The Commonwealth Secretariat and Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) have given their backing to an initiative to get women more involved in politics and parliamentary leadership.
The Secretariat’s Inclusive Dialogue and Women's Political Participation Project held a webinar with the theme “Women's Parliamentary and Transformational Leadership”.
It was attended by women from across the Commonwealth, including female parliamentarians, politicians, women-led organisations, and academics
There were panel discussions and reflections on women's parliamentary representation in the Commonwealth, the challenges faced by women accessing leadership positions in parliament, their political experiences and hurdles of getting re-elected - particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In her keynote address, Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said: “Our Commonwealth understanding is that development and democracy go hand-in-hand, together with respect for diversity, and that progress and prosperity in which all can share are products of the healthy and free political expression and association on which proper functioning and accountable responsive government depends.
“As the cornerstone of our democracies, our parliaments ought to be exemplary institutions leading the way towards ever greater equality and inclusivity.
“By themselves being inclusive and gender-sensitive, parliaments become more effective as engines of change to enact inclusive and equitable legislation and accelerate the continuing social and economic development which we are committed to in the Commonwealth.”
Democracy has to be about inclusion, participation, empowerment, and accountable representation,” she said.
The Secretary-General applauded the recent launch of Gender-Sensitive Parliaments Guidelines by CWP as a valuable practical contribution and an immensely useful Commonwealth tool and resource.
Stephen Twigg, Secretary-General of the CPA said: “Within the Commonwealth, we have some of the parliaments with the very best records when it comes to electing women such as Rwanda, Namibia, New Zealand and South Africa and we also know that we have other parliaments where the numbers of women are still very low and that’s why initiatives such as this are important in order to share best practices.”
During one of the panels, Honourable Solomon Lechesa Tsenoli, Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly of South Africa said: “There’s an overall environment that needs to change to bring about genuine equality, and humane treatment of everyone, we also we have to change the conditions under which women work, inside and outside of our parliament to encourage them to participate more effectively in all structures of governance including in the private sector.”
Other panellists shared their knowledge, first-hand experiences and examples of best practice on effective leadership and the challenges and strategies needed to encourage the retention of women in Commonwealth parliaments.
The webinar’s outcomes will be consolidated into a report, synthesising panel discussions with key recommendations from previous webinars on women’s political participation.