Regional Forum on Sustainable Development for the UNECEC Region – Geneva, Switzerland, 6-7 April 2022

Statement by Eirini DOUROU (Greece, SOC/G/PD), Congress Spokesperson on Gender Equality

Check against delivery - Seul le prononcé fait foi

Round Table on SDG 5: „Accelerators of gender equality and women’s empowerment in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic”
Geneva, Switzerland, 7 April 2022

Thank you, Ms Durrer,

Dear colleagues,

Indeed, the Congress recommendation of 2016 placed emphasis on several key factors to accelerate women’s political participation and representation at local and regional levels:

first, adoption of electoral laws and electoral systems requiring the parity of women and men on candidate lists, and financial penalties for non-compliance – thus forcing political parties to put forward women candidates but also to work with them to build their capacities;

second, implementation of quotas for candidates in elections, to guarantee the minimum representation; in the Congress itself, for example, we introduced since 2007 a 30% minimum requirement of women in national delegations, which has led in practice to the actual representation of 42% today – from 12% back in 1994 when the Congress was established. This also proves that implementation of quotas can serve to change the perceptions and attitudes to women’s participation, establishing a new norm of seeing women in leadership roles; 

our third recommendation concerned introduction of the system of “pairing” women and men appointed to elected seats from party lists following the elections, in proportional systems – for example, as head and deputy head of elected councils – the so-called “zipper system”.

Today, some type of quota or parity system in local or regional electoral schemes had been implemented in almost 77% of cases in the Council of Europe 46 member States; consequently, the proportion of women in municipal councils, for example, has increased from 23% in 2008 to nearly 30%.

However, we should not limit ourselves to legal frameworks and to forcing political parties into action through financial penalties for non-compliance. We understand very well the crucial importance of changing perceptions and attitudes towards women’s role in society, often based on prejudice and stereotypes – and doing so is a shared responsibility of all stakeholders, not only of legislators and the executive for adopting and enforcing “good laws” but also of the media, civil society and the private sector that all play a crucial role in transforming the society’s mental constructs about women.

We need to showcase successes of women in leadership roles in politics, business, social sphere, art and culture in order to expand the narrow vision of women’s place in society and to make sure that people are used to the presence of women in representative positions.

Equally important for women’s empowerment is capacity building by women themselves through networking and experience sharing, as well as advocacy work by NGOs and women’s groups in favour of women’s participation and support for women candidates – which is also included in the Congress recommendations.

We in the Congress are proud that our work in the field in European countries, which includes peer exchanges of experience in support of women local and regional elected representatives, has led to an increasing number of women elected locally and in regional elections. We are also pleased that such elections, many of which were postponed due to the pandemic, are now being held again.

We are proud because we see the local level as a springboard for women’s participation at all levels of decision-making, serving as a school for building capacities, experience and self-confidence. This is also the level where women’s engagement in decision-making can be more easily achieved due to the proximity of public authorities to citizens – and where women’s leadership and achievements are more visible as well.

I would like to conclude by stressing our conviction that women’s empowerment should not be limited to one Sustainable Development Goal, SDG 5, however crucial it is. We strongly believe that all SDGs must benefit from the input of women – the more diverse perspectives are taken into account, the better our policies will benefit all of our citizens. Therefore, gender equality must be mainstreamed into all Sustainable Development Goals as a cross-cutting issue.

Thank you.