Tag Archives: Women in parliament

EGYPT: Women Get Help on Road to Parliament

Egypt elected the first Arab woman to parliament in 1957, but in the half century since, the most populous country in the Arab world has gone from being a leader in women’s political participation to a lagger.

“Many Arab countries went ahead, but Egypt stayed behind,” says Hoda Badran, head of the Cairo-based Alliance for Arab Women (AAW).

Female parliamentary representation has declined since 1984, when women occupied 36 of the 458 seats in the People’s Assembly, the lower house of Egypt’s parliament. Women secured just nine of 454 seats in the last legislative election in 2005. Only four women were elected, the rest were appointed by the president.

Experts attribute the decline in political participation to social and cultural barriers imposed by a patriarchal society, reinforced by a wave of Islamic fundamentalism that swept across the Arab world in the 1980s. Conservative groups held that women should stay at home and manage the family, and sought to impose many limitations on women.

“Political parties, which are supposed to school women, do not give women training, do not put them on their lists and have not backed their campaigns,” Badran told IPS. “At most they just put them on a women’s committee, segregating them from other committees and the mainstream work of the party.”

The few women who do run face obstacles in raising campaign funds, and are vulnerable to the violence and thuggery that typically accompany elections in Egypt. Female candidates have reported being physically intimidated by their opponents, or subject to smear campaigns against their reputation.

New legislation and civil society programmes aim at increasing female representation in Egypt’s parliament, but it could take decades to dismantle the social and cultural obstacles. Unfortunately, says Badran, progress usually requires direct intervention.

Since 2003 Egypt has seen its first female judge, a female university president, and several female cabinet ministers. All were appointed by President Hosni Mubarak in an effort to kickstart women’s political participation.

Earlier this month, Egyptian legislators passed a bill that allocates 64 parliamentary seats for women, increasing the number of seats in the People’s Assembly to 518. The “positive discrimination,” to be applied in general elections due in 2010, ensures women will hold a minimum of 12 percent of seats in the next legislature, up from 1 percent in the current one.

Quota systems have been applied in over 70 countries in Europe, Asia and Latin America to develop the capacity and competency of women in decision-making fields.

Egypt applied a 30-seat quota for female MPs in 1979, but repealed it in1988 after its constitutionality was challenged. Women’s organisations have applauded the reintroduction of the measure, though some have voiced concern about its form and implementation.

Nehad Abu El-Komsan, chairwoman of the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights (ECWR), has lobbied for a quota for 15 years, but worries that the current system, where women will campaign individually in specially designated constituencies, only reinforces the notion that women should compete separately from men. She favours a proportional list system, where each party would field a minimum number of female candidates as part of its electoral slate.

“A proportional system would guarantee that women are not isolated; they would be part of the group,” she says. “And this would force the parties to look for active women candidates, and to train women and support them at all levels.”

The new quota system is to be applied for two legislative terms, or 10 years, which some argue is not long enough to change deep-rooted conservative views on women’s roles. “It needs at least a generation to change attitudes,” says Abu El-Komsan. “You cannot expect it to happen overnight.”

On the positive side, Badran points out, the quota will guarantee women more representation in the lower house – hopefully enough to have an impact. “The issue here is what kind of women are going to be elected to these 64 seats,” she says. “Our role as NGOs will be to work very strongly and eagerly between now and the election …”

An AAW programme launched last year is preparing to send a group of women to Britain to receive training as campaign managers for female political candidates. The “nucleus of campaign managers” will work with 20 women selected from various Egyptian political parties, who will be trained and supported in their candidacy in the upcoming election.

“We are creating a group of professional campaign managers who will manage the campaigns of the 20 women as a start,” says Badran. “(They will) be working afterwards for any kind of election, not necessarily for parliament, but also for labour unions and the various syndicates.”

The National Council for Women (NCW), headed by first lady Suzanne Mubarak, established its own project to enhance women’s political participation in 2003 through its Center for the Political Empowerment of Women (CPEW).

The UNDP-backed programme aims at developing the skill set of potential female candidates, improving the legislative and oversight knowledge of women MPs, and raising awareness of the importance of women’s participation in political life. A separate programme to enhance the performance of women in parliament and local councils was added in 2006.

“(Local) councils are the preliminary institutions for nurturing cadres, who will be capable of handling the responsibilities of leadership, because of their presence among people at the grassroots level,” Mubarak said during a conference in March.

Why is it important to support female parliamentary candidates? Badran sees women’s political participation as critical to addressing key developmental issues. “There is a correlation between the number and quality of women in parliament and the type of legislation which comes out of the parliament,” she says.



