Commonwealth Local Government Forum

International Women's Day 2024

07 March 2024


International Women's Day is an annual United Nations campaign to publicise efforts to create gender equality worldwide. International Women’s Day 2024 is being celebrated in many different ways around the world.


CLGF is using IWD24 to champion equality and to profile the importance of continuing to work towards gender equality at the local level, where we are pushing to see more women in leadership and to ensure equitable local services for all, including women and girls.


Five priorities for women

The UN’s overarching theme is: Invest in women: Accelerate progress and UN Women has set five priorities for IWD24.


  1. Investing in Women: A human rights issue
  2. Ending Poverty
  3. Implementing gender-responsive financing
  4. Shifting to a green economy and care society
  5. Supporting feminist change-makers

Impact on local government

Each one of these areas matters directly to local government, and the work that our members do on a day-to-day basis at the local level. Whether that is providing basic services to reduce poverty; support for local economic development and women-led business; social services and health provision; climate adaptation and mitigation; and of course, women’s political representation and leadership.


At a time when up to 75 million more people have been pushed into poverty, many of them women, with the global cost of living crisis and the disproportionate impact of climate change on women it is critical that we accelerate progress towards reducing inequality and achieving the SDGs. Increasing the number of women involved in leadership, planning and decision-making at all levels, especially at the local level, is a critical step in ensuring decisions are made that reflect and benefit the whole community.


One of the Sustainable Development Goals – SDG5 – specifically speaks to Achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls – and within that, one of the indicators is the number of women in local government.   


Number of women politicians in local government

CLGF compiles a record of the number of women in leadership in local government around the Commonwealth. Based on data available from 42 countries, gathered as part of the research to update the Commonwealth Local Government Handbook, the latest figures show that across the Commonwealth, on average, 27% of seats in local government are occupied by women, with the percentage varying from 3.8% to 66.6%.


It is hard to make a direct comparison between diverse members states, so within these statistics we have also indicated some of the factors impacting on the number of women leaders, for example, a number of Commonwealth countries use a quota system to increase women’s representation; in some cases women are appointed to ensure more balanced councils; and not all countries use the same electoral system. Please check out your own country and if you have more up-to-date data, let us know, as we would like to include it.


We liaise with our members to update our statistics. Significantly, UN Women is also now collating the number of women elected to local government as part of their responsibility to monitor progress towards SDG5.5.1b Number of women in local government. 


Commonwealth network for women in local government

Established in 2017, the Commonwealth Women in Local Government (ComWLG) network was created to support women in leadership. This umbrella network partners with country and regional chapters to amplify our shared messages. The ComWLG pages on CLGF’s website provide information about this work.


ComWLG focuses on practical and collective action, and CLGF works to mainstream gender across its projects and programmes. Various online tools have been created to support women to overcome barriers to standing for office and to ensure they have the skills and knowledge to make a meaningful contribution. Although the landscapes and environments of the countries of the Commonwealth may be very different, many of the challenges facing women are similar including: funding for campaigns, help with caring responsibilities including managing childcare support and costs, lack of training to enhance skills, family-friendly timing for council meetings and work, and online and other abuse and intimidation.


Encouraging a dialogue on elected women for IWD 2024

As part of this year’s celebrations, CLGF is encouraging its members and partners to start a discussion about women’s representation in your local government system. We have created a presentation template for you to use and fill in with your relevant national data. The table of women in leadership in the Commonwealth is a starting point to begin a discussion on where your country stands vis-a-vis the Commonwealth average of 27% women in local government. The tool is designed to allow for customising to the key issues of relevance within your network, and to promote debate around gender empowerment. It is designed to be a framework so please amend it with the information that is pertinent to your country. If you use the presentation or hold an event please share with the members of the ComWLGN on the FB page or on social media. The link to the tool and table are available to everyone


Delivering results

The Connecting the Dots project brought about impressive changes for women, in eSwatini,  Lesotho, Zambia, Zimbabwe both in terms of confidence, skills and increased earnings, detailed in the Stories of Change.


In India, the Women As Local Legislatives – or WALL project, funded by the EU, has helped increase the skills needed for women to stand for election and serve in local government, and has been extended to the State of Gujarat in India and Bangladesh. A Self-mentoring module for elected women representatives from five South Asian countries: Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka has been developed and shared with CLGF members.  


A Social Media toolkit and other tools have also been created by the women’s chapter of the Association of Local Government Authorities of Jamaica – together with other materials available to download.





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