Women are joining government in growing numbers, holding almost 20 percent of seats in national assemblies worldwide, and serving as heads of government in over 20 countries, including Argentina, Bangladesh, Liberia, and Lithuania. From the Provincial Councils in Afghanistan to the Panchayats in India, women are participating in local governments and building foundations for peace and prosperity in their communities. Women’s political engagement not only increases visibility of women’s leadership abilities, but also leads to social and economic benefits for their communities and countries. For example, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has prioritized women’s empowerment, which has resulted in the inclusion of six women in her Cabinet and the enactment of initiatives focused on distribution of farming equipment to rural women, construction of domestic violence shelters, and credit for women entrepreneurs.
Despite this progress, women make up less than 10 percent of the world’s leaders, and globally less than one in five members of national parliaments is a woman. The 30 percent critical mass for women’s representation in national parliaments has been reached in only 28 countries and women are too frequently absent at negotiating tables where constitutions are written and conflicts are resolved. The U.S. Department of State recognizes that democracy cannot flourish without the full participation of all its citizens. Women must be engaged in governance and policymaking – not only because they have a right to be involved in the decisions that directly affect their lives and their communities, but also because their perspectives and experiences improve the outcomes of these deliberations.
Women’s Political Participation
Investments to advance women’s political participation and civic engagement will include: