Women in Power

I’ve had a bit of a mundane Sunday. But last Sunday was spent entertaining Meg Munn, MP for Sheffield Heeley constituency, which may provide a more entertaining update than today’s hand washing extravaganza!

A bit of background first: my flatmate here has a rather glamorous sounding VSO placement working with a group that supports Kenyan female Parliamentarians. Kenya introduced a WOW new constitution in 2010 which made a significant statement for gender equality by requiring that at least 1/3rd of all public offices be held by women.

Of course, implementing such a quota system takes time. And expertise.

Luckily, one of VSO’s initiatives involves placing political volunteers in short-term, high-impact placements. Enter Meg, who was here to help Kenyan politicians think about how a rule written on paper could become a reality.

Last Sunday marked the end of Meg’s two-week placement and mainly consisted of food and chat (including a visit to our less-than-glamorous local pub). But it was fascinating to discuss the options for increasing female representation and hear that in all likelihood getting there would take 15 – 20 years to achieve. Meg outlined how the UK Labour Party (her party) has increased female representation through the use of all-women short lists for winnable seats at election time. Or in less jargony language: if you want to vote Labour in one of these chosen constituencies then you will necessarily be voting for a woman.


Of course the debate rages on about using quota systems to achieve aims of reducing inequality in the first place: Are we getting the best candidates? Will we only ever get “good” candidates if we give aspiring young women strong female role models and show that politics isn’t a man’s game?

But luckily you don’t have to agree on quotas to agree that increasing gender equality is a good thing or – at the very least – a necessary thing! In a nice concise bullet list:

  • Women make up half of the world’s population. We could leave it there…but…we’ll go on
  • Women perform two-thirds of the world’s work and produce 50% of all food, but earn only 10% of world income and only 1% of property
  • Women are estimated to account for almost two-thirds of the 1.4 billion people globally who live in extreme poverty

In recognition of this, VSO is running a campaign about putting the needs of women high on the post-2015 agenda (again, in less jargon, the debate about what happens when the Millennium Development Goals come to an end).

Please take a little moment to sign their petition:


Otherwise, for those keen on stats:

  • Rwanda tops the table in the progressive stakes with women sitting in 63.5% of seats in Parliament!
  • Kenya comes 78th with 19.1% although if it achieves the quota target then it will join the ranks of the top 30 countries.
  • UK just beats Kenya coming in at 65 on the list with 22.6% of seats taken by women (House of Commons that is. The House of Lords is performing marginally better!)

For even more stats: http://www.ipu.org/wmn-e/classif.htm






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