Round table “Advancing gender equality in Bulgaria: the role of the parliament and the political parties”

The women in the 48 National Assembly of Bulgaria will be only 58 or 24% of the total members of parliament

The problem with representation in the Bulgarian parliament is persistent, and the low participation of women in the 48th National Assembly was expected given the composition of the electoral lists. “Ekaterina Karavelova” Foundation works to address this problem and with the support of Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Bulgaria organised the round table “Advancing gender equality in Bulgaria: the role of the parliament and the political parties”. The event gathered representatives of 7 of the political parties represented in the 47 National Assembly – BSP, Yes, Bulgaria, DPS, DSB, The Green Movement, There is such people and We continue the change. Internal party policies on gender equality and women’s political participation were discussed.

The challenges that the roundtable participants identified were related to gender-based stereotypes, the challenges in combining both family and work related responsibilities, the lack of funding for the women’s wings of the parties and the lack of trainings for capacity building, structural barriers which place women in a disadvantage position in terms of financial independence and opportunities for development, as well as the tendency to ignore women’s issues.

Political parties represented in the 47 National Assembly were invited to participated in the round table, which took place on the 20th of September in the city of Plovdiv.

The round table, which aim was to identify political parties needs in their work to advance internal party policy on gender equality was opened by Ms Marina Kisyova de Geus, executive director of Ekaterina Karavelova Foundation and Ms Kalina Drenska from Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Bulgaria. They presented the alarming trends which show the decline of women’s participation the last 3 parliaments in Bulgaria and expressed the commitment of both organisations to work towards finding solutions.

Special guest of the round table was Corien Jonker, former member of parliament from The Netherlands and international expert on women’s political empowerment and leadership. In April 2021 she also served as the Head of Mission of the Limited Election Observation Mission deployed to Bulgaria by ODIHR OSCE.

Her keynote address was followed by presentations on internal party policies on gender equality by Ms Aleksandra Berdankova (BSP), Ms Vesselina Aleksandrova (Yes, Bulgaria), Mr Krassimir Asenov phd (DPS), Ms Kristina Petkova (DSB), Ms Dobromira Kostova (Green Movement), Ms Snezhanka Trayanska (There is such people) and Ms Ventsislava Lubenova (Volt. We continue the change).

In the second part of the round table, Margarita Spasova, advocacy officer at “Ekaterina Karavelova” Foundation facilitated an interactive session in which the participants had the opportunity to share what they think are the challenges and barriers facing women involved in politics. As a result of the discussion, they can be summarized in 3 categories:

  • personal factors (women more often have lower self-esteem and as a result doubt whether they have all the knowledge and skills)
  • environmental factors (gender-based stereotypes, difficulties in combining family commitments and work, economic inequalities and unequal access to financial resources)
  • internal party factors (the lack of funding for the women’s wings in political parties and the lack of capacity-building training, the more frequent placement of women in non-elective positions on candidate lists during elections)

A snapshot of the 48th National Assembly

According to the data announced by the Central Election Commission on October 7, women in the 48th National Assembly will be 58 or 24% of its composition.

Out of a total of 31 multi-member constituencies, 7 will not send a single female representative – Gabrovo, Kyustendil, Razgrad, Silistra, Smolyan, Sofia region and Yambol. At the same time, all 6 mandates from the 8th MIR Dobrich went to women from 6 different parties, and each of them was the leader of the respective electoral list in the city.

With the best ratio of the number of women and men in the new parliament is the smallest group, that of Bulgarian Rise, where 4 out of a total of 12 people’s representatives are women. With the most unbalanced ratio of women and men are the parliamentary groups of We continue the change and Vazrazhdane, and both parties have only 19% women of their total number of MPs.

Ekaterina Karavelova Foundation will publish a detailed report from the round table, accompanied by good international practices for promoting gender equality in politics.

Photographer: Lina Krivoshieva