Commonwealth Local Government Forum

The time for gender equality is NOW

08 March 2019

International Women’s Day is an increasingly important day in the calendar - not just for highlighting how far we still have to go to achieve gender parity in all areas of local government - but just as crucial, to champion our role models, and the leadership being shown across the Commonwealth in pursuit of more equitable decision-making and service delivery at the local level. 


Closest sphere of government to communities

Local government is the closest sphere of government to local communities – very often the only part of government to which people have a direct link – and it is responsible for providing many of the basic services essential for improving the quality of life of citizens, and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.


Women make up an average of 22.3% of the councillors across the 53 countries of the Commonwealth, ranging from 28.2% in the Americas to 9.3% in the Pacific. The national situation is more varied, and the leadership of CLGF has put its weight behind a more proactive approach to supporting members as they work towards achieving gender equality. The Commonwealth Women in Local Government Network (ComWLGN) is the main vehicle for that, and supports activities and advocacy at local, national, regional and international level.  


Commonwealth Women in Local Government network


Work with the Commonwealth Secretariat and Commonwealth Parliamentary Association during the Commonwealth Summit in London 2018 put a spotlight on the need for more women in political leadership, and the need to actively champion the women mayors and leaders who are such important role models. Women still need to see what is possible and we need to continue to profile our women leaders and their achievements. ComWLGN is doing that as well as networking leaders and sharing good practice, to ensure that women continue to support other women coming in to the sector.


Quotas, training and networking 


Many countries of the Commonwealth are taking proactive steps to encourage gender equality and the ComWLGN is working to support them in that process. In Sri Lanka, in 2018, the Government introduced a quota system requiring a minimum of 25% women‘s representation in each council; in the Caribbean, Hazel Brown has catalogued a book showing all the women who have served in local government in Trinidad and Tobago; in Maharastra, India, CLGF is working with the state Electoral Commission and RSCD to enhance the skills of prospective women candidates in preparation for the next local elections; in Fiji, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands CLGF is working with UN Women to train women in local government and market women to improve local governance and decision making in local markets; and in Southern Africa to network women councillors and entrepreneurs. 


We must continue to strive to increase the number of women in leadership across local government where it can make a genuine difference to people’s lives – the time for gender equality is NOW. 



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