The Women In Parliaments Global Forum: Advancing female political participation globally!

The Women in Parliaments Global Forum (WIP) is an independent, international and non-partisan foundation established with the purpose of advancing society by building a network between Women in Parliaments.

Today’s world is a volatile, complex and interdependent one. As the only global forum reaching out to all female parliamentarians on national level, WIP endeavours to find ways to address global challenges by using the collective strength and ability of women in parliaments across the world. WIP is determined to encourage and educate society to lean more on the untapped potential and talent of women. WIP would like to see an increasing number of women representatives in parliaments around the globe.

WIP is a foundation that was set up in April 2013 to serve as a platform for female parliamentarians from all the world, where the over 9000 women could come and discuss issues hindering their political participation in their communities and countries.

The first summit was convened in November 2013, hosted by the European Parliament, which saw the active participation of over 400 female parliamentarians from all five continents. Remarkable too at this maiden summit was the participation of H.E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, first woman president in Africa, H.E. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, first woman chairperson of the African Union Commission and H.E. Portia Simpson Miller, first female prime minister of Jamaica.

Here I took a picture of them at the EU-Development days on the eve of the WIP Summit. I went there to secure H.E Ellen Johnson's participation at the summit and you can all imagine my joy.
Here I took a picture of them at the EU-Development days on the eve of the WIP Summit. I went there to secure H.E Ellen Johnson’s participation at the summit and you can all imagine my joy.

The November summit equally saw the participation of some of the most distinguished women parliamentarians who make up the ‘insignificant’ 20% of parliamentarians worldwide. I say this is ‘insignificant’ because there is no good reason why women who make up 50% or more of the population, and who give birth to the other 50%, should occupy only 20% of seats in parliaments where decisions are taken and policy made that impact the rights and lives of women, men, girls and boys alike.

Current statistics (as of January 1, 2014) drawn from the Inter Parliamentary Union, show significant progress made, although it equally highlights enormous work left to be done.  World Bank data is also a useful and reliable resource in tracking and evaluating the progress or regression in women’s participation in parliaments.

Coming back to our organization, I was very happy to have come on board in July 2013. I came on board as an intern, and I was promoted last January to the impressive but demanding position of Regional Manager for Africa.

During the summit, I got to learn quite a lot from the different speakers who intervened and from the different personalities I met.

Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma - First female AU Commission chairperson!
With the AU Commission Chairperson
H.E Portia Simpson Miller
With Portia Simpson Miller

What I retained most was that it is a universal struggle. It is true that in the ‘Western World’ there are more women in parliaments with the resources to freely express themselves, carry out campaigns and more. While in the ‘East’ censorship, cultural influences and much more still prevail. Yet, the women and even some men who made it to the summit, like the President of the Arab Parliament H.E. Ahmed Al Jarwan, admit to the fact that it is definitely not easy for women all over.

WIP has thus made it its noble mission to work hard towards ensuring female participation in parliaments all around the world (read our mission statement found here.) It is curious to note that prior to WIP, there was yet no one platform dedicated solely to women in parliaments from all regions of the world and this probably accounts for its rapid growth and interests from both civil society, governments and world organizations like UN Women, the World Bank, and UNDP (just to name a few).

Actually, WIP has an Advisory Board made up of some distinguished personalities, ranging from Lakshmi Puri of UN Women, Alhaji Mohammed Mumuni of the ACP Secretariat, Zainab Bangura Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on sexual violence in conflict, and Kathy Calvin of UN Foundation. The complete list of these illuminates and their brief bios can be found right here.

As Regional Manager for Africa, it is my huge task to rally women from various national parliaments to the mission of our organization. Sure, this is an uphill task but one I am excited to embrace each new day. We endeavour to have a ‘WIP Ambassador’ in each country, approved by their parliaments and this obviously is a challenge on its own.

Recently, WIP organized a study trip to the Iceland Parliament so that the women delegates could learn first hand and discuss the exportability of the ‘Icelandic Success Story’. In July, WIP will organize another study trip to Rwanda. It is by such gradual but steady actions, that we could truly say we are contributing to advancing society.

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