Progress and Setbacks in Women's Political Towards 2021

The data for 2021 suggest progress in the number of parliamentary political positions and governmental functions held by women, but also setbacks in terms of an increase in the number of countries with no women in government.

The Woman Post | Diana Sedano Valdes

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Gender issues have become a political flag, even if it does not always translate into real efforts. Every year, UN Women publishes a report about women in politics in collaboration with the International Organization of Parliaments (IPU). This report is released in January. Recently, UN Women re-tweeted some of the data published earlier this year. It again highlights how the accelerated growth trend in terms of women holding political offices slowed down over the last year. In the publication, the first country mentioned was Nicaragua through its flag; however, President Alberto Fernández retweeted it by implying that it was Argentina. Beyond the lack of knowledge or confusion of the patriotic symbols, which is striking is the importance that gender issues have received over the last years.

The data for 2021 suggest progress in the number of parliamentary political positions and governmental functions held by women and setbacks in terms of an increase in the number of countries with no women in government. Compared to 2019, it went from having 9 countries with no positions with women to 12. Among these: Saudi Arabia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, P. P. D. R. of Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, and Yemen.

Moreover, although the number of women Heads of state and government and the number of women ministers reached a historical high in the previous year, the increase compared to the previous year is less than 1%. Currently, 9 countries have a woman Head of state and 13 have a woman Head of government. Globally, 152 countries have a Head of state and 193 have a Head of government. That leaves 5.6% of women in the first category and 6.7% in the second. However, these figures are driven by the Global North. Indeed, 56% of women Heads of state and 54% of women Heads of government are in Europe.

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The report points positively that the number of women ministers in all regions has risen. In the Americas, the United States registered the greatest increase in equity within government positions. However, Nicaragua leads the region with almost 60% of its ministries headed by women, followed by Costa Rica with 52%. In Asia, Mongolia was the country with the greatest change in this area, rising from 6.7% to 18.8%. In Sub-Saharan Africa, although Rwanda is the country with the highest number of women in ministerial positions (55%), Namibia stood out in its growth, rising from 15% to 39%. In Europe, the cases of Lithuania and Belgium stand out, expanding from 8% to 43% and from 25% to 57%, respectively. In the Middle East and North Africa, Tunisia progressed from 6.9% to 29.2% and Lebanon continues to lead with 31.6% of women ministers. Finally, in the Pacific, New Zealand continues to lead with 40% of ministries headed by a woman and grew by 10%.

Finally, the report addresses how positions in different government ministries continue to be biased in terms of gender. Defense and finance are still traditionally led by men, while women occupy the majority of positions associated with social and foreign affairs. Although progress is evident in the diversification and participation of women in regular men positions, the results showed that environmental issues are those in which women have the most agency.

Political commitment is the most powerful tool to reverse the trends that disadvantage women who have all the expertise to work and lead but are left behind simply because they are women. This is a paradoxical situation if we take into account the context of the pandemic crisis, in which 70% of health personnel are women.

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