Comhlámh’s Research and Policy Officer Sioban O’Brien Green recently attended an event launched by VSO and Trócaire. Here she gives us a run down.
On Tuesday 22nd April VSO Ireland in conjunction with Trócaire launched a new report and a number of Comhlámh staff attended the launch. The launch took place in the Little Museum of Dublin and had an excellent panel of speakers to elaborate on the report content and findings.
Some of the initial statistics contained in the report were read out;
- Only one in five (22%) parliamentarians worldwide is a woman.
- Women hold only 17% of ministerial positions around the world.
- At the highest levels, women account for only 15 of 193 heads of government.
Senator Ivana Bacik introduced all the speakers and chaired the launch; she pointed to the international potential of the report and stated that its content is relevant for Ireland too.
Priya Nath the report’s author talked though the findings of the report, the next steps in terms of building on the MDGs and the key structural barrier to change which she articulated as: “a lack of participation and influence of women in all levels of political and public decision making”. This implies that women can’t direct where funds are going. Priya discussed how women in leadership roles encourage other women to get involved and this helps to transform social norms. Women’s participation at a local political level can have very key outcomes that impact positively for other women and communicates. There is a very important role for CSOs identified in the report to support and nurture women’s participation and leadership.
Nora Bowier from Sustainable Development Institution Liberia discussed how social norms impact on women’s participation in forestry governance in Liberia. For her a key observation is the very high levels of illiteracy for women in Liberia which can exclude them from decision making roles. She felt that women often get pigeonholed into the role of treasurer at a community group level, as they are seen as trustworthy and “safe hands” for funds but not suitable for civic leadership roles.
Carol Ballantine from Trócaire discussed how additional research suggests that power dynamics at a household level also play a key role in women’s civic participation. Support from a husband and immediate family is vital for women to move into leadership roles and to challenge gender role norms: freedom from the threat of violence is also critical. Carol closed her presentation by stating that “We value what we measure so we need to commit to measure real change for women”.
Orla O’Connor from the National Women’s Council of Ireland related much of the discussion to the Irish context and the upcoming local and European elections in May. She stated there is a need for diversity of participation in politics. Senator Bacik concluded the launch and articulated the importance tackling stereotypes and how volunteers can have an impact by demonstrating different roles for women in the communities they are volunteering in.
Read the Women in Power: beyond access to influence in a post-2015 world report here.