GENDER POWER STILL UNEQUAL IN POLITICAL ARENAS
A landmark meeting calls for greater role for women
Around the world, women politicians are out numbered four to one. Without power to make decisions regarding their own lives, women are trapped in societies where they are often subordinate and confined to outdated ideas. South Asian countries have begun legislative reforms and undertaken affirmative action, from the grassroots to the national level. Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Pakistan, for example, now have constitutional quotas in their national parliaments. But the quota system is only a temporary measure—other steps are needed.
Last July, with USAID and UKaid, our Bangladesh office brought together more than 100 women members of South Asian parliaments to debate how to strengthen women's political participation and encourage truly democratic and representative governments. During the meeting, a new network was formed to provide opportunities for exchange and to serve as a regional coordination center for activities supporting women in parliament. This network will enable women leaders to leverage their voices and influence in ways not possible when working alone. As of this writing, the Election Commission in Bangladesh has imposed a 33 percent quota for women at all levels of the political party structures by 2020; but women here must continue to work within the structures of patriarchy to ultimately create a gender balance.