Michelle Bachelet Highlights Quotas to Accelerate Women’s Political Participation

Date: 02 Mar 2012

More coverage and photos of Ms. Bachelet's activities at CSW56 »

Remarks of Michelle Bachelet Executive Director of UN Women at the Press Conference on Women in Politics, 2 February 2012

[Check against delivery.]

Good morning! I am pleased to join my colleagues from the Inter-Parliamentary Union to present our joint map of Women in Politics 2012.

I would like to thank IPU President Abdelwahad Radi and Secretary General Anders Johnsson for their commitment to women's political participation.

UN Women is pleased to work with the IPU on research and this map, and also in a few other areas. We support an online resource center called I Know Politics, where women can find information and networking contacts to help them run as candidates and to get elected. This site is terrific. In addition, we are designing joint programmes in five countries to support women's political participation.

In 2012, UN Women is placing special emphasis on women's political participation and economic empowerment. This is so important for many reasons. Today I will name just two.

First, women's participation in politics and the economy reinforces women's civil, political and economic rights. Secondly, women's participation strengthens democracy, equality and the economy.

As we see in the new map: Women in Politics: 2012, the number of elected women Heads of State and Government in the world has increased from 8 in 2005 to 17 in 2012.

The number of women ministers has also increased, from 14.2 percent in 2005 to 16.7 percent today.

If we look at the total percentages, we see that the Nordics have the highest percentage of women ministers at 48.4 percent. The second highest percentage of women ministers is in the Americas at 21.4 percent, up 3 points from 2005.

The region with the third highest percentage of women ministers is sub-Saharan Africa at 20.4 percent, up 3 percent since 2005.

In Europe the percentage of women ministers is 15.3 percent. In the Pacific, the percentage of women ministers is 11.5 percent, followed by Asia at 10.5 percent, and the Arab States at 7 percent.

The two regions that have stayed virtually the same in terms of the percentage of women ministers since 2005, and have not seen increases are, the Arab States, which has the lowest percentage, and Europe, with the exception of the Nordic countries that have the highest percentage of women parliamentarians worldwide.

The map also tells us that the percentage of women in parliament now stands at 19.5 percent, which represents half a point increase from two years ago. There are more women serving as presiding officers of parliament. That number has gone up from 13 percent in 2010 to 15 percent in 2012. The number of countries with more than 30 percent female parliamentarians has also gone up from 26 in 2010 to 30 today.

Attaining 30 percent of women in parliament is a target in the Beijing Platform for Action from the Fourth World Conference on Women. So that is something that we need to keep pushing for.

We know that temporary special measures, such as quotas, accelerate women's participation in politics. Out of the 59 countries holding elections in 2011, 17 of them had legislated quotas. Women gained 27 percent of parliamentary seats in these countries compared to 16 percent in countries without quotas.

Today I call for stronger commitment by leaders to increase women's participation in politics. I encourage countries to use quotas to expand women's participation in parliament. It is also good to open public debate about the right of women to take part in government and to hold public office. Democracy grows stronger with the full and equal participation of women.

As I said, my top priority for 2012 will be to make a renewed push for women's political participation and economic empowerment. UN Women will support countries in expanding the number of women holding public office in line with the resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly last December.

UN Women will support women's movements, work with parliaments to amend laws to include gender equality perspectives, and support reforms of electoral laws to facilitate the incorporation of women in elections as voters and candidates.

UN Women will advise on the adoption of laws that include the quota system, support the training of women candidates and work with governments to mainstream gender in ministries and service delivery.

All of this work is always done with partners such as IPU and others.

We hope that for next edition of Women in Politics 2014 we can present a real change in the figures with more women in parliament and more women Presidents and Prime Ministers.

I thank you.