Women parliamentarians keen to see Women’s Reservation Bill through

brinda karat

After President Pratibha Patil declared that the passage of the Women’s Reservation Bill in the parliament is among the top ten priorities of Prime Minister Manamohan Singh’s government, women politicians are hopeful that their 14-year-old demand will be fulfilled soon.

  “Women have been waiting for this since the last fourteen years. We have heard many assurances but we hope that this time the government is going to deliver on the assurance. As far as my party is concerned, 100 percent support is assured the day they bring the bill into parliament for passage,” Communist Party of India politburo member Brinda Karat said.

Karat also said that the 50 percent reservation for women in village governing bodies, Panchayats should be implemented at national level.

Congress party leader Girja Vyas said the women’s reservation bill is on top of the Congress led government’s agenda.

“The manifestos of many political parties talk about women empowerment. Especially the Congress Party has it in their manifesto. It is in the 100 days agenda of the party so it has to be fulfilled,” Vyas said.

Amar Singh, general secretary of regional Samajwadi Party, however, echoed the sentiments of his party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav.

Yadav had said that his party would not be able to support the bill in its present structure.

“With the present structure of the bill, we will not be able to support it. The government may still pass it because they have the required number. But we will not support it. The careers of many establish leaders will be destroyed as their seats can be lost due to women reservation,” Singh said.


Women Win Seats in Kuwait Parliament

kuwaiti women

(The women elected to the 50-member national assembly in Kuwait are, from left, Aseel al-Awadi, Rola Dashti, Salwa al-Jassar and Massouma al-Mubarak)

Women won four seats in the Kuwaiti parliamentary elections over the weekend, a historic first and one of several electoral surprises that appeared to reflect a deep popular frustration with the political deadlock in the oil-rich gulf state of Kuwait.

Liberal Kuwaitis celebrated the landmark with fireworks and parties after the elections on Saturday. Women gained the right to vote and run for office in 2005, but none had been elected until now. Many conservatives resisted the idea, and in recent weeks Islamists urged voters not to elect women to the 50-seat assembly.

The elections came two months after Kuwait’s ruler, Sheik Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah, dissolved Parliament to end its latest standoff with the cabinet. It was the third time in three years that there had been such a standoff. Each time, lawmakers accused cabinet members of misconduct or corruption, creating a noisy spectacle and cabinet resignations. Sheik Sabah has consistently reappointed as prime minister his nephew, Sheik Nasser al-Muhammad al-Sabah.

The tensions have slowed economic reforms in Kuwait that many analysts view as essential.

Such tensions seem likely to continue, despite some noteworthy electoral shifts, political analysts said. Sunni Islamist candidates, who gained ground last year in the most recent election, lost some seats on Saturday, results showed. Liberals and independent candidates slightly increased their representation.

But many incumbents retained seats, including some who are widely considered to be responsible for the confrontations with the executive branch.

Voter turnout was down, and some popular incumbents won by narrow margins, in an apparent sign of discontent with many members of Parliament over the political turmoil.

“The main theme of this election was frustration,” said Ghanim al-Najjar, a newspaper columnist who is a professor of political science at Kuwait University. “People have a negative attitude toward the M.P.’s.”

Kuwaitis are proud of their relatively democratic political traditions, an exception in a region dominated by autocracies. Parliament sets the emir’s salary and is the nation’s sole source of legislation.

But many believe that their country, one of the world’s leading oil exporters, has fallen behind its autocratic gulf neighbors Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Some Kuwaitis are eager for public investment and economic reforms, and say the constant parliamentary battles are to blame.

The election of women to the assembly is a separate matter and a source of intense pride for many Kuwaitis.

The winners were Rola Dashti, an American-educated economist; Salwa al-Jassar and Aseel al-Awadi, who are both professors; and Massouma al-Mubarak, who in 2005 became the country’s first female cabinet minister.

Some Kuwaitis said the election results might be less important than the announcement of the new cabinet in the coming weeks.

