Despite women accounting for more than half of the population in the world there is a slow pace at achieving gender parity in parliaments and politics
Speaker Rebecca Kadaga meets Dr. Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, Speaker of the Bangladesh Parliament. To Kadaga's right are MPs Mukoda Zabwe and Mourine Osoru.
Women legislators of the Inter Parliamentary Union have voiced concern over the need for gender parity in politics saying it is essential to democracy and achieving Sustainable Development Goals.
Meeting under the Forum of Women Parliamentarians in Dhaka, Bangladesh on Saturday, 1 April 2017, the IPU legislators said gender equality had been its long standing priority.
"It is now widely recognised that gender equality is a key element of democracy. It makes our institutions more legitimate and better equipped to make decisions in the interest of all citizens," said Dr. Dipu Moni, the Chairperson of the 25th Forum of women parliamentarians.
Despite women accounting for more than half of the population in the world, Moni noted that there was a slow pace at achieving gender parity in parliaments and politics.
"Worldwide, women represent only 23.3 percent of Members of Parliament and at this pace, it would take us another 50 years to reach gender parity."
Latest research by the IPU on Women in Parliament and Politics noted that France, Sweden and Nicaragua had maintained a very high level of women in their governments at 50 percent. The report noted however that five parliaments had no women MPs with 13 governments in the world having no women ministers.
The Speaker of the Parliament of Uganda, Rebecca Kadaga, expressed shock with the IPU report and wondered why countries like Finland and Honduras had slipped with regard to women representation in parliament and politics.
Kadaga said Uganda had made progress with 36.7 percent women representation in the national assembly and 22 percent women in Cabinet.
"We have a constitutional order that women must be represented in Parliament. We have done well at the Local Government level with 40 percent representation," she said. "In Parliament, my target for Chairpersons was 40% but it is at 36%. I hope that in the next Session we can do better."
Kadaga noted that the challenge of funding for women candidates in electoral politics was crucial if the trend had to be reversed. She commended government for its quota system, which she said is important for Uganda and should not be discarded.
IPU President, Saber Hossain Chowdhury, noted that a vast majority of women are poor and face difficulty in accessing financing, land and assets. "Economic empowerment of women is important and their political empowerment necessary," he said.
Over 650 MPs from 132 countries are meeting in Dhaka, Bangladesh from 1-5 April 2017. The IPU Meeting will debate how to redress inequalities so as to achieve dignity and wellbeing for all. The IPU's Standing Committee on Peace and Internal Security will also discuss the role of parliaments in preventing outside interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states.
Nobel Peace Prize laureate and children's rights activist, Kailash Satyarthi, is expected to be the keynote speaker during the opening session of the debates on Sunday. The 136th IPU is being hosted by the Bangladesh Parliament.
Kadaga is leading a delegation of Members that include, Latif Ssebaggala (Kawempe North), Raphael Magyezi (Igara County West), Osoru Mourine (Arua Municipality), Mukoda Zabwe Julie (Mayuge), and Francis Mwijukye (Buhweju County).