Women’s rights advocates from Eastern Europe and the Caucuses urged to promote more women in politics

Ahead of the sixty fifth session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW65), civil society representatives called for promotion of women’s political participation and elimination of violence, discrimination and hate speech against women in politics.

Date: Tuesday, March 16, 2021

On 11 March, over 60 women’s rights advocates from Central, Eastern Europe and the Caucasus came together to take stock of progress in women’s political participation in the region, their economic empowerment, and the elimination of all forms of violence against girls and women.

Hosted by Liliana Palihovici, the President of “Institutum Virtutes Civilis” Public Association in Moldova, the discussions brought to light the current situation regarding women’s representation and participation in politics in the region, addressed main challenges and offered effective solutions.

Women’s rights advocates agreed that women’s representation in politics remained low, and reported an increase in violence, sexism and hate speech against women in politics, which they said was discouraging women from participating in political life. A large proportion of women candidates have resigned from the electoral races due to acts of violence, including physical violence, as well as technologically facilitated harassment.

“The political and economic empowerment of women should be at the heart of national policies to ensure the sustainable development of our countries. This approach is what women and men expect from their governments and it will remove all the structural barriers that fuel gender inequalities,” said Liliana Palihovici.

Opening the discussion, Alia El-Yassir, UN Women Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia, emphasized the importance of ensuring women's leadership in pandemic recovery, “It’s disturbing that despite women’s leadership in so many countries responding to COVID-19 and the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women and girls, only 3.5 per cent of the COVID-19 task forces have gender parity,” she said, “Women’s leadership is needed more than ever to ensure an equitable recovery and prevent a roll-back on hard-won gains on gender equality,” El-Yassir added.

Highlighting women's representation as a key element in ensuring their fundamental rights, Tatiana Zatic, State Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Social Protection of Moldova, said: “The pandemic has impeded women’s access to equal opportunities. Post economic recovery plans must include gender approaches and consider economic and social challenges and needs of women and men. To ensure this, we need more women in leadership positions.”

UN Women’s analysis taking stock of gender equality progress since the adoption of Beijing Platform for Action, the most visionary agenda on women’s rights, shows that despite progress, women are still largely excluded from politics, policies, budgets and data collection in the region and entrenched gender stereotypes perpetuate violence and discrimination against women in politics. From 2010 to 2014, half of women (49.5 per cent) and two thirds of men (66 per cent) in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus believed men make better political leaders than women. 

Reporting from a group discussion session, Julia Kharashvili, Chairperson of the IDP Women Association “Consent” in Georgia, emphasized the importance of temporary special measures, including quotas, in accelerating women’s political representation at all levels. “Gender equality agenda and promotion of women’s political participation need to be included in party programmes. Gender-responsive budgeting should be promoted at central and local levels and adequate financial incentives and public and care services need to be in place to enable rural women to participate in politics,” she added.

Reporting from another group session, Dominika Stojanoska, UN Women Representative to Moldova, mentioned a concerning drop in the number of women elected to local councils in the recent elections in Ukraine. Participants agreed that the main reasons for decreasing numbers of women running for politics, especially at the local level, are increasing violence and harassment against women in politics and a growing and strengthening anti-gender movement in the region, which fuel this violence.

Participants called on the national governments to promote nondiscriminatory laws, eliminate the barriers that are limiting women’s political participation, and develop specific framework that will encourage political parties to invest in women’s political participation, and also to invest in education for tolerance and non-discrimination.

“The issue of violence should be addressed in all political party programmes. The important work of civil society organizations, including the support provided to women running for elections and elected women politicians, should continue,” said Stojanoska, summarizing her group’s recommendations. Participants also stressed the importance of addressing sexual harassment and violence at the workplace, which has a direct consequence on women’s participation in public life. They agreed that governments should ratify and enforce ILO Convention No. 190, which recognizes the right of everyone to a world of work free from violence and harassment, including gender-based violence and harassment.

The recommendations from the discussions will be finalized and shared at the CSW65. The priority theme of the CSW this year is women's full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, as well as the elimination of violence, for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.