Women Heads of State and Government meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in New York on Tuesday 20th September 2022 have highlighted how women’s full and effective participation and decision-making are crucial to addressing global priorities.
The newly established UNGA Platform of Women Leaders held an event where they discussed global issues under the theme of Transformative Solutions by Women Leaders to Today’s Interlinked Challenges.
In attendance were President Katalin Novák of Hungary, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh, Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir of Iceland, Prime Minister Fiamē Naomi Mataʻafa of Samoa, Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja of Uganda, Prime Minister Evelyn Wever-Croes of Aruba, and Prime Minister Silveria E. Jacobs of St. Maarten, as well as former Prime Minister Helen Clark of New Zealand.
Making a ‘positive difference’
Recent global crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate emergency and conflicts, have shown the positive difference women’s leadership and decision-making can make in executive positions, parliaments, and public administration.
For example, data from the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and UN Women, shows that governments with higher women’s representation in parliaments adopted a higher number of gender-sensitive policy measures in response to the pandemic, including policies aimed directly at strengthening women’s economic security.
Tuesday’s event was hosted by the Office of the President of the UN General Assembly and UN Women, in cooperation with the Council of Women World Leaders (CWWL).
In his remarks to the gathering, General Assembly President Csaba Kőrösi made the case for having more women in government.
“Women’s leadership is transformative. The women leaders with us today are living proof of this fact,” he said.
“Inclusive governance can result in policies that create positive change over the long term. By integrating the views of diverse women – especially at the highest levels – governments can effectively tailor and target solutions to those most in need.”
Long road ahead
Out of the 193 countries that are UN Member States, only 28 women serve as elected Heads of State or Government.
There also is still a long way to go when it comes to the proportion of women in other levels of political office.
Globally, women comprise 21 per cent of the world’s ministers, 26 per cent of national parliamentarians, and 34 per cent of elected local government seats.
A new UN report has further revealed that at the current pace of progress, equal parliamentary representation will not be achieved until 2062.
Sima Bahous, Executive Director of UN Women, sees a strong role for the newly created leadership platform.
“When more women lead in political and public life, everyone benefits, especially in crises,” she said.
“A new generation of girls see a possible future for themselves. Health, education, childcare, and violence against women, receive greater attention and better solutions. We must find every possible way to amplify the assets women leaders bring. This Platform is an opportunity to do just that.”
‘We must act now’
The UNGA Global Platform of Women Leaders has its genesis in a September 2021 meeting between women Heads of State and Government and Abdulla Shahid, who was President of the General Assembly at the time.
Mr. Shahid underscored the importance of Tuesday’s event, given the statistics.
“At our current rate of progress, it could take 300 years to achieve gender equality,” he said. “We must act now. Accelerate investment in girls and women. Scale up efforts to empower women. Expand opportunities for girls. Eliminate gender-based violence.”
More women, more diversity
The UNGA Platform of Women leaders will also help bring visibility to women in prominent political leadership positions, according to the event’s organizers.
The critical role of women’s leadership in driving sustainable development is well documented, they added.
Countries with greater numbers of women political leaders tend to give greater attention to issues such as health, education, infrastructure, and ending violence against women.
In response to the pandemic, women leaders championed policies that addressed its social and economic impacts on the most vulnerable groups.
Data also shows that in conflict-affected contexts, women’s representation in public life brings heightened credibility to peace processes and negotiations, helping unify divided communities.
Furthermore, research has also shown that seeing more women in power increases girls’ educational and career aspirations.
“It is my strong belief that the world needs more women leaders and more diverse leaders, people with all kinds of backgrounds and life experiences,” said Ms. Jakobsdóttir, Prime Minister of Iceland and the CWWL Chair.
“The decisions leaders make affect all people in our societies. These decisions should be made by people who have a real and deep understanding of how most people live, of what their concerns are, and are therefore responsive to their needs.”