World’s most powerful women call for stronger political role for females

19 Sep 2011

New York – More than 20 of the world’s most powerful women called for more political participation for women as a crucial step for democracy, peace and sustainable economic and social development at an event during the 66th session of the United Nations General Assembly today.

Among heads of state, ministers of foreign affairs and UN chiefs, those brought together for the meeting include: President of Brazil Dilma Rousseff; United States Secretary of State Hilary Clinton; UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark.  They signed a joint statement reaffirming the “human right of women to take part in the Governments of their countries, directly or through freely chosen representatives, on an equal basis with men.”

“If women are not equally represented in parliaments and political life as a whole then society is misrepresented,” Helen Clark said.  “In my country, New Zealand, we managed to achieve 30 percent of women representation in parliament without it, but if countries cannot get it in any other way I am in favour of quotas.”

Even though women around the world continue to overcome major challenges and have been instrumental in peace and security matters, leaders at the meeting were concerned that women also continue to be marginalized in decision-making, often as a result of discriminatory laws, practices or attitudes, and due to the disproportionate number of women living in poverty.

“We are in an age of participation and every political party should make room for women to play a greater role,” Hilary Clinton said. “When we liberate women we boost economies; human rights cannot be stopped.”

Globally, less than one in five parliamentarians is female and only 19 – fewer than 10 percent – of all heads of state and Government worldwide are women.

Despite the progress during recent decades, women represent 60 percent of the world’s poorest, two-thirds of the world’s illiterate and, both in times of armed conflict and behind closed doors at home, they are still systematically subjected to violence.

“In every country and in every region, in times of peace, conflict or transition, women want their voices to be heard,” Michelle Bachelet said. “They want to exercise their rights and they want a seat at the decision-making table, and we will be supporting them in these efforts.”