A survey of women elected to parliaments by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) reveals that women currently hold a record 16.3 percent of parliamentary seats, a small number but one that has increased from 11.3 percent in 1995. Anders Johnsson, Secretary-General of IPU, stated, “Women account for roughly half of the world’s population. They remain dramatically underrepresented in national parliaments and other levels of government,” reports the New York Times .
According to the report, in nine countries, including Rwanda, Sweden, and New Zealand, women hold at least 30 percent of parliamentary seats, and women have increased their representation as presiding officers in parliaments from 7.2 percent in January 2005 to 10.7 percent in January 2006. Other positive gains for women include the decision in Kuwait to grant women both the right to vote and to run for elected office. Four other countries that have recently suffered from conflict increased the number of women elected to their parliaments, including Liberia, where President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf became the first democratically elected female head of state in Africa in January.
Less positively, there are fewer elected female parliamentarians in eight countries this year, including Kyrgyzstan, which dropped to zero women in its parliament. There was an increase in parliaments that have no elected women from the previous year Ð currently at nine countries.