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Greater efforts needed to promote women’s participation in politics

20 September 2011
Commonwealth Chair-in-Office spearheads high-level meeting at UN attended by Hillary Clinton and Michelle Bachelet

Commonwealth Chair-in-Office Kamla Persad-Bissessar has called for greater efforts by world leaders to promote women’s participation in politics, saying it was an important step for development.


The Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago spoke at a high-level event on ‘Women’s Political Participation’, which she co-convened at the United Nations in New York on Monday, 19 September 2011.


Ms Persad-Bissessar said: “I urge us all to summon the political and the financial will to honour our commitments. We must ensure that our generation leaves a legacy of 50 per cent of women in political and other spheres of decision-making, and delivers tangible policies and action programmes aimed at improving the lives of women and girls.”


She was joined at the event by Deputy Secretary-General of the UN, Dr Asha-Rose Migiro; US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff; Michelle Bachelet, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director, UN Women; and Helen Clark, UN Under-Secretary-General and Administrator of UNDP.


Other speakers were Baroness Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission; Kyrgyz President Roza Otunbayeva; and Dr Lilia Labidi, Tunisia’s Minister of Women’s Affairs.

Leaders signed on to a joint statement with concrete recommendations on ways to advance women’s political participation.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma and Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General Ransford Smith were present at the event, which took place in the wings of the 66th United Nations General Assembly.

At a news conference later on Monday, Mr Sharma praised Ms Persad-Bissessar for taking the lead role in convening the dialogue, which called for practical steps towards parity in political leadership between men and women.

The 2011 Commonwealth Day theme ‘Women as Agents of Change’ celebrates women whose work has made a positive difference to the lives of others, and emphasises the Commonwealth message that by investing in women and girls we can accelerate social, economic and political progress in our member states.

Monday’s panel discussion follows on from the first Caribbean Regional Colloquium on Women’s Political Participation which took place in June and was hosted by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago. The event was organised in partnership with the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Caribbean Institute for Women in Leadership, the Organization of American States, and UN Women.

The resulting Port of Spain Consensus on Transformational Leadership for Gender Equality reiterated calls for an increase in women’s representation in cabinet, parliament and local government and the strengthening of mechanisms to implement commitments to gender equality.