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Women in the Inter-Parliamentary Union

Historical development

Founded in 1889, the IPU has traditionally reflected in its ranks the low proportion and visibility of women in national politics. Disgruntled that they were unable to have an impact on its programmes and policies, a small but active group of women took the initiative to set up a women's caucus in IPU in 1978. IPU meeting

Up until 1983, meetings of women MPs were held occasionally during IPU's statutory sessions, taking the form either of meetings proper, a luncheon or a gathering over tea. In 1983, the women MPs voiced the possibility of establishing an autonomous association under the auspices of the IPU: after thorough analysis, an option in favour of mainstreaming was made in the belief that women's interests would be better served if they got together at each IPU Conference to determine the means through which they could exert an influence on the policies, working and decisions of the Organisation.

Since 1986, a whole-day session is held on the eve of the IPU Assembly (formerly Conference), so that women MPs may decide on strategies in advance in order to make known their views and concerns during the session. In April 1990, the role, objectives and working methods of the Meetings of Women MP were formally set out in a document and the Co-ordinating Committee of Women Parliamentarians, a permanent structure, was established in order to co-ordinate its activities and ensure continuity. Held under the chairmanship of a woman MP from the host country, the Meeting of Women MPs is formally opened in the presence of the highest governmental and parliamentary authorities of that country. Technical support is officially provided by the IPU Secretariat since 1985.

In April 1998, women parliamentarians recommended that in every IPU member Parliament one woman MP should act as a "focal point" to relay to all other women MPs - whatever their political party and even if they belong to the other Chamber - information on the Union's activities to promote partnership between men and women. The aim is to increase awareness of the Union's work in this field within national Parliament, but also to enrich the Union's activity through their reflection and national experience as Members of Parliament.

Rules In 1999, new provisions of the Unionís Statutes and Rules were introduced, officially recognising the Meeting of Women Parliamentarians and its Coordinating Committee. Rules of the Meeting and of its Coordinating Committee were adopted in Brussels, at the 100th Conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. In addition, by virtue of one of the new provisions of the Statutes, the President of the Coordinating Committee of Women Parliamentarians is henceforth an ex officio member of the Executive Committee. This initiative has made it possible to add a voice to those of the women MPs already elected to the Executive Committee, so that they may represent all of the Unionís female members.

The Meeting of Women MPs aims to:

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Achievements with regard to the status of women

  • Increased gender sensitivity within the IPU which has been able to develop a sustained programme on women's issues, centred particularly on women's political participation and comprising a series of world comparative surveys (both statistical and substantial), a series of specialised meetings and comprehensive strategies to remedy the current gender imbalance with regard to political participation.
  • Awareness that women's low political integration is a major cause of democratic deficit worldwide.
  • Advocacy of the principle of equality between men and women, coupled with an acknowledgement of their differences and complementarity.
  • Promotion of partnership between men and women as an avenue to reach a more democratic form of government and a more democratic society at large.
  • Action to eradicate violence against women.
  • Generating awareness of the impact of the media on the status of women and the public image of women politicians.

Achievements with regard to IPU's structure and functioning

  • Increased visibility and influence for women MPs.
  • Establishment of a formal mechanism through which the Meeting of Women MPs reports on its work and presents recommendations to the Governing Council.
  • More regular inclusion on IPU's agenda of items concerning women or presenting special interest for them.
  • Amendment in 1988 to IPU's Statutes providing that its Executive Committee should include at least two women among its twelve members. The first woman ever to enter that governing body was elected that year and, since then, it has always included between two to five women; on two occasions, a woman was elected as its Vice-President.
  • Amendment in 1990 to the IPU's Statutes stipulating that Parliaments which comprise women members must include at least one woman in their delegations to IPU statutory meetings. A gradual and notable increase in the percentage of women delegates has followed.
  • Amendment in 1991 to the Rules of the IPU Assembly providing for gender balance within all drafting committees.
  • Amendment in 1995 of the language of IPU Statutes and Rules to eliminate any wording likely to convey a message of superiority of one gender over the other.
  • Setting up of a Gender Partnership Group in 1997.
  • Amendment in 1999 of the Unionís Statutes and Rules, which now officially provide that a Meeting of Women Parliamentarians, assisted by a Coordinating Committee, will meet on the occasion of each session of the Inter-Parliamentary Conference and will report to the Council on its work. Composition of the Co-ordinating Committee
  • Adoption of Rules of the Meeting and of its Coordinating Committee.
  • The President of the Coordinating Committee has been an ex officio member of the Unionís Executive Committee since 1999.

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