The Speaker of the Parliament of Uganda (second from left)
Female Speakers of Parliament from around the world have called for action on gender equality to be dramatically scaled up through collective action. At the conclusion of a two-day meeting on "Innovating for gender equality" at UN Headquarters in New York, women Speakers underlined the strength of unity of thought and action as a powerful agent for change to achieve gender equality within one generation. Swift progress could also only be possible by challenging and changing mindsets that perpetuate attitudes, cultural practices and beliefs that drive inequalities.
In addition to communicating more effectively on gender equality and working closely with communities, the Speakers identified gender equality education of girls and boys as an urgent priority. The vital importance of young people seeing women as well as men as leaders and role models was also underlined. Women Speakers were acknowledged as being uniquely placed to take on that role and set the agenda for public debate. The 10th Meeting of Women Speakers of Parliament, organized by IPU and attended by 24 of the 46 female Speakers of Parliament in the world, was aimed at finding ways to break the deadlock on the slow pace of progress on gender equality in society as well as inside parliaments, where only 22 per cent of the world's MPs are women. The women Speakers also stressed the vital importance of empowering women economically through land and property rights or facilitated access to loans. They underlined the benefits of women's economic autonomy not just to individuals but also to national economic success. Gender budgeting should also become the norm to ensure the desire for change was reinforced by the necessary funding. Tackling violence against women which continues to blight the lives of millions of women remained a priority for political leaders. With only 43 countries having so far adopted national action plans to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, it was critical that women Speakers lead efforts to ensure appropriate national responses through laws and resource allocation. Just as important was assessing progress made. The engagement of men on gender equality was equally fundamental. The silent majority of non-violent men must also speak out now and assume their responsibilities alongside women, the women Speakers said. The outcomes of the Women Speakers' meeting will be fed into the World Conference of Speakers of Parliament, taking place from 31 August-2 September at UN headquarters in New York. The annual meeting of female Speakers provides women in the highest decision-making positions of parliament with a regular forum to exchange ideas and experiences on gender issues which are of interest to their national and international agendas.