35 percent in 1990. However, gender equality in politics is still a distant reality for many countries around the world. The MDG target of 30 percent representation of women in Parliament has not been reached. As of January 2016, the world average stood at 22.6 percent. The Asia-Pacific region ranks second from the bottom (after the Arab States) with women holding on average 18.8 percent of legislative seats. In Mongolia, 14.5 percent of seats in the national parliament are occupied by women.
Increasing women’s political leadership and gender equality is a human rights issue and a moral obligation in as much as it is a development issue. A political system where half the population does not fully participate limits the opportunity for men and women to influence and benefit from political and economic decisions and progress. Current research puts forward numerous explanations for the lack of women in leadership roles, including social norms, family responsibilities, gender discrimination and the lack of female role models. The reluctance of women to subject themselves to the aggressively competitive customs of electoral politics also plays a role. We can address these challenges through conscious structural changes to political frameworks and social norms to create conducive environments that can nurture the political aspirations of women. I understand that today’s Forum will discuss these issues.
The global community adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development last year. Women have a critical role to play in all of the SDGs, with many targets specifically recognizing women’s equality and empowerment as both the objective, and as part of the solution.
Equity is indeed a core theme of the 2030 Agenda. But equity is not only about ensuring that everyone enjoys economic benefits; it is also about ensuring that everyone has an equal voice in the society, and ensuring that everyone has equal rights.
By extension, this means that in a society such as Mongolia, where women make up 50 percent of the population and have high levels of educational attainment, we not only want women to have an equal share of the economic opportunities, but also an equal voice and access to decision making positions – whether in politics, the bureaucracy or the business world.
Mongolia is holding parliamentary and local elections this year. UNDP applauds last year’s decision by Parliament to include a mandatory 30 percent quota of female candidates in the amended election law. But a quota alone will not get women elected. Political parties need to embrace women candidates and actively promote them. Women candidates need to be given more visibility and access to media, and the electoral oversight bodies have to continue enforcing compliance with the law in the registration process of political parties for elections. We also commend the Democratic Party’s decision to apply a voluntary quota for women candidates in local elections. I hope that other parties will follow a similar practice. Underrepresentation of women at the Aimag and the Capital City level deserves special attention in this regard. Over time, it would be desirable for mandatory quota to be applied in all elections whether national or subnational. And this will still only be the beginning. This Forum is an excellent opportunity to debate and start planning for those changes.
I would like to thank you all for coming to this Forum. A special thanks goes to the Parliament Secretariat and the Women Caucus of the Parliament for organizing this Forum, and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, the International Republican Institute and the Embassy of Canada for their generous support.
I wish you all productive discussions. Thank you.