By Tereza Neuwirthova.
On the joint occasion of the International Women’s Day, the 65th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) , as well as the Dutch Parliamentary Elections, the Ambassador of Albania to The Netherlands, H.E. Ms. Adia Sakiqi organised a webinar for the Women Ambassadors Group as coordinator of the association. The online discussion that was organised in collaboration with Gender Concerns International, focused on the gender parity in governance and political leaderships.
In line with the “Women in Decision-making” theme of the 65th CSW, the webinar emphasised the related issue of existing structural barriers to women’s candidatures and political leadership roles. The keynote speaker of this event was Ms. Sabra Bano, the director of Gender Concerns International, and the Head of Mission of the women’s organisation GEOM (Gender Election Observation Mission). GEOM represents the largest female international team of election observers in action since 2008, which observes the elections according to international instructions and methodology. Remarkably, GEOM has observed the elections in Pakistan, Myanmar, Morocco, Tunisia, as well as the 2020 elections in Belarus and Myanmar from afar. The organisation funds its projects and missions through funding received from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In her presentation, Ms. Bano outlined the extraordinary work that the GEOM team has done on the ground by advocating for women’s political participation, especially in electoral spaces. The mission of GEOM is to identify the hindrances that exist in the systems in a number of countries, in which the system does not allow for an equitable women’s electoral participation. Therefore, the organisation has developed the #EenopEen Campaign (1:1) to overcome unfair electoral practices and increase women’s access to electability.
Notably, in the 2021 Dutch parliamentary elections, 10 out of 37 parties are headed by a women, which is a great achievement in comparison to the previous elections, but also to many other countries. However, according to Ms. Bano, the experience shows that the main structural problem in the Netherlands is the candidature listings, an issue which requires an overhaul that would address the electability of women.
This is the aim of the “Vote for Women” campaign in the Netherlands, promoting the emerging consensus for a better political participation of women. Election Observation Missions have very promising effects on the gender initiatives of other civil society actors and organisations in many of the countries observed, and can eventually bring about changes in the governmental structures as well. What is more, the media are also very important agents of this change by submitting reports and recommendations to commissions.
In the words of Ms. Bano; “legislative gender parity in candidacy needs to become a norm, people should not think about the gender perspective when voting, and it should be based on the quality of the candidate, not whether the person is a man or a woman.”
After the presentation on the most noteworthy recent developments as well as achievements with regards to women’s participation in political leadership sphere, an interactive discussion with the attending women ambassadors ensued. This questions and answers part brought a fruitful discussion on a number of topics related to gender parity and female empowerment. For instance, H.E. Dr Hissa Alotaiba Ambassador of UAE remarked the quota system established in her country, which offers a partial solution to increasing women’s representation in the political sphere. H.E. Ambassador Sahar Ghanem of Yemen shared her views on the importance of the support of local communities and women’s organisations for enhancing the position of women in political spaces.
Furthermore, the discussion touched upon issues such as deep fakes and initiatives to ensure women’s safety, as well as legal ways of increasing female representation. The Ambassadors of Canada H.E. Lisa Helfand as well as Uganda Ambassador, H.E. Mirjam Blaak-Sow contributed with the examples from their countries.
After a debate rich on valuable contributions, H.E. Akia Saqiki emphasised the importance of GEOM’s work on the pressing issues raised, and expressed a hope for a positive influence of the Dutch elections on the future position of women in political spaces.
Among the ladies ambassadors present at this event were H.E. Ambassador Dr Hissa Alotaiba of UAE, H.E. Lisa Helfand Ambassador of Canada, H.E. Mirjam Blaak Ambassador of Uganda, H.E. Sahar Ghanem Ambassador of Yemen, H.E. Aiga Liepina Ambassador of Latvia, H.E. Dubravka Markovic Ambassador of Croatia, H.E. Elizabeth Ward Ambassador of Panama, H.E. Laura Dupuy Lasserre Ambassador of Uruguay, H.E. Ksenija Milenkovic Ambassador of Serbia, H.E. Isabelle Berro-Amadei Ambassador of Monaco, H.E. Katerina Sequensova Ambassador of Czech Republic, H.E. Kaili Terras Ambassador of Estonia, H.E. Paivi Kaukoranda Ambassador of Finland, H.E. Rosa Batoreu Ambassador of Portugal.