“If it’s the same cabinet and the same prime minister, we will get the same result again,” said Nasser al-Sane, an Islamist and former Parliament member.


video source: AlJazeera English

OnlineWomenBulletin 14 March 2009

she said

“The challenges that women face in accessing politics are immense. Prejudices and cultural perceptions about the role of society are among the greatest obstacles to women’s entry”

Sen. Pia Cayetano, Member of the Philippine Senate and President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Committee for Women Parliamentarians

wip news header



Women Hold Just 18 Percent of Parliament Seats

Women hold just 18 percent of the seats in parliaments around the world, a 60 percent increase since 1995 but a long distance from equality with men in national legislative bodies, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) said Thursday in its annual report card. “We still feel that progress is slow”, said Philippine Senator Pia Cayetano, the President of the IPU Committee of Women Parliamentarians, stressing that on average fewer than one in five legislators is a woman. “The challenges that women face in accessing politics are immense,” she told a news conference. “Prejudices and cultural perceptions about the role of society are among the greatest obstacles to women’s entry.” During 2008, parliamentary elections and renewals took place in 54 countries and women’s representation increased to 18.3%—-up from 17.7% last year and 11.3% in 1995, the IPU reported.

Women’s Groups Slam Outside Pressure on Election Deadline

Soqosoqo Vakamarama, Fiji’s largest women’s group, condemns any “outside” attempt to impose an election deadline on the interim administration. Commenting on the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group’s (CMAG) decision on Fiji, the group’s general secretary, Adi Finau Tabakaucoro says Fiji is a sovereign state and as such, a decision on a general election date is for the government to make. She says if international entities like CMAG are setting deadlines for elections, then they should also provide resources for the interim government to help them  comply.

Women in Syria Play Growing Role in Opposition Ranks

Fida al-Hourani, 51, has become a heroine for the opposition since she and a number of other activists were sentenced last year to 30 months in prison on what observers say were politically-motivated charges. The only woman among 12 democracy activists to be sentenced in a trial that ended in October, Hourani was called “a star amidst eleven planets” by a commentator on an opposition website. The activists were convicted at the First Damascus Criminal Court on vaguely defined charges, including “weakening national sentiment” and “spreading false or exaggerated news which would affect the morale of the country”. During the defense phase of the trial, Hourani called for greater freedom in Syria.

Financial Constrainst Push Women Out of Politics

The First National Vice Chairperson of the Ghana’s Convention People’s Party (CPP), Mrs. Araba Bentsi-Enchill, has observed that financial constraint is a major obstacle to women’s active involvement in politics. According to her, the spirit of volunteerism that characterized politics some decades ago has dwindled and therefore politicians have to pay for every service that is offered them by individuals when they go on campaigns and that is pushing a lot of women out of politics. Recognizing the role of women during the independence struggle, she said some women played vital roles, adding that most women who entered politics in the First Republic were not literate but were traders or market women who financed political party activities and supported their male counterparts.

Delegation Represents Iran in UN Conference on Women

An Iranian delegation has participated in the 53rd session of the United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women which opened Tuesday in New York USA. The five-member delegation is led by Elham Aminzadeh who is the aide to the Iranian foreign minister for women’s affairs. The world even this year is focusing on the theme of AIDS and the way it affects women. Talking in the opening ceremony of the event, Aminzadeh said Iran wasready to share its scientific achievements in the area with the international community. She said Iranian scientists have already gained very remarkable achievements in fighting AIDS and some of their studies have even resulted in discovery of a medicine which could control the disease.

The Philippines Has the Most Number of Women in Top Posts

The Philippines ranked first globally in terms of having the most number of women in senior management positions in corporations, based on a survey conducted by accountancy and advisory firm Grant Thornton International. The survey, which covered 7,200 privately held businosses (PHBs) in 36 economies, said 47 percent of senior corporate posts in the Philippines are currently occupied by women. This way above the global average of 24 percent. Tailing the Philippines at second spot is Russia with 42 percent, followed by Thailand with 38 percent, Poland with 32 percent and China with 31 percent.

Women Members Playing Active Role in Pakistan’s Parliament

Minister for Information and Broadcasting Sherry Rahman said on Thursday that women members of the National Assembly of Pakistan have proved that they were active in the House as the male legislators. Speaking as chief guest at the launch of “Five Years Report on Performance of Women Parliamentarians in the 12th National Assembly”, Rahman said that the book was a pioneering effort to highlight the role of women MNAs . She said it was a great achievement that 17 percent women parliamentarians moved 42 percent of the total private members bills in the House.




Women Embrace Earth Hour, Men Find It A Turn-Off

Almost two-thirds of women took part in Earth Hour but men, especially those aged over 55, were less convinced by the event, new research shows. More than a third of Australians were influenced by Earth Hour to lessen impact on the environment, according to a survey of almost 3,400 adults in the days after March 30, when people were asked to turn off their lights and appliances in recognition of need for action against human-induced climate change. Similar research in the United States showed 36 million people or 16 percent of the population, joined in the World Wide Fund for Nature event, as did 49 percent of Canadians, including 85 percent in the nation’s biggest city, Toronto. Australian households with children were more likely to switch off power. Single people living alone were the least interested, although just over half still took part.

Coming Soon: Mass Migrations Spurred by Climate Change

A growing body of evidence, including analyses from military experts in the United State and Europe, supports the estimate that by mid-century, climate change will make vast parts of Africa and Asia uninhabitable. Analysts say it could trigger a migration the size of which the world has never before seen. Some of the big questions remain unanswered: How many people will really move? Where will they go? How will they go? Will they return? But experts estimate that as many as 250 million people—a population almost that of the entire United States—could be on the move by 2050. They will go because temperatures are rising and desertification has set in where rainfall is needed most. They will go because more potent monsoons are making flood-prone areas worse. They will go because of other water events caused by melting glaciers, rising seas and the slow and deadly seepage of saline water into their wells and fields.

Kazakhstan Parliament Approves Kyoto Protocol

The Kazakh parliamen approved the Kyoto Protocol on fighting global warming making it the last signatory to the UN-led treaty to ratify the measures other than the United States. Kazakhstan, whose economic growth over the past decade had been the strongest in Central Asia, had resisted ratifying the landmark climate change conventions. “This is an important step for Kazakhstan. For ten years we couldn’t reach a decision, because for the past ten years the government had more important things to consider, like the financial code”, Environment Minister Nurlan Iskakov said, “But these ten years didn’t pass in vain. Now the document will be sent to the president for him to sign and if he passess it into law it will attract more investments to the country.”

Gender Equality Can Save Lives

At a meeting at the end of this year for a critical UN Climate Change conference in Copenhagen, attendees should bear in mind that the mortality rate for women during climate-related natural disasters is an average of 14 times higher than for men, gender-rights group say “Existing inequalities determine who is dying,”, said Rebecca Pearl, coordinator of the Global Gender and Climate Alliance. After the 2004 Asian tsunami, the level of women’s mortality was in the range of 55 to 80 percent, with Indonesia the hardest-hit. Meanwhile, recovery grants often went only to male heads of households because most women didn’t own any land. In 1998, when severe flash floods hit Bangladesh, women’s mortality reached 90 percent. “The reasons behind this are that women were not taught how to swim, and they were not allowed to leave their households. So when the flood happened and their men weren’t there, they didn’t want to leave their children behind or their culture didn’t permit them to leave their households without their husbands,” Pearl said.

Flooding, Food and Climate Change in Bangladesh

In Gabura, Bangladesh, the dam burst before dawn. The men of the village knew it could happen. All day and night they trudged by the hundreds, shirtless and shoeless, up a slippery hill, hauling baskets of mud on their heads. It was Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of daylong fasts. But the men had only a few hours to try to strengthen the mushy barrier that protected their homes from the dangerously rising tide. Together, in between grueling shifts, they broke fast and prayed for mud to hold. When the dam finally collapsed, there was nothing to do but run. Water risks are a part of life in this low-lying country dominated by the reaches of Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers. But scientists and environmental activists said the September flood, which happened during a lunar high tide, was deeply unusual for the time of the year. Even more worrisome they say, is that climate change is making the unusual more routine. Locals say the result is a massive upheaval of traditional village life.

The World’s Water and Climate Change

World water supplies may be severely stressed in coming decades because of global climate change linked to the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and oil. The US West is one of the places that has the most to lose with water scarcity, but many other regions around the world will face similar challenges. Here are some facts and projections on water and climate change—Temperatures are likely to rise by between 1.1 to 6.4 celsius (2.0 and 11.5 Fahrenheit) and sea levels by between 18 cm and 59 cm (7 inches and 23 inches) this century, according to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on climate change—Climate Change model simulations for the 21st century see increased precipitation at hight latitudes and tropical areas; decreased rainfall in sub-tropical regions.

Asia Needs to Change Climate Policy Game

Asia needs to wake up to the threat of global warming and take a leading role in climate change negotiations or risk having rich nations dictate policies to curb carbon emissions, a leading policy expert said on Friday. Simon Tay, Schwartz Fellow of the US-based Asia Society, said the current UN climate negotiations under the Kyoto Protocol had become bogged down because of deep differences between rich and poor nations on how to fight climate change. “When we look at the Kyoto regime it cannot seem to work just because it is limited to only Annex 1 developed countries,” say Tay, who is also chairman of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs. Under Kyoto’s first phase, only 37 industrialized nations are committed to cutting emissions by an average of about 5 percent from 1990 levels between 2008-2012.

