On Women's Day, revisiting a 21-year-old UN vow on including women in conflict resolution, and other stories
#WomenLead (Issue 88): Your weekly round-up on women in politics
Hello, and welcome to Issue 88!
It’s that time of the year! As we all get bombarded with all things pink and corporate paraphernalia (which mostly reinforces rather than shatters any gender stereotypes), here’s a gentle reminder - despite what it has become today, the International Women’s Day is rooted in a history of the fight for equal political and economic rights.
This Women’s Day, here’s a small request from us.
#WomenLead is a labour of love and hard work, and it is inspired by a deep-rooted passion for equality and social justice. If you are looking for a way to celebrate Women’s Day, you could buy a paid subscription to this newsletter and support our work. You could also choose to gift a subscription to someone! What better way to celebrate this day and month than by helping amplify a publication tracking the work and journeys of women disrupting politics, right?
And for those keeping a tab on women’s representation in politics, it is also that time of the year when the Inter-Parliamentary Union releases its annual report tracking progress made in Parliaments globally. I have had the absolute honor to work with IPU on developing the report for this year, and I am thrilled to share some major findings are in the quick updates section below! In case you missed last week’s (disturbing) edition, you can read it here.
🐌 SLOW GAINS: Women comprised 26.1 percent of all MPs around the world at the beginning of 2022, shows the just released annual report of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. This is up by 0.6 percentage points as compared to a year ago - if we progress at this rate, it’ll take another 40 years before parity can be achieved globally.
48 countries held elections last year - 28.6% women were elected among them all on an average. However, progress wasn’t even, nor unidirectional. On the one hand, Nicaragua and Mexico achieved parity in their Parliaments, and Chad, Liechtenstein, Cabo Verde, Moldova and Peru all made significant strides. On the other hand, women’s representation stagnated, even declined, in some countries.
Well-designed and implemented quotas made a critical difference, the report notes. Find the report here.
😑 BUT, BUT: And yet, in Nigeria the senate has voted against a bill that would have created an additional 111 seats in the National Assembly for women. Women currently make up only 3.6 percent of MPs in the lower house, and 7.3 percent of members of the upper house, IPU data shows. Women’s groups had been demanding that the bill be passed to improve women’s representation in the country’s politics, but alas!
Spotlight: GLOBAL 🌐🌐🌐
A month after the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in 2021, UN Secretary General António Guterres made an observation:
“This juxtaposition of violence targeting women and their rights, on the one hand, and their extreme marginalization and exclusion (from peace negotiations), on the other, still encapsulates the women and peace and security agenda in 2021.”
He was referring to the gathering of stakeholders in Moscow to negotiate “peace” with the Taliban, where there was only one woman at the table. We know well what that “peace” turned out to be, especially for Afghanistan’s women.
We are reminded of this irony as Ukraine faces the brute force of the Russian military with determination and courage. There are countless examples of how women in the country are suffering, and also how they are fighting in various ways. As we applaud these women, and take inspiration from their resolve, it is important that they are also included in any and every decision and negotiation related to conflict resolution and mitigating the humanitarian crisis that is unfolding.
News reports, however, suggest that women are again missing from the tables of conflict resolution.
From Yemen to Libya, Afghanistan to South Sudan, women’s marginalization in peace-building, security discussions and conflict resolution stands out starkly. And yet, it should not be so. Especially since the world already has had a critical tool - for more than twenty years now - to prevent such exclusion of women.
To mark this Women’s Day, we bring you a quick explainer on one of the most significant resolutions in international law: the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (S/RES/1325).
Adopted by the Security Council on October 31, 2000, this resolution recognises women’s important role in the prevention and resolution of conflict and in peace-building. This was a landmark development - the first time the UNSC recognised the disproportionate and unique impact of armed conflict on women.
The resolution calls upon countries to ensure increased representation of women at all decision-making levels in national, regional and international institutions and mechanisms for the prevention, management, and resolution of conflict.
It urges the UN Secretary-General to appoint more women as representatives and envoys, and to expand women’s role and contribution in UN field-based operations, and especially among military observers, civilian police, human rights and humanitarian personnel. The resolution encourages all actors involved in negotiating and implementing peace agreements to adopt a gender perspective, and all parties involved in armed conflict to take special measures to protect women and girls from gender-based violence, particularly sexual abuse.
“Resolution 1325 was one of the crowning achievements of the global women’s movement and one of the most inspired decisions of the United Nations Security Council. The recognition that peace is inextricably linked with gender equality and women’s leadership was a radical step for the highest body tasked with the maintenance of international peace and security.”
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, former Executive Director of UN Women
A 2015 review of the implementation of the resolution 1325 found that peace agreements that had a reference to women had gone up after the resolution had been adopted. However, the world is still to cover a large distance before the vision of the resolution can start to materialize.
The report of the UN Secretary General from 2021 found the following:
Women represented less than a quarter (23%) of all delegates in peace processes led/co-led by the UN.
Women made up just 5.2% of military troops in peace operations as of December 31, 2020 (lower than the target of 6.5% that the UN had set for the year).
28.6 percent of peace agreements of 2020 included some gender-related provisions. None of the ceasefire agreements reached between 2018 and 2020 included gender provisions.
The report also found that women’s representation in Parliaments, public administration, even Covid-19 task forces, was much lower in countries impacted by conflict as compared to the global averages.
Resolution 1325 represented a monumental victory for the women’s rights movement. The international community - often represented largely by men - did not just adopt it out of the blue. However, for that victory to truly be realised, it is important to implement the words of the resolution, and not simply iterate and applaud them.
Reflections & Reads:
‘Because women are weak’: Why some in the Philippines support a male candidate over Leni Robredo, the only woman running to be President (via Rappler)
Kenya election: sexist language shows that patriarchy refuses to give way (via The Conversation)
Threats, vitriol aimed at women in positions of power (via Associated Press)
That’s a wrap for this week! If you liked reading this edition, press the ❤️ button, and forward this to a friend/colleague or share it on your social media! Thank you! We’ll see you next weekend with Issue 89!