Liberal International co-hosted a side event to the United Nations 59th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women in New York together with UN Watch and the International Network of Liberal Women, INLW on March the 11th. The topic was achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women.
The main speakers included Ms. Viktoria Saxby, Political Advisor on Gender Equality for The Center Women of Sweden, and deputy member of The International Committé of The Center Party, Members of Liberal International, as well as Ms. Yaya Fanta Kaba Fofana, Director for Gender Equality of the Ivorian Ministry for Family, Women and Child of the Ivory Coast, and Vice President of the INLW. The seminar was moderated by Mrs Margaret de Vos van Steenwijk, President of International Network of Liberal Women.
The aim of the event was to address the gaps in the advancement and promotion of women´s rights in our respective home countries - and worldwide - and lift good practices, practical examples and concrete proposals of how we are working to address those gaps both on a national and international level. Also, we wished to address the role international organisations like the United Nations, and political federations like Liberal International, and Liberal political parties and UN Watch could play in order to assist in resolving these challenges.
Ms. Yaya Fanta Koba Fofana told the audience of how, when she first approached the men in power regarding the lack of women on the nomination lists for the election - they answered that this was because there were no competent women, and because women did not show up to run for office. She then proceeded to put together a book - a data base - of qualified women. The result: for the next election, there were 30 percent women on the nomination lists.
Ms. Koba Fofana emphasized the need for more women in high positions and high offices. She lamented the fact that she has been attending women conferences for over 20 years - with the same goals and the same rethoric, but that not much happens in practice. She believes that the reason for this is that not enough women are in the high positions that will in fact implement these changes. Therefore, the room cheered when a young woman from the Ivory Coast spoke out to say that she was now in the United States to study - and that her goal was to become nothing less than the future President of The Ivory Coast.
Ms. Viktoria Saxby spoke about the similarities in the rhetoric of “no competent women” that we unfortunately still see also in Sweden. Although the representation within politics is fairly good in Sweden now, we still have the same discussions about a lack of competent women when it comes to the company boards or higher leadership positions in public and private companies and the business world.
She also spoke on the importance of further collaborations between politics and the civil society, to always bring up the human rights aspect of gender equality, and in order to move the positions forward more rapidly, the need to further include men and boys in the discussion of women´s rights and gender equality.
Ms. Saxby then addressed the work that International Network of Liberal Women, The Center Women of Sweden, The ALDE-group of the European Parliament where The Center Party is a member, and Liberal International are now doing to call for the globalisation of the Istanbul Convention on the Prevention and Elimination of Violence against Women and Domestic Violence.
The Istanbul Convention is a powerful tool which cannot remain simply at the disposal of member states of the Council of Europe as it is currently the only human rights legal instrument addressing violence against women both as a human rights violation and a form of discrimination - and puts more demands on governments to monitor.
Mrs May Sing Yang from DPP in Taiwan and Vice President of INLW also gave an insight of the situation in Taiwan and the succesful use of quota's to highten the participation of women on political lists. The percentage of women candidates went up from 25%, to 30% and now it is even 50%!