other news



Afghan Women Slowly Gaining Protection

Since the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001, a more egalitarian notion of women’s rights has begun to take hold, founded in the country’s new Constitution and promoted by the newly created Ministry of Women’s Affairs and a small community of women’s advocates. The problems they are confronting are deeply ingrained in a culture that has been mainly governed by tribal law. “Simply put, this is a patriarchal society,” said Manizha Naderi, Director of Afghan Women, one of the four organizations that run shelters in Afghanistan. “Women are the property of men. This is tradition”. Women shelters have been criticized as foreign intrusion in Afghan society, where familial and community problems have traditionally been resolved through the mediation of tribal leaders and councils. But women’s advocates insit that those outcomes almost always favor the men.

Wordwide Downturn “to hit women”

The economic crisis could increase the number of unemployed women by up to 22 million this year, the International Labour Organization (ILO) says. In a report assessing employment trends for women, the ILO warns that they will not escape the downturn. The global crisis began in the financial sectors of the world’s richest countries, in jobs traditionally dominated by men. But unemployment is now spreading well beyond these sectors, the ILO says. Jeff Johnson, author of the report, says, “The sectors that were initially impacted the hardest, which were finance, insurance and real estate, construction and manufacturing were often dominated by male workers.  “But as this crisis has played out, it’s hit other sectors of the economy, service oriented sectors, wholesale retail trade which in many industrialized economies are dominated by females.”

South Asian Women Face Higher Risk of Death in Childbirth

Painting a grim picture of reproductive health in South Asia, a new World Bank report on Thursday said women in the region face a hundred times greater risk of dying during childbirth than their counterparts in industrialized countries. The report which was launched on Thursday, said countries in South Asia need to do more if they want to make adequate progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) related to women’s reproductive health. Analyzing the current state of reproductive health in five countries of South Asia—Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka—the report focuses on the major risks faced by poor women.

UN Chief Urges: End Violence Against Women

Secretary General Ban ki-Moon called violence against women an “abomination” and urged political leaders to take the lead in changing the attitudes of  men who abuse women. A year after he launched a global campaign to end such violence, the UN Chief used the UN’s International Women’s Day commemorations to report on the abuses—rape, attempted rape and beatings—that flourish worldwide. “Violence against women is an abomination,” Ban said. “It stands against everything in the United Nations charter.” The secretary-general recalled a young woman he met on his recent Africa trip who was “brutally and violently abused by four soldiers at gunpoint” in eastern Congo while fleeing fighting that destroyed her village. She is now hospitalized, suffering not only from her physical injuries but from being ostracized by her village and family because of a “false sense of shame,” he said.

World Urged to Work for Women’s Empowerment

Reiterating its commitment to gender equality, Pakistan has urged the global community to come together and strive for true women empowerment around the world. At the annual session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, Pakistan’s delegate, Shazia Marri said women were fundamental components of the global economy, regretting however that their share in the economic benefits and access to resources was not proportionate to their share in the world population. “The adverse affect of the economic crisis on women requires urgent and concerted attention and increased involvement of the UN and the donor community in all poverty reduction strategies” said Marri, Sindh’s information minister.

Iraq’s Women’s Minister to Withdraw Resignation

Iraq’s state minister for women’s affairs said Monday she plans to withdraw her resignation after receiving pledges from aid organizations to help improve women’s lives. Nawal al-Samarraie quit last month to protest the lack of resources for women accusing the government of not making women’s needs a priority. But the Sunni activist decided to return to her job after getting pledges for funds and support from international aid organizations. She also said more than 50 Iraqi women have offered to volunteer to implement the ministry’s plans. “The reason for my resignation was the lack of funds and human resources but with the new situation i think I can work,” she said in a telephone interview. Al-Samarraie said she will present her request to be reinstated Tuesday to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s office. The office could not immediately be reached for comment on whether it would accept her request.

Women Marchers Call for Jobs, Equality

Armed with pots and pans, women workers in the Philippines braved the summer heat and trooped to the streets in major cities to mark International Women’s Day calling for full employment for women, gender equality amid the global economic crisis, and the junking of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). Members of the Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL) and the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) marched on Chino Roces Bridge (formerly Mendiola) near Malacanang to demand that government help working wives and mothers laid off due to the financial crisis. APL chapters also held demonstrations in Cebu, Davao, General Santos and Cotabato cities. Some 10,000 members of GABRIELA, carrying purple, white and red banners, converged in Mendiola, called for junking of VFA  and aired concerns on the violation of women’s rights, including the increasing unemployment among female workers.