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WRDA joins other stakeholders to discuss getting more women into politics

By Director Anne McVicker, 31st October 2014


WRDA attended a recent stakeholder event at Stormont to put forward our views and those of our members on how to get more women into politics.

In April 2014, the Assembly and Executive Review Committee, AERC, agreed to hold an inquiry into Women in Politics and The NI Assembly. This took the form of a call for both written and oral evidence from stakeholders, with AERC also going on study visits to Wales and Iceland to explore models of good practice aimed at increasing the number of women in politics.

The stakeholder event, held on 23rd October, was a final opportunity for AERC to ensure it had heard all the evidence in relation to the key areas of barriers, challenges, good models of practice, and positive actions, initiatives and programmes that may lead to a sizeable increase in the number of women in politics in the NI Assembly.

At the event there were short presentations on each of the key areas, followed by roundtable discussions made up of representatives from women’s groups, youth sector groups, academic groups, local government and members of the NI Assembly, with the aim of identifying workable and practical models of best practice for both political parties and the government, which would encourage and facilitate greater participation of women in politics in NI.

There were calls for a gender audit; positive actions; quotas; zipping and women only lists; champions and mentors for women who wish to enter politics; more leadership from the lead department, OFMDFM; the setting up of a women’s commission to enforce departmental equality action plans; and the development of a women’s engagement and leadership programme.

The table discussions, along with the written and oral evidence, will now be collated and a report will be presented at the NI assembly by late autumn and to the Secretary of State before May 2015.

Only 22 out of our 108 MLAs in the NI Assembly are female. We rank 70th in the world for female representation, with significantly lower female representation than comparable western European legislatures.

These statistics are frankly shocking, especially given the commitments by government in the Beijing Platform for Action, Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Belfast Good Friday Agreement, the Vision for the Gender Equality Strategy and the Sex Discrimination (election candidates) Act 2002.

WRDA remains hopeful that this call for evidence will lead to affect change towards a more equal gender balance of women in politics in NI government and decision making bodies.

Previously, we briefed the Assembly and Executive Review Committee directly on the issue. Click here to learn more.
  

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