Photo: Vita Kwarbo / Kvinna till Kvinna

Women's equal participation

Around the world, women are underrepresented in politics, economic decision-making, peace processes and the public debate. This undermines democracy and violates women’s human rights. That is why we work with our partners to call for women’s full, effective and equal participation in society. Women’s voices should be heard and respected—everywhere.

Women’s participation today

Women make up half of the world’s population. Yet in almost every country, they are underrepresented and less likely to hold positions of power—whether as politicians, economic decision-makers, peace negotiators or participants in public debate.

Women’s representation in politics is appallingly low. On average, women worldwide hold just 20% of seats in national parliaments. In the regions where our partners operate, the figure ranges from 61% in Rwanda to a mere 3,1% in Lebanon.

The situation is even worse for peace processes. Since the 1990s, less than one in ten peace delegations have included women.

In the global economy too, women are underrepresented. The World Bank reports four out of five companies worldwide are led by male CEOs.

Traditionally, many women have turned to civil society as an alternative arena of power, outside of formal decision-making structures. Currently, however, there is an ongoing worrying trend of shrinking space for civil society. This has hit women’s rights activists particularly hard, closing off one of their only ways of influencing society.

(Un)equal participation of women

of government ministers were women as of January 2017
of seats in Rwanda's parliament are held by women. This is the highest share in the world.
women were Head of State as of October 2017.

Why is equal participation important?

Ensuring women can participate in society on equal terms as men, is first and foremost a matter of human rights. It is a matter of freedom of expression and association, of democratic values.

Research has also shown that equal participation increases the chance of achieving lasting peace. In conflict-affected regions, peace processes are more likely to be gender-sensitive where a larger share of women participates in local decision-making bodies, parliament, the economy and civil society.

Equal participation also goes hand in hand with other issues we work with, such as women’s economic empowerment and freedom from gender-based violence.

“The more political we become, the more we are targeted.”

– Quote by women’s rights activist from Egypt, from our report “Suffocating the movement”

Photo: Christopher Herwig

What we and our partner organisations do

Kvinna till Kvinna’s partners work to challenge traditional values that hold women back. They question the idea that decision-making is a task “best left to men.” They challenge power structures and promote a more equal division of child care and housework. This frees up time for women to engage in politics.

When a woman has decided to enter politics, Kvinna till Kvinna’s partner organisations can offer her leadership training and skills-building. They also encourage women to be active in civil society, as a way to gain experience that can later be useful in a political career.

Promoting gender quotas is also part of some partners’ work. When implemented correctly, quotas can be an effective way to reach equal representation, as they compensate for the structural inequality women face.

Unfortunately, women continue to face obstacles even after they are elected to decision-making positions. Many are exposed to threats, slander and abuse on a regular basis. Their ideas are often less respected than those of their male counterparts.

Our partners strive to change this and get women accepted within the system, to ensure their participation is not just equal, but also meaningful.

“Slander of female political candidates serves as an effective excluding mechanism.”

– Quote from our report Equal Power – Lasting Peace

Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/Emilja Dimoska

Our work for equal participation