Women Speakers of Parliament seek new ways to boost gender equality

Female Speakers of Parliament from around the world will explore innovative ways to speed up progress towards gender equality when they gather in New York on 29-30 August.

The 10th Meeting of Women Speakers of Parliament, organized by IPU, will focus on key areas including improving gender balance in parliaments, ending violence against women and securing sufficient budgets to make progress in achieving gender equality. With just a few weeks to go before the adoption of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at a UN summit in September, the women Speakers will also examine ways to ensure the SDGs are translated into action in parliaments around the world.

Nobel Peace Prize-winner Jody Williams will give the keynote speech on the opening day, sharing her views on the role women can play in bringing change and on priorities for gender equality.

The event, attended by 32 of the 46 women Speakers in the world – the highest number ever to participate – will be an opportunity to assess the overall progress made in empowering and supporting women in parliaments and politics in general since the first Meeting of Women Speakers of Parliament was held in 2005.

Despite a growing acknowledgement in the past decade that gender equality is critical to democracy and development, current IPU figures show that only 15 per cent of the world’s Speakers are women, while statistics from the start of 2015 reveal that women accounted for only 17 per cent of ministers and 22 per cent of MPs.

In addressing the challenge of gender equality, the Women Speakers will be keen to look at how to change mindsets as well as policies. IPU supports the use of quotas to boost gender balance in parliament and stresses the importance of working in partnership with men to that end.

By continuing to stress the need for gender equality as the Millennium Development Goals did before them, the SDGs will provide fresh impetus for change on the issue. The significant challenge of implementing and monitoring the SDGs will mean all Speakers will play a critical role in leading the parliamentary response.

Discussions on these issues at the Women Speakers’ Meeting will feed into the World Conference of Speakers of Parliament, which takes place immediately afterwards at UN headquarters in New York.

The annual meeting of female Speakers provides women in the highest decision-making positions of parliament with a regular forum to exchange ideas and experiences on gender issues which are of interest to their national and international agendas.