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  • Published on: 11 Apr 2012
  • Submitted by: United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
  • More information

Road to Rio: Women 'out of sight, out of mind?
Road to Rio: Women 'out of sight, out of mind?
By UNDP Administrator Helen Clark

From Keynote Speech to the National Assembly of Wales, Pierhead Session

Today, there are only eight women heads of state ? representing slightly more than five percent of the total. This seems extraordinary in the second decade of the 21st century. The global average of women holding parliamentary seats remains under twenty per cent, which is well below the thirty per cent target set in the Millennium Development Goals. At the current rate of progress, that target will not be reached globally before 2025, and long beyond that in many countries. That is too long for women and the world to wait.

The proportions of women in national legislatures in the world?s regions range from roughly 22 percent in the Americas and Europe (with the 42 percent in Nordic countries pushing the average figures up) to 20.2 percent in sub-Saharan Africa, 17.9 percent in Asia, 14.9 percent in the Pacific, and 10.7 percent in the Arab States. Five countries ? all in the Gulf and the Pacific ? have no women parliamentarians at all. Only sixteen percent of ministers are women, and most often they are allocated portfolios like those for social welfare, women, and children.

When women are ?out of sight, out of mind?, meeting their needs does not get prioritized. Conversely, when there is a critical mass of women decision-makers, the issues which previously went unaddressed can become priorities.

Rwanda provides a compelling example of a society where the empowerment of women as decision-makers has played a key role in its transformation. Quotas helped place Rwanda in the first place in the world for the proportion of its parliamentarians who are women. A thirty percent quota for women MPs was established in the country?s 2003 constitution. Rwandan women now hold 56 percent of seats in their parliament?s lower chamber. In addition, 32 percent of ministerial positions are held by women.

Having women well presented in Rwanda's political landscape has put the country on the path to sustainable development. Other countries have to follow suit if we want to achieve a truly sustainable future. The time for talking about what to do next is over. It is time for action and it is time for change for women.

Talk to me: How can we ensure that women are better represented in leadership and decision-making world-wide? Join the discussion


To read the full Keynote Speech to the National Assembly of Wales, Pierhead Session, please visit:
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