It’s International Women’s Day. Let’s celebrate successes. In the past two decades women MPs have gained ground in nearly 90% of 174 countries. Electoral quotas in more than 120 countries have underpinned this success.
Since 1995 the number of parliaments where women occupy more than 30% of the seats has increased from five to forty two.
Thirteen Parliaments have more than 40% women MPs (Twenty years ago there was just one parliament with over 40% women.)
Four parliamentary chambers have more than 50% women MPs
and Rwanda, has more than 60 % women MPs.
Since 1995, when the UN Beijing Platform for Action on women’s empowerment was adopted, the global average of women in parliament has increased from 11.3 per cent to 22.1 per cent.
The Americas have made the greatest progress. The Americas now have the highest regional average of women MPs in the world.
The percentage of women MPs climbed from 12.7 per cent in 1995 to 26.4 per cent in 2015.
Nine countries in the Americas region have more than 30% women MPs. In 1995, there were no legislatures with 30%. In addition, three countries have more than 40 per cent women MPs and one country – Bolivia – has 53.1 per cent women MPs.
The three countries from the Americas in the top ten of IPU’s world rankings in 2015 are: Bolivia, Cuba and Ecuador.
Ecuador has made the largest gains in the region in the past twenty years, increasing women’s representation by 37.1 percentage points to reach 41.6% women MPs in 2015.
There was a more modest increase in the USA, which saw the percentage of women in the US legislature rise from 10.9 per cent in 1995 to 19.3 per cent in 2015.
Europe ranks second in regional averages for women in parliament.
In 20 years, the average percentage of women MPs in Europe has increased from 13.2 % in 1995 to 25% in 2015.
Seventeen European countries now have more than 30% women MPs. In 1995, there were just five countries with more than 30 per cent women MPs.
Andorra has achieved total gender parity in parliament at 50/50. Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Spain have more than 40% women MPs.
Sweden has elected more than 40 % women MPs to every parliament since 1994.
Other notable successes have been Spain, France, Portugal and Italy, with rises of between 15.9 and 25.1 percentage points in the number of women MPs. Legislative quotas are behind the progress.
Eastern Europe has a lower average than Western Europe mainly due to the unpopularity of quotas as a relic of former regimes. Balkan States have proved to be an exception. Slovenia, Serbia, and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia all have more than 30% women MPs through the adoption of quotas.
The only country in Europe with fewer women MPs in 2015 than in 1995 is Hungary.
Sub-Sahara Africa has achieved some of the most dramatic breakthroughs. Africa currently has the third highest regional average for women MPs. In the past 20 years, often in post-conflict situations, the percentage of women MPs increased from 9.8% cent to 22.3%.
Twelve African countries have over 30% women MPs compared to none twenty years ago. Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles and South Africa have more than 40% women MPs. Rwanda has achieved 63.8 % women representatives in parliament.
Asia has the fourth highest average at 18.5 per cent of women MPs. In 1995, Asia too had no parliament with more than 30 per cent women MPs. Today Timor Leste has 38.5% women MPs. However, both Nepal and Afghanistan are close at 29.5 and 27.7 per cent respectively. Singapore, meanwhile, has seen one of the biggest jumps in women’s representation over 20 years with an increase of 21.6 percentage points.
Mongolia and Bhutan have also seen notable spikes in figures.
In the past two decades there were minor increases to both houses of parliament in India, though the overall percentage remains low.
The Arab region. In 1995, there was no Arab State with 30% women MPs. Now Algeria has 31.6% women MPs and Tunisia has 31.3 per cent.
In the past two decades women gained suffrage in Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. So far these gains have not been reflected in political representation.
The Arab region has the second lowest regional average for women MPs, nevertheless, the number of women MPs in the Arab region rose by 11.8 percentage points to 16.1 per cent between1995-2015.
The Pacific remains the region with the lowest average for women in parliament. Since 1995, it has seen an increase of 9.4 percentage points to 15.7 per cent today. The progress is largely due to gains in Australia and New Zealand. New Zealand, has 31.4% women in its lower house.
In 1995, there were no countries in the region with 30% women MPs. Australia’s lower house has seen the largest increase in women MPs from 8.8 per cent in 1995 to 26.7 per cent in 2015.
Among the Pacific Island States, Fiji has the highest proportion of women MPs at 16%.
Although Micronesia and Palau both appear on the lists of countries with no women MPs in 1995 and 2015, Palau has had women during the 20-year period and still does in its upper house. Micronesia, however, has never had a woman MP. In 2015, the Tongan and Vanuatu Parliaments again become all-male institutions.
I have based the statistics in my blog on The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) annual analysis of statistics and trends on women in parliament released ahead of International Women’s Day on 8th March. The IPU Review this year provides an overview on progress and setbacks since the Beijing Platform.
In 1995 at the UN Fourth United Nations Conference on Women in Beijing the target was for at least 30% women in parliaments. The IPU’s Women in Parliament: 20 years in review has identified a rising trend in efforts to make 50% the new target for women’s participation in parliament.
IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong. Says, “Political action and will must remain a constant if we are to successfully tackle the gender deficit in politics. There is no room for complacency.”