A New Guidance Document Helps Parliaments in Advancing Gender Equality

How can parliaments become gender sensitive institutions and advance gender equality in society?

Answers to these questions were presented on 24 January during an online event on the topic “Institutionalising Gender Mainstreaming in Parliament: Participatory Gender Audits and Gender Action Plans”.

The web dialogue was organised by the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). The two main objectives were the following:

The event brought together over a hundred participants – parliamentarians, diplomats, representatives of academia and civil society orgsanisations, among whom was also Margarita Spasova, Advocacy Officer at Ekaterina Karavelova Foundation.

OSCE PA President Margareta Cederfelt and ODIHR Director Matteo Mecacci welcomed the participants and emphasised the importance of collective action in order to achieve gender equality in the OSCE region. Mr. Mecacci pointed out that the increase in women’s representation never happens accidentally, but it is rather the result of serious political mobilisation. He shared that the average level of representation of women in the parliaments of the OSCE region is 31% and the achievement of the long-term goal of gender parity (50/50) is still far away, while there is also need to create conditions for meaningful participation and real possibility to influence decision-making processes.

Saša Gavrić from OSCE ODIHR presented two gender mainstreaming tools with which the organisation supports national parliaments from the region, namely gender audits and gender action plans, as well as the new Participatory Gender Audits of Parliaments: A Step-by-Step Guidance Document. It compliments the publication Realizing Gender Equality in Parliament: A Guide for Parliaments in the OSCE Region published in 2021 and offers a framework how to implement participatory gender audits recognising the fact that each parliament is unique.

Prof. Sarah Childs from the University of Edinburgh, a leading researcher in the field of women’s political representation and a consultant with experience working with various international organisations and national parliaments, drew attention to the importance of collaboration between academia, civil society and parliaments so that the latter develop as gender sensitive institutions.

The next two speakers, Božena Jelušić, Chair of the Gender Equality Committee Parliament of Montenegro and Kenneth G. Forslund, First Deputy Speaker of the Swedish Riksdag, Chairperson of the Rikstag’s Working Group on Gender Equality, shared what actions have been undertaken by the parliaments in their respective countries in order to advance gender equality.

The event continued with a discussion around questions raised by the participants, among which were the importance of conducting gender audit not only in parliaments but also in political parties, the role of civil society organisations in the process of transformation of parliaments towards equality, and the need for implementing an intersectional approach to address not only gender inequalities, but also other factors such as ethnicity and disability.

At the end of the event, the speakers encouraged national parliaments and all stakeholders to act systematically step by step, apply a multi-party approach, seek cooperation and expertise from civil society organisations and academia, and work to strategically develop processes that can lead to real institutional change regardless of the existing state of gender equality from which they start in their context.