Strengthening women’s political participation: An analysis of the impact of women’s parliamentary networks in Europe and Central Asia
Gender equality is fundamental to responsive and accountable democratic societies. Women’s representation in elected institutions in equal proportion to men is key to the credibility and legitimacy of parliaments, national assemblies and local governments. Yet, globally, just over a fifth of members of parliament are women.
To combat discriminatory legislation and policies and improve gender equality outcomes in policymaking, elected representatives in countries in the region have established structures and strategic plans to improve women’s political participation and gender equality. UNDP has facilitated the creation of such structures in many countries, recognizing the important role they play in empowering women as parliamentary representatives, supporting the emergence of gender-sensitive parliaments, and adopting gender-sensitive policy and legislative frameworks. The UNDP Gender Equality Strategy 2014-2017 highlights the critical importance of gender equality and women’s participation in decision-making to sustainable development, and calls for the empowerment of women as voters, political actors and decision-makers.
This paper examines UNDP’s parliamentary assistance programming and support to existing gender equality initiatives in political participation, in particular, the role and impact of parliamentary structures for gender equality in the ECIS region. It illuminates existing and planned UNDP parliamentary assistance initiatives, highlights good practice and identifies entry points for replication or scaling up. Its findings are intended to assist members of parliament and parliamentary institutions as well as civil society organizations and international organizations in advancing gender equality in parliamentary practices.
In Armenia, with UNDP support, almost 1200 local women councillors have been trained in political leadership, over 500 of whom have been elected to local office or become active in community politics.14 Two echelons have been created: the first including women supported to run for local elections, and the second including a cadre of thousands of women who have developed the political skills to run in the next local elections. UNDP promoted gender equality at the local levels of governance under two projects, “Gender and Politics in South Caucasus” (2004-2008) and “Women in Local Democracy” (WiLD) (2012-2016).