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No democracy without women

Development to democracy doesn’t end in organizing free and fair elections. And the democracies aren’t very democratic when over half of the people are underrepresented in decision-making. Women’s representation has grown in the last few decades but still under a fifth of all the members of parliaments in the world are women. In OSCE countries the percentage is also only 22%.

Often there are complaints that there are no (competent) women to be found to the post, so a man is elected, especially when it comes to corporate leaders. Now with the coming municipal election in Finland there has also been talks how hard it is to find women candidates to run. Could the reason be how hard they really are wanted to run? Like UNDP’s Winnie Byanynima has told from her own experience in Uganda: during the civil war women risked their lives in front line and hided fighters, but for opposition’s village council it’s impossible to find one woman member.

OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) has released a six-step action plan to promote gender equality in elected office. Plan demonstrates six different methods: equal constitutional rights, proportional electoral system in a large district, legal quotas, party rules and recruitment procedures, capacity development and parliamentary reform.

In Finland all the parliamentary parties have understood the importance of women representatives. True Finns encouraged women candidates by paying them 100 Euros reward, when men candidates got only 30 Euros. Social Democrats have gender quotas in the management and in the nomination of candidates the aim is equality.

Work in the political parties is essential and also fruitful when it comes to equal representation, because parties act as gatekeepers to parliamentary decision-making. In addition, the constitution or electoral system are rarely changed, but the rules of a party are much more easily changed if necessary.

Political parties play essential role in a democratic political system. Without democratic parties there is no democratic political system.

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