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Women in Politics Event Report, March 2019 – World Solidarity Forum

Guest Speakers:

• Manon Deshayes – Policy and Campaigns Assistant, European Women’s Lobby

• Marcela Válková – Co-founder and Treasurer of Volt Belgium and MEP candidate for the NL speaking constituency in Belgium

• Lamia Khan – Representative of the Flemish Authorities in the Brussels-Capital Region and community councillor

On March 28th, 2019, the World Solidarity Forum has hosted the event “Women in Politics”, a panel discussion on the under-representation women, gender imbalance in the EU decision-making and fighting on gender equality.

The debate developed around three main questions:

  1. Is it necessary for the public powers to intervene in order to balance the unequal representations? Are gender quotas necessary?
  2. How barriers for women can be reduced in the workplace and on the way to positions of leadership?
  3. How else can we boost women in politics?

First, Ms. Deshayes presented the European Women’s Lobby Manifesto for the 2019 European elections called “Women for Europe Europe for Women”. She strongly defended the existence of the so-called ‘gender quotas’ to ensure women’s access to politics as well as the need for this tool to be improved within the European Union.

For instance, in spite of women being half of the population, they represent only 36% in the European Parliament. She also stated that “gender quotas are an effective tool by opening the door for most women who do not see themselves in politics”. However, Ms. Deshayes stressed on the idea that this tool should not exist in the long term.

Then, Ms. Válková presented Volt Belgium and their views on equality covered in their program for the European Parliament. She claimed that her political party would ensure equal gender representation in EU politics and encourage female participation by having gender-alternate lists of candidates, thus ‘gender quotas’.

She also talked about her personal experience as a working mother and politician and all the obstacles and doubts that she had to overcome to be running for the European elections. In that regard, she fully supported the idea of having nursery services in the public sector, as well as the idea within her political party to establish a volunteer-based babysitting network as a tool to achieve gender equality and tackle the issue of gender pay. She also emphasized the commitment of Volt to mandatory reporting on gender representation and training in that regard.

Ms. Khan ended the panel discussion with an inspiring speech on why she stepped into politics. She explained she became the first Pakistani woman in her council after 20 years in Belgium due to her desire to see more women representatives and diversity in order to show young people that barriers can be overcome.

As her panel colleague Ms. Válvoká, she also stressed out the importance, as a woman and a mother, of creating sound work environments where women can take their kids to the workplace, but also the importance of quotas in the mid-term, teaching boys and girls how to treat everyone equally and hiring more women. She also stated that she would like to see more unity in the political parties when it comes to gender issues.

Women are still under-represented in the decision-making processes not only within the EU but across the world and there is an impelling need of boosting women in politics in order to achieve a sustainable, fair, gender-balanced society. Regarding ‘gender quotas’, the three speakers agreed on the implementation of this tool in the mid-term with the idea of its disappearance in the long-term.  

The panel was moderated by Fatlum Gashi.

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