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Global and regional efforts to enable the conditions to advance gender equality

Global Gender Equality. Image: GDJ

The advancement of gender equality and the political empowerment of women has been for many years a struggle that is faced not only at the highest political levels, but that has its roots in the basic power relationship among men and women in all interactions in life.

The way we understand and apply those relationships is surrounded by stereotypes that indicate the role that men and women are supposed to play in order to comply with the social norm, which has proven to be a disadvantage for women when we specifically address the issue of political empowerment and when trying to achieve the full and equal participation of men and women in political life.

According to the results of a series of regional consultations on Gender Equality and Political Empowerment of Women that International IDEA, together with the Community of Democracies and UNDP, held throughout 2017, women are facing the following challenges as they are increasingly aspiring to a more engaging participation in public life:

  1. Women have less access to financial resources to consolidate themselves as political leaders.
  2. Women are positioned in disadvantageous positions on internal listings within their political parties.
  3. The assumption is that women’s personal life will not allow them to engage in political processes.
  4. There are less capacity building opportunities for women, and this result in women that have the full intention to participate and engage in political life, but do not have the necessary tools to succeed.
  5. Elected women are bullied and pressured by their peers, which results in physical and psychological violence, increasing the level of dissertation of incumbent women elected for public office.
  6. Women that are in power and remain in office are often influenced by a man that exercises power through them.

These Regional Consultations were held in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Arab World and the Americas, and it is interesting to see how these challenges appear across the board and become global issues that need to be address systemically. It goes beyond the formulation of legal and policy instruments, and it includes behavioral components such as changing the language used to differentiate men and women, and how young men and women, children and girls are educated around stereotypes.

Currently, there are international and regional legal and policy instruments in place to tackle the main challenges we face to advance gender equality. These instruments provide an understanding of the efforts that are made at the global level, which permeate into national legal frameworks that enable a multilayer environment for the advancement of gender equality.

The fact that Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals framework has dedicated Goal 5 to address the issues related to gender equality is a reaffirmation that there is still a way to go to achieve equality among men and women. It shows that we need a global commitment that permeates the national and local levels, which are identified as the spheres where there is a conscience, and even regulatory frameworks to empower women and enable conditions for their political participation, but where we have not achieve a full change in behavior and culture.

Key stakeholders are working together to achieve Goal 5 and to guarantee that women can develop their potential to work hand-in-hand with men for better societies. For the work ahead, International IDEA, through the Inter-Regional Dialogue on Democracy, developed the Report on Regional Organizations, Gender Equality and Political Empowerment of Women, which provides an exhaustive analysis of the main global and regional legal and policy instruments for the advancement of gender equality, and provides a series of policy recommendations, applicable at all levels.

This report is available as a contribution to the ongoing work on this field and gathers the input from relevant stakeholders. Among the main recommendations:

  1. Work at the regional level does not replace work at the national level, but it can complement it and strengthen it by using both top-down and bottom-up approaches.
  2. There is a growing need to develop and use appropriate qualitative and quantitative indicators to report on progress; and embark on a regional assessment of the status of women.
  3. An effective coordination and cooperation mechanism is required with the objective of permitting synergies between organizations.
  4. Political parties should be at the center of any strategy to promote women’s political empowerment, given their central role in candidate selection and policy development.
  5. Quota laws must be strengthened, and their requirements made more specific, such that parties are unable to, to exploit loopholes in their design.
  6. While quotas laws have resulted in more women entering the political arena, legislation alone is not enough – cultural change is also required.
  7. Targeted campaigns and programs should be developed to promote the leadership of young women, support the training of female candidates for office, and build alliances among key stakeholders.
  8. More work needs to be done to address problems with political financing and media coverage.
  9. Parliaments should consider introducing laws on political violence and harassment against women.
  10. The shrinking space for civil society in the region has been on the increase. Time and again, recommendations note that the current structure of the global and regional organizations is outdated, and that reform must occur so that civil society, and not just member states, has a voice.


About the authors

Luis José Consuegra
Resource Mobilization and Partnerships Officer
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