Women’s empowerment may be described in various ways, such as recognizing women’s voices and elevating women’s positions through learning, consciousness, communication, and practice. It inspires women to acknowledge their individuality and self-worth, act courageously and fight the barriers that hold them back from unleashing their potential.

Women in the 21st century have much more privileges than they did in the past; still, they’re far behind compared to men regarding participation in different sectors, particularly the economy and politics.

Empowerment and political decision-making are interlinked concepts. Empowerment enables participation in the political decision-making process; on the other hand, the participation of women in the political process ultimately leads to more empowerment.

The inclusion of women in political decision-making is vital for democratic governance. If the voice of half of the population is not included in the political arrangements, it would be considered fragile.

Equal and meaningful participation and influence of women in decision-making are mandatory to ensure social and political justice. Feminists raise concerns regarding the exclusion of women in political leadership roles. The states addressed this issue at the Beijing Platform for Action at the fourth world conference on women in 1995.

Beijing Platform for Action 1995

The platform suggested two mandatory initiatives to improve women’s participation. First, it suggested adopting all necessary measures to ensure women’s access to participatory and decision-making structures for example, the allocation of a political quota.

Secondly, the platform affirmed enhancing women’s ability to participate. It also suggested improving this ability through leadership training and public campaigning. By following this strategy, several states reserved and allocated seats for women in all significant departments and sectors. However, years have passed since the milestone of this platform and the assurance of signatory states regarding the protection of women’s civil and political rights still, politics seem to be the realm of men overwhelmingly.

The figures show that women’s presence in decision-making structures is more visible and notable than earlier. According to ODI‘s report on Women’s voice and leadership in decision-making, women’s inclusion in the national parliament increased from 11.3% in 1995 to 22% in 2015. The number of women in cabinets increased from 9% in 1999 to 17% in 2010. Moreover, in 2010, 10 heads of state and 14 heads of government were women.

Statistics for 2022 provided by UN Women demonstrate a slight increase in women’s ratio of representation in executive political posts. In 28 countries, about 13 women are appointed as heads of the State and 15 as heads of the Government. Women ministers made up only 21% of representation, compared to men, even though they make up 79% of the total population. Only 14 countries have accomplished the task of having 50% of female representatives in the cabinet.

Challenges and recommendations

Several factors play a pivotal role in hampering women’s presence in decision-making.

Firstly, the enigmas of gender in a state’s institutional mechanism curtail women from being part of the decision-making process. If she makes it to get into the course, it is not always easy to influence it.

Most political institutions are less inclined towards women’s presence. Political parties discriminate in allocating seats for both genders. Moreover, conventional structures of these institutions ensure men’s domination, ultimately curbing women decision-makers from pursuing to improve their gender’s well-being.

A woman might occupy the office of a state or a government head, but that does not ensure that it will bring reforms for the gender. One such example is that of
British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. During her tenure, maternity benefits and rights of working women were reduced due to the dominance of men in government and legislative bodies. She failed to secure her gender community’s rights despite being a woman.

Also read: Women to be placed at the center of COP 27

The second constraint derives from a state’s prevailing social, economic, and political structures. These structures shape the trends, behavior, and patterns of the State and Society. If inequalities exist in these structures, it leads to representational and participation gaps between both genders. Structural transformation is required to bring change at all levels.

And thirdly, the constraint is related to women’s abilities and capacities. Women in some parts of the world, especially in the global south, are less concerned about their political rights, participation, representation, and decision-making. They are not psychologically empowered and are willing to play conventional gender roles.

So, women’s low presence in decision-making is relatable to women’s common interests and consciousness concerning their rights. On the other hand, women who succeed in occupying decision-making positions remained less influential due to the male-dominated set-ups they have to work in.

In a nutshell, holding a political designation isn’t enough to partake in decisions. Women need to rethink their roles.

Unless a community unites for its interest, no one else can ensure its well-being. Women must build their capacities and work hard to make their place and status.

Women legislators lack expertise in initiating legislative procedures; they are much affiliated with their party’s agendas rather than the community’s interests. They need to work together to overcome general deficiencies and flaws. To achieve this task, the formation of Self Help Groups or platforms at the social, organizational, and political levels like a parliamentary caucus, would be helpful for building up consensus among divergent approaches. That will gradