Strengthening efforts towards gender equality
24 May 2020
Dear Members, Partners and Friends,
“There is no greater force for change, for peace, for justice and democracy, for inclusive economic growth than a world of empowered women.”
- Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN-Women
“Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.”
- Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice of the
Supreme Court of the United States
“If you can’t see it you can’t be it…”
- Rt Hon Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand,
Administrator of UNDP, and CLGF Patron
I am starting this message with three quotes about women’s leadership, which encapsulate why it is critical that CLGF and all its members must strengthen our work to support the global efforts towards gender equality. Gender should be everyone’s business, it affects us all. It has been widely shown that more inclusive decision-making in local government results in decisions that have a positive impact on local communities; and mainstreaming gender helps ensure that our public institutions are sensitive to the needs of all citizens. It makes a big difference if women who are interested in getting elected, or in putting themselves forward for leadership positions, see other women in those roles; and women already in leadership, as well as the parties that they represent, must support and encourage other women to stand. Political engagement, however, must run in tandem with economic opportunity. Local economic development, and access to jobs and markets, play a major role in enabling women to engage in political leadership.
I want to use the opportunity of this message to ask you to play a role in ensuring that our work on gender equality, and particularly the work of our Commonwealth Women in Local Government Network, is targeted; supports and builds on what you are already doing in your respective countries and organisations; adds value; and enables us to increase our efforts collectively towards achieving gender equality in local government and meeting SDG 5.
THE SURVEY: Please click on this link to access a very short survey that has been designed to gather data on current initiatives in place at all levels of our membership to support women leaders; to institutionalise gender mainstreaming; to provide fora and platforms to develop coalitions, understand and share good practice; and to strengthen advocacy. We would appreciate if you could submit your responses by 5th June.
Countries across the Commonwealth are already working hard in a number of ways to increase the number of women in leadership roles: Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Uganda all have quotas for women in local government. In Australia, the State of Victoria was the first state in the country to set targets for women’s representation. A number of countries, including Rwanda, have networks of women in local government. In Canada, there are mentoring programmes for young women interested in being elected to council, while in Trinidad and Tobago there is a strong civil society movement to support women into leadership. In the UK, political parties support women in leadership; and in Zambia and Pakistan, there are committees and caucuses to represent the needs of women leaders embedded within the local government association structures.
In 2017 CLGF launched its Commonwealth Women in Local Government Network (ComWLG) to capture and share these kinds of experiences and good practice, support its membership, and to provide a platform for stronger Commonwealth advocacy and programmes around four core themes:
Supporting existing women leaders to increase their impact;
Supporting more women into leadership positions;
Strengthening the work of LGAs and other actors to address key challenges;
Contributing a strong and informed Commonwealth local government voice in international advocacy.
CLGF is already taking this mandate forward with a programme supporting networks of women, young women and women in local economic development in four countries in Southern Africa; work to support women leaders in the Pacific; and is shortly launching some research work on mentoring systems. We are also delighted to announce that Ms Janine Xavier-Cross has recently been appointed to coordinate the network. She will be based in the Caribbean Regional Office, working closely with our teams across the Commonwealth, and we have some additional activity funds to better animate the network.
By contributing to the survey, you will be instrumental in ensuring that our collective effort is meaningful, responds to your priorities and reflects your realities. Much of our attention in these difficult weeks has been on the impact of COVID-19. As we start to think about the recovery period, it is clear that women and girls have been disproportionately affected and must be at the heart of the recovery plans. Even before the pandemic, the UN was highlighting the urgent need to accelerate progress if we are to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This is even more pressing now, and local government has a critical role to play in ensuring that we leave no one behind. The UN Secretary-General’s 2019 Report on the SDGs recognises that “there is simply no way that we can achieve the 17 SDGs without achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls”, and local government must be at the forefront of this global effort.
Ms Lucy Slack
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