How many women who work in politics do you know? How many of such men do you know on the other hand?
Did you ever choose or vote for a woman for a political or another public position? Did you ever notice that most of the people who run the local municipalities and national governments are men? Did you ever take a moment to think who is making the important decisions in your country, your work or your university?
These questions trouble me for quite some time now, and I always wondered how this situation can be changed. The search for an equal society is an important mission for many different people from a vast variety of fields around the world. Many struggles are led by different people, against phenomena’s such as racism, ethnic or religious discriminations, people that are looking for economic and social justice.
However, many of these struggles often tend to ignore a basic issue in our societies; Gender Equality. In my opinion, true social justice cannot exist without gender equality, that is to say equal opportunities for men and women.
The lack of gender equality is especially noticeable in the public sphere and in the political world.
As a former student in Gender studies, I have been following for some time now, the work of different organizations, to see how we can change the situation and which work is getting done. One of these organizations is the European Women’s Lobby, which last Wednesday on July 09, had a very interesting conference in the European Parliament in Brussels. So there I was on the bus from Amsterdam to Brussels going to the European Parliament for the first time.
The central aim of the conference was to analyze the last elections for the European parliament from a gender perspective, and to conclude the results of themain campaign of the European Women’s Lobby, the “Parity Democracy and 50/50 Campaign” (#5050Campaign).
This conference was a very good opportunity for me to learn better about the situation in European Parliament and other European states. The central goal of the 50/50 Campaign was to make the member states in the Parliament to nominate two members- a man and a woman. The fact is that there is no gender balance in the EP, and usually many states don’t nominate women.
The number of women in the EP compared to the elections in 2009, increased only in 1.25 %, meaning the number of women in the EP stands at almost 37%. If 50 percent of the European population were women, it would only make sense that 50% of the elected members in the parliament were women as well.
The 50/50 campaign was also demanding from the European commission to pass few laws to fight violence against women. In the foundation of their work lies the assumption that political leadership is central in any decision that the EP takes, which can affect directly the lives of women and men.
This is the struggle of the 21st century, these are universal challenges that many states are struggling with.
In the conference, different strong women who are working day and night in order to achieve gender equality in the EP and in their states were present. One of their goals was encouraging women in all ages to develop leadership positions. These women gave inspiring speeches and emphasized that in order to achieve gender equality there is a deep need in cultural change, which cannot just happen overnight. Yet, things are changing, and even though the 50/50 campaign did not fully succeed in all the states, it did bring up the awareness to the issue.
Cultural change, will take time, since women mostly never were in leadership positions, there are many stereotypes on what is “their social location”. Women in politics face greater problems than men do; they have more difficulties to belong in a party, or to raise money, and so on.
Women are an equal part of the society, and of the cultural change. I believe that our societies will be better only when women will be an equal part of the existing dynamics. States and companies will be more successful when women will take part of the leadership, and when everybody acknowledges the importance of women. Older women must inspire and encourage young women to want this change and to act for it. Even though girls & young women today don’t see politics as the tool to change the world, it is!
Another interesting point that came up a few times during the conference is that organizations and future campaigns should address the political parties more often than the voters, most of the public is not against this change, and the hard work is to convince the political parties themselves.
Although there is a small increase in the number of the nominated women in the EP, and in different commissions in the European Union, this is still not enough, and there is much work ahead.
The work of the European Women’s Lobby is very interesting! You can find more information about it and about the conference here: