Updated: May 13, 2022
By today you will probably have seen some version of this woman's profile, shared across many of the world's media during this past week.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg has passed. She was the first woman jurist to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. And today I honour her, not for her political success but for her outstanding role as champion of the principles of equality and women's rights.
It's over a century now since women in my country of New Zealand were first in the world to win the right to vote. So with the ensuing passage of time, what is the current condition of women of the world?
Wikipedia conveys the extremely discouraging news that even n this modern era women generally remain under-represented in most countries.
It is only within the last two decades that most female prime ministers and presidents have taken office.
In many of these countries, women have had inadequate opportunities in social participation, especially in striving for political rights and for power in government and related institutions. So even though women are increasingly being politically elected to be heads of state, inequality persists,
However, it may be surprising to learn that it is Rwanda which has the highest number of women in political power. This runs counter to many myths about the capacity of women in general and black women in particular.
As this new reality for women becomes ever more widely accepted, what does this foretell about the future capacity of all nations where women's voices have been previously silenced?
The genie has been let out of the box and will never be allowed to return. Political gender equality in industrialised democracies has grown tremendously in the past 50 years. More women are running for, and being elected to, national parliaments than ever before.
Despite this success in women’s representation and the emergence of high profile women in politics around the globe, women are still under-represented in most parliaments, with an overall world average of 23.6 percent.
As a consequence, the growing representation of women is increasingly taken for granted. However, the real struggle for equal representation remains.
As half the population, it is important that women appear in parliament in the same number as men. This presence is essential both for democratic and symbolic reasons. Research shows that women MPs are seen as role models, encouraging other women to engage in politics and increasing their political interest and knowledge.
In his timely and encouraging address to the UN General Assembly after his oath of office, Secretary-General António Guterres encouragingly committed to full gender balance in the UN secretariat for all high-level positions, including under-secretaries-general, assistant secretaries-general, envoys and special advisers.
There is growing evidence that women's leadership in political decision-making processes improves the processes. This is because women are shown to demonstrate political leadership by working across party lines through parliamentary women's caucuses – in even the most politically combative environments - by championing issues of gender equality, such as the elimination of gender-based violence, parental leave and childcare, pensions, gender-equality laws and electoral reform.
But most of all, the change has to come from you and me as individuals, because real change begins with the individual. Individually and collectively we must rise to embody the ideal relationship between women and men;
“The world of humanity has two wings - one is women and the other men. Not until both wings are equally developed can the bird fly. Should one wing remain weak, flight is impossible”.
- Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá 227