The permanent Mission of the State of Qatar to the United Nations in New York, in cooperation with India, Japan, Sweden, Tanzania and the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ECWA), organized a high-level event on the sidelines of the 65th session of the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), on promoting women’s political participation to achieve goals of sustainable development and improved redevelopment.
The high-level event focused on discussing and addressing strategies and interventions to accelerate the adoption of laws and practices, to improve conditions for women’s participation in public life across the region.
During the event, the effects of inequality in the representation of women in public life at the socio-economic level in its broader context on women and girls were highlighted, and the participation of women in political life in the Arab region was reviewed.
The virtual event was attended by Their Excellencies Member of Shura Council Dr. Hend Al Muftah, Assistant Undersecretary of Digital Society Development Sector at MOTC and Member of Shura Council Reem Al Mansouri, Permanent Representative of India to the UN T. S. Tirumurti, Permanent Representative of Japan Ambassador Ishikane Kimihiro, Permanent Representative of Sweden Ambassador Anna Karin Enestrom, Permanent Representative of Tanzania Ambassador Kennedy Godfrey Gastorn, and the GU’s Executive Director of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security Ambassador Melanne Verveer.
The participants in the panel discussion included UN Assistant Secretary-General and Director of UNDP’s Bureau for Policy and Programme Support Haoliang Xu, Executive Secretary of the UN’s ESCWA Rola Dashti, Deputy Speaker of Tanzanian Parliament Dr. Tulia Ackson, Member of Indian Parliament Poonam Mahajan, HE Former Minister of Social Security in Sweden Annika Strandhall, Japan’s Parliamentary Vice-Minister of both Defense and the Cabinet Office and Member of the House of Councilors of Japan Rui Matsukawa, and Permanent Observer of the UN’s Inter-Parliamentary Union Patricia Torsney.
During her opening speech at the high-level event, HE Permanent Representative of the State of Qatar to the UN Ambassador Sheikha Alya Ahmed bin Saif Al-Thani affirmed the importance of the 65th session of the women’s commission, which highlights women’s full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, as well as the elimination of violence, to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
Her Excellency also noted the importance of the State of Qatar’s Shura Council elections which will be held in October of 2021, stating that these elections creates a historic opportunity for Qatari women, whether they were candidates or voters.
For her part, HE Member of Shura Council Dr. Hend Al Muftah, who moderated the high-level panel discussion, highlighted the importance of the Shura Council elections, saying that after one year of the pandemic, the State of Qatar will witness in October a special event that will bring future repercussions not only for the country, but for the whole region as well, pointing out that it is the first Shura Council elections in the country.
Her Excellency added that the Council will grant unprecedented legislative and oversight power, as it will become a key milestone for women to participate and serve the country by voting or holding office, explaining that the State of Qatar seeks to build foundations that create an increased representation of women, noting the training courses for political empowerment that are offered by HBKU, in addition to the discussions and the advisory sessions which are presented by the university’s professors, as well as Arab women who have gone through the same political experience.
HE Member of Shura Council Reem Al Mansouri emphasized the support provided by HH the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, to reinforce women’s positions to play a fundamental role in achieving the sustainable development goals.
She also stressed the necessity for gender parity, noting that it can be achieved with political will and perseverance. In her intervention, she said that the State of Qatar has made very positive and strong steps towards women’s rights.
She also underlined the importance of the first free and direct elections for the Shura Council that the State of Qatar will witness to strengthen democracy and the role of women, which will be essential, expressing her confidence in the broad participation of women in those elections.
Her Excellency also hailed the success of Qatari women in assuming very high positions in the State of Qatar and at the international level, highlighting the efforts made by HH Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Chairperson of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development and Education Above All, at the national, regional and international levels, as she contributed to the development of women’s rights and the education for all.
For her part, HE Executive Director of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security Ambassador Melanne Verveer said that gender inequality has not yet been overcome despite the significant progress that has been made to empower women and girls in the past decade.
She stressed the necessity for collective work to reinforce women’s political participation, saying that at this time, there is a recognition that the challenges the world is facing, whether related to environment, governance, economic policy or security, cannot be solved unless women are fully involved.
He Excellency also emphasized the need to mobilize tangible support for women’s rights, and political and economic empowerment, through the initiatives and programs designed for this purpose, in order to increase the access of women and girls to education and healthcare, combat violence against women and girls in all its forms, and ensure women’s rights.
For her part, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) Rola Dashti, touched on the status of women in the Arab region, and explained that the Middle East region has made some progress, but the Arab region has the world’s lowest representation of women in political scene, pointing out that this is an indicator of the gender gap.
She reviewed the challenges facing the representation of Arab women in political life, calling for providing opportunities for the participation of women in the Arab world, enhancing capabilities related to election campaign techniques, and adopting a quota system by facilitating discussions about the best system for them, taking into account local conditions, in order to empower women in conflict-affected countries to participate in peacebuilding process.
Permanent Observer of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) to the United Nations Patricia Torsney said that enhancing women’s political participation requires political will to equal opportunities, a gender-responsive political space free from inequality, harassment and violence, and the promotion of gender equality in all areas.
In turn, HE Deputy Speaker of the Tanzanian Parliament Dr. Tulia Axon spoke about the role of international discussions and agreements on developing countries to make changes to local laws and constitutions, and their impact on politics in Tanzania, referring to the change in the Tanzanian constitution which contributed to increasing female representation in Parliament and made a big difference in the country.
HE Member of Indian Parliament from Mumbai-North-Central Poonam Mahajan talked about the experience of women in India, where women held the positions of President, Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, stressing the importance of women starting their political work in Parliament.
She said that India needs to be a woman-centered state and a country led by a woman, noting that there is a need for more women in decision-making and in strengthening representation. Ensuring full participation needs cultural, social and political change, she added.
HE Chairperson of the Stockholm Chapter of Social Democratic Women and former Minister for Social Security in Sweden Annika Strandhall spoke about the Swedish experience, and said that progress started early, but it took a long time, and despite the progress of the level of gender equality in the Swedish society, there are still challenges with regard to political participation.
She pointed out to the great differences between the parties at the national, regional and local levels, and noted the reforms that the country witnessed in the 70s of the last century through individual taxation, parental leave, and high-quality childcare at reasonable prices for all, which contributed to increasing the number of working women to 80% in last years.
Meanwhile, UN Assistant Secretary-General, Assistant Administrator and Director of Bureau for Policy and Programme Support of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) Haoliang Xu reviewed the obstacles to increasing gender equality in elections, saying that discriminatory social norms and attitudes still hamper meaningful participation of women in elections as candidates and voters.
He cited UNDP’s Gender Social Norms Index (GSNI), which showed that 47 percent of men and women interviewed in 75 countries say that they believe men make better political leaders than women.
Haoliang Xu stressed that the challenge of creating favorable conditions for the participation of women in terms of legislation, culture and political processes, and improving the public perception of women in politics and access to the media, require a transformation in the legislative and institutional systems.
He also noted the efforts made by the UNDP to increase and enhance the role of women in elections in Arab countries, and its support for the program to launch the Arab Network for Women in Elections under the umbrella of the Organization of Arab Electoral Management Bodies, which aims to promote the mainstreaming of gender equality in policies and procedures to enhance women’s political participation.
Parliamentary Vice-Minister of Defense, Parliamentary Vice-Minister of Cabinet Office and Member of the House of Councillors in Japan Rui Matsukawa talked about the experience of women in her country and the achievements they have made in public life, and said that Japan has witnessed a great change and the number of women has quadrupled in executive positions in companies, as well as the percentage of working women increased.
She added that there are criteria that define the gender gap in Japan on the basis of health, education and participation in the economy and in political life. In this context, she said that the participation rate of women in the Japanese Upper House has reached 22 percent, while the participation rate of women in the House of Representatives has reached more than 10 percent. She noted that what they we want to achieve is to enhance the participation of women in political life, and to enhance their presence in decision-making positions, whether in political parties or in government.
Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs