There are many issues for women as Representatives. Here I am going to discuss gender issues in women as Representatives.
Women as Representatives
It is no denying the fact that women are generally under-represented as parliamentarians in the world which requires their more equitable representation worldwide to accurately reflect the composition of society and to ensure that women’s diverse interests are taken into account.
Although women play important leadership roles in the community and informal organizations, their representation in public office remains considerably lower than that of men.
The international community has made a number of commitments to rectify the underrepresentation of women in parliament. For example, the equal participation of women and men in public life is one of the cornerstones of the 1979 United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Inequality between men and women in positions of power and decision-making was one of the twelve key areas identified in the landmark 1995 Beijing Platform for Action.
The widely recognized minimum benchmark to ensure a critical mass of women parliamentarians has been set at 30%. As of 1st May 2015, however, the proportion of women in parliaments around the world stood at 22.1% of the total number of parliamentarians globally, about a 4 percent increase over the past 5 years. This is still falling short of the critical milestone of achieving a minimum of 30 percent female representation in politics – the target which helps to ensure the presence of a critical mass of women in politics.
Increased women’s representation in the government can empower women. Increased women’s representation in government is necessary to achieve gender parity. This notion of women’s empowerment is rooted in the human capabilities approach, in which individuals are empowered to choose the functioning that they deem valuable.
Women, as the conventional primary caretakers of children, often have a more prominent role than men in advocating for children, resulting in a “double dividend” in terms of the benefits of women’s representation. Female representatives not only advanced women’s rights but also advance the rights of children. In national legislatures, there is a notable trend of women advancing gender and family-friendly legislation.
This advocacy has been seen in countries ranging from France, Sweden, and the Netherlands, to South Africa, Rwanda, and Egypt. Furthermore, a number of studies from both industrialized and developed countries indicate that women in local government tend to advance social issues. In Pakistan and India, for instance, greater women’s representation has corresponded with a more equitable distribution of community resources, including more gender-sensitive spending on programs related to health, nutrition, and education.
An updated picture of women’s representation in parliaments is depicted as under:
Women in Parliament
- As of January 2015, 10 women served as Head of State and 14 served as Head of Government.
- Rwanda had the highest number of women parliamentarians worldwide. Women, there have won 63.8 percent of seats in the lower house.
- Globally, there are 38 States in which women account for less than 10 percent of parliamentarians in single or lower houses, as of January 2015, including 5 chambers with no women at all.
Wide variations remain in the average percentages of women parliamentarians in each region, across all chambers (single, lower and upper houses). As of January 2015, these were: Nordic countries, 41.5 percent; Americas, 26.3 percent; Europe excluding Nordic countries, 23.8 percent; sub-Saharan Africa, 22.2 percent; Asia, 18.5 percent; the Middle East and North Africa, 16.1 percent; and the Pacific, 15.7 percent.
Other Domains of Government
As of January 2014, only 17 percent of government ministers were women, with the majority overseeing social sectors, such as education and the family.
Women’s representation in local governments has made a difference. Research on panchayats (local councils) in India discovered that the number of drinking water projects in areas with female-led councils was 62 percent higher than in those with male-led councils.
In Norway, a direct causal relationship between the presence of women in municipal councils and childcare coverage was found.
Out of 189 countries, the major English-speaking democracies are placed mostly in the top 40% of the ranked countries.
New Zealand ranks at position 27 with women comprising 32.2% of its parliament, Australia (24.7% in the lower house, 38.2% in the upper house) and Canada (24.7% lower house, 37.9% upper house) rank at position 46 out of 189 countries.
The United Kingdom is ranked 58 (22.5% lower house, 22.6% upper house), while the United States ranks 78 (17.8% in the lower house, 20.0% in the upper house). It should be noted that not all of these lower and/or upper houses in national parliaments are democratically elected; for example, in Canada members of the upper house (the Senate) are appointed.
However, these seats lapsed, and the elected governments of both Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif could neither revive these seats nor increase their number. These seats were revived and substantially increased to the number of sixty (60) by the government of General Pervez Musharraf in 2002.
As of today, we have seventy-four women parliamentarians in the 12th legislature of Pakistan which makes 21.64 % of the total representation in the National Parliament.
Out of these 13 were directly elected and 61 were elected on reserved seats for women. The women’s representation in Pakistan’s Assembly is greater than that of India and many Asian, European, and African countries.
When perusing the pages of history, we become informed that Begum Shaista Suhrawardy Ikramullah and Begum Jahanara Shahnawaz were the only female representatives in Pakistan’s first Constituent Assembly, which convened in August 1947.
Currently, in Pakistan’s National Assembly (lower house) women hold 70 seats out of 342 (20.5%). In the Senate (upper house) women hold 17 seats out of 100 (17%). In 1988, Benazir Bhutto was the first woman to be elected as prime minister of Pakistan. She is considered the first woman to head the government of a Muslim country.
For women’s full and equal participation in decision-making, structures, and processes at all levels of governance to be attained, a strategic framework is needed which explores ways of overcoming the cultural and structural barriers to gender balance in political representation.
Three strategic methods are suggested to address the cultural barriers in the full exercise of women’s citizenship: awareness-raising, capacity-building, and research and documentation. Advocacy for policy reform in political parties, electoral systems, and campaign finance, on the other hand, is recommended as the best possible way to overcome structural obstacles.
The current level of women’s representation in the national and provincial legislatures of Pakistan may not be ideal but it is satisfactory when compared to the World at large. The main issue which needs our consideration at present is the effectiveness of representation of women legislators apart from their number.
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