Governance and Leadership

``There is no development strategy more beneficial to society as a whole - women and men alike - than the one which involves women as central players``.

Kofi Annan

7th UN Security General, 1997-2006

Peace and security are key goals in achieving a stable and inclusive society. As such, decision-making and policy implementation should involve the equal participation of both men and women in the community. Having more women in governance and other prominent public office positions generally contributes to greater focus on women’s issues and also encourages more political engagement at the grassroots level by ordinary women.

Women’s perspectives and experiences are important in helping to reinforce gender justice through the promotion of inclusive political systems and legal reforms in post-conflict situations. In addition, the participation of women in peacekeeping efforts can have a profound impact on societal stability through conflict resolution and the reconciliation of human relationships.

However, women in many parts of the world continue to be denied their right to participate in important decisions that affect their lives, leading to the neglect of women’s concerns. Therefore, in order to build and maintain a stable and peaceful society, governments should actively incorporate women into political processes and peace building efforts.

  • Women are outnumbered by men, four to one, in legislatures around the world (UNIFEM, 2008).
  • Rwanda has the highest number of women parliamentarians worldwide since the election in September 2008 (56% of seats) (UNIFEM, 2008).
  • As of September 2005, the global average for women in parliament stands at 160 percent. Additionally, women have achieved 30 percent representation or more in national parliaments in 19 countries. However, progress has been uneven and slow and in some cases there have been significant setbacks. 22 countries out of 167 had reversals in women’s representation in parliaments, while 10 remained static (United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW). 2005).
  • At least 90 countries apply an electoral gender quota of some kind for the lower or single chamber of their national parliaments. Of these countries, 16 have reserved seats for women in the lower or single chamber of parliament, 33 have legislated candidate quotas and 54 have voluntary political party quotas. Reserved seats for women are found only in Africa (11 countries) and Asia (5 countries) and are particularly concentrated in Eastern Africa and Southern Asia (UN Statistics Division, 2010).

The building and maintaining of peace and stability in a society rests upon the equal participation of men and women. Therefore, the inclusion of women in all sectors of society is crucial, whether as decision makers in positions of public office or as participants in advocacy, capacity building and peacekeeping activities at the ground level.

Presently, women’s presence in public office represents one indicator for Goal 3 of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals – to promote gender equality and empower women. However, while the number of female leaders and parliamentarians has increased in the last decade, there is still a need for greater female representation in order to highlight women’s issues and help enact policies for necessary and positive change.

Women have also often been relegated to the sidelines of formal peace talks and reconstruction processes. Research of a sample of 31 major peace processes between 1992 and 2011, conducted by UNIFEM, reveals that only 4 per cent of signatories, 2.4 per cent of chief mediators, 3.7 per cent of witnesses and 9 per cent of negotiators are women (UNIFEM, 2012). This has serious implications since women’s insights and opinions on these issues can shape a future of sustainable peace and security.

The exclusion of women from politics stems primarily from entrenched patriarchal attitudes that lead gender discrimination, thus creating obstacles that prevent women from taking up political roles in society. It also results in the formulation of laws and policies that neither reflect the needs of the entire community nor support the progress of women’s rights. Such imbalance can potentially undermine women’s efforts to assert themselves or seek legal redress when their rights are abused. Therefore, in order to provide greater protection of women’s needs and rights, governments should adopt more democratic and inclusive policies to increase female participation in politics. Indeed, studies on female governance across the world have shown that there is generally a greater focus on women’s issues, such as childcare and social protection, when there are more women in parliament. Moreover, the experiences and perspectives offered by women also allow for a greater plurality of views to be considered in policy design.

Similarly, just as the presence of women in influential decision-making processes is crucial, women at the ground level can also have a powerful impact on maintaining peace and security, especially in parts of the world that are facing war and conflict. Given the sharp increase in sexual violence perpetrated against women as a military and political tactic in situations of conflict, women’s contribution in decision-making becomes even more important. In fact, the United Nations Security Council specifically addressed the impact of war on women for the first time in its groundbreaking Resolution 1325, stressing the importance of women’s inclusion in conflict resolution and their essential role in peace building. Therefore, while women play an important role as advocates for women’s issues in times of peace, their role as military, police and civilian peacekeepers during times of conflict is even more vital due to the unique skills they bring to the struggles and frontlines around the world.

  • Increasing the number of women in key public decision-making and peacekeeping processes is a matter of democratic justice and ensures better government accountability to women.
  • Implementing quotas can be an effective method for increasing women’s political engagement. In elections held in 2007, the average representation of women was 19.3% in those countries that used some type of electoral quota, as opposed to 14.7% for those countries without quotas, regardless of electoral system (UNIFEM, 2008).
  • The designing and implementation of gender-sensitive policies and legislative reforms, backed by strong commitment and political will. In Afghanistan, the government recently committed to increasing women’s participation in the civil service at all levels to 30% by 2013. Currently, only 22% of all regular government employees are women and only 9% of these are at the decision-making level (UNIFEM, 2008).
  • Providing public institutions with the skills, incentives, resources and procedures to respond to women’s needs and issues while monitoring the progress of these measures.
  • Teaching women and girls to understand and assert their rights while equipping them with the skills and resources to become active participants and leaders in various sectors of society.
  • Facilitating women’s grassroots peace work and linking them to formal organisations. For example, to improve women’s capacity to take public decisions, UNIFEM launched a global project known as Making Politics Work with Women, which aims to bring the concerns of women to political parties and also help them follow up on campaign promises made by the various political parties.
  • Women’s movements can play a pivotal role in lobbying for change. For example, women’s movements in countries such as Argentina and Nepal have played an important role in challenging authoritarian regimes, while in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Uganda, Burundi and Timor-Leste, women have been active in lobbying for peace.
  • In the Philippines, Gabriela Women’s Party has successfully used the party list system to win a seat in Congress. The women’s movement in Fiji have launched a ’10 year Women in Shared Decision Making Plan of Action’ and conducted voter education programmes. In the Solomon Islands, women’s groups are preparing a campaign strategy to have a minimum of 30% women in parliament by 2015.
  • Increasing awareness about the role that women can play in reinstating peace and security; and also to urge for the government to curb practices that are detrimental to women and girls in times of conflict.
  • Insisting on accountability regarding government actions when women’s needs and rights have not been protected, and where necessary, to initiate investigations or to get compensation and redress, especially in post-conflict situations.
  • Promoting the ratification, implementation, and reporting on women’s international and regional women’s instruments such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and using them to frame new legislation, build partnerships to foster women’s participation, and bring gender equality into post-conflict reconstruction.
  • Influencing cultural mindsets and behaviours in order to eradicate entrenched discriminatory attitudes against women, while promoting the idea of women as equal and capable leaders of society.
  • UNIFEM. 2008. Who Answers to Women? PROGRESS OF THE WORLD’S WOMEN 2008/2009 GENDER & ACCOUNTABILITY (click here).
  • UNIFEM. 2008 September 22. Rwandan Women Secure 56% of Parliamentary Seats in Historic Election Result (click here).
  • UNIFEM. 2012. Women’s Participation in Peace Negotiations: Connections between Presence and Influence. Second Edition. (click here).
  • United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW). 2005. Equal Participation of Women and Men in Decision-Making Processes, with Particular Emphasis on Political Participation and Leadership (click here).
  • UN Statistics Division, 2010. The World’s Women 2010 Trends and Statistics (click here).



GOAL : 300000 S$


HeForShe is a solidarity movement for gender equality that brings together one half of humanity in support of the other half of humanity, for the benefit of all. Singapore Committee for UN Women support the mission of UN Women to unify efforts.

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