Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula says there is unprecedentedly a wide convergence of understanding that gender equality, gender mainstreaming and women’s participation should be placed higher on the developmental agenda of nations and parliaments.
Addressing the opening session of the 145th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) held in Kigali, Rwanda, on Wednesday, the South African National Assembly Speaker reiterated that increased participation of women in parliamentary processes is critical in accelerating the transformation of our society to meaningfully change gender relations across the spectrum.
“We believe that Parliament’s law-making, oversight and enhancement of public participation hold hope for the meaningful translation of these ideals and commitments to improve the lives of ordinary women.
“We all agree that a gender-sensitive Parliament must go beyond women’s representation, which only reflects numbers,” she stressed.
Mapisa-Nqakula noted that the IPU Women in Parliament report of 2020 is not encouraging for a world whose leaders have expressed their commitment to women’s empowerment and to ensure “a just and equitable society.”
She also warned that unless many systemic barriers to women’s participation at the apex of political leadership and decision-making are addressed, the status of women will not improve.
“These barriers include disempowering legislation, patriarchal gender roles in society, conservative traditions, and religious fundamentalism that continue to reproduce undesirable stereotypes and inadequate support and recognition of women in individual households.
“I wish to reiterate what I recently said in one of our international parliamentary fora, whilst we recognise many achievements made in the representation of women in our parliaments, we are still far from the ideal scenario articulated in numerous commitments we made,” the Speaker said.
She further called on the Assembly to explore the possibility of imposing penalties on all parliaments who are members of the IPU who seem not to be moving to ensure there is proper gender representation in their Parliaments.