The recommendations endorsed Monday were made in a Commonwealth handbook and a report on increasing women’s political participation in the Caribbean and African Commonwealth countries.
The Commonwealth Women’s Forum has endorsed a set of recommendations for getting more women into political leadership, one of which is developing a gender equality code of conduct for political parties and requiring them to field a specified minimum number of women candidates.
The participants also recommended reforming electoral laws that put female candidates at a disadvantage as well as establishing independent media regulatory bodies with legislative power to effectively monitor and censor negative campaigning.
The recommendations endorsed Monday were made in a Commonwealth handbook and a report on increasing women’s political participation in the Caribbean and African Commonwealth countries. They will be presented to leaders attending the Commonwealth Head of Government Meeting in London this week.
In the Commonwealth Caribbean, women make up 50 per cent of the population, but hold just 19 per cent of seats in parliaments.
In Africa, there has been a promising increase in women’s representation in parliament, from 19 per cent in 2004 to 26.6 per cent in 2016, but still falling short of the Commonwealth’s 30 per cent goal. Among the Commonwealth regions, only the Americas have managed to reach and surpass this goal with 31.2 per cent female parliamentarians.
The Head of Gender at the Commonwealth Secretariat, Amelia Kinahoi Siamomua said the research lays bare the many challenges facing women in politics, particularly those in patriarchal societies who are hardest hit by negative election campaigns, limited financial resources and gender biases.
“Our reports paint a vivid picture of some of painful experiences that deter women around the Commonwealth from entering politics. They are being branded as ‘too emotional’ when they advocate with political passion and are subjected to verbal abuse about their appearance, children, family relations and past intimate relations. They are forced to endure character assassination on social media, which is especially excruciating in tight-knit small states,” she said.
At the meeting, Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand said: “The numbers of women in leadership are pretty woeful. 7.2 per cent of Heads of State are women. 5.2 per cent of Heads of Government are women. Women make up 23.3 per cent of members of parliament globally. At the current rate of progress, it will take us 99 years to reach gender parity in parliament. This is pathetic”.