Following a series of regional strategy meetings held over the course of the past week, the First Global Congress of Women in Politics has agreed on an overall strategy that calls on governments assembled here in Beijing to commit to gender balance in political decision-making at all levels and in all the world’s countries.
While individual regional reports identified some obstacles to women’s political advancement that were culture specific, women meeting here to organize a global political network nonetheless discovered that they had many key problems in common: money, access to party nominating structures, and significant party support when they did manage to become candidates.
Ironically, the various reports revealed that despite long traditions of democracy and democratic institutions, a majority of countries in North America and Western Europe lag behind many other countries across the world in the percentages of women holding political office at both the local and national levels.
Led by NGO leaders from the United States, Sweden, Ireland and the United Kingdom, the North American/Western European Congress agreed on a 5-point strategy for the immediate future:
To press for affirmative action policies and strategies within each country that would put more women in the political pipeline;
To work for campaign finance reform that would both change how political campaigns are funded and that would put a ceiling on the amount of money that could be spent on campaigns;
To conduct nationwide political education programs in each country for young women and girls that stress that importance of political participation — as both voters and as potential office holders — by making the links between politics and situations that affect our everyday lives;
To create a mentorship program in each country in which seasoned women office holders would mentor women who are holding their first political offices in order to help them avoid pitfalls;
To teach women interested in running for political office how to effectively use the media to get their messages out.
As the First Global Congress was concluding, plans were being made for follow-up activities to expand and advance the emerging network.