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Updated: Apr 17, 2020

It's over a century now since women in my own nation of New Zealand became first in the world to win the right to vote. As we move further into a new century, what is the current condition of women of the world?

It is extremely discouraging to note in this modern era that women continue to remain considerably under-represented in most countries.

In 2013, women accounted for 8% of all national leaders and 2% of all presidential posts. Worldwide, as of December 2018, the engagement of women in politics was 43%, whilst the global participation rate of women in national-level parliaments was 24.1%. It is only within the last two decades that most female prime ministers and presidents have taken office.

In many of these countries, women experience inadequate opportunities in social participation, especially in striving for political rights and for power in government and related institutions. Even though women are increasingly being politically elected to be heads of state, considerable inequality persists.

However, it may be surprising to learn that it is Africa that leads the way. Rwanda has the highest number of women in political power.

In Ethiopia 2018 lawmakers unanimously approved nominations put forward by reformist reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed;

“Our women ministers will disprove the old adage that women can’t lead.”

Ethiopian lawmakers overwhelmingly approved the nominations of a 50% female cabinet. Its new Cabinet is now a record 50 percent female, including the country’s first woman defense minister.

“This decision is the first in the history of Ethiopia and probably in Africa.” he stated.

All this runs counter to many myths about the capacity of women in general and black women in particular.

The good news is that 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.

Although the growing representation of women is increasingly taken for granted, 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.

On 1 January 2017 in his address to the UN General Assembly, newly appointed 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.

The following quotation from the writings of the Baha’i Faith expresses 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 -Baha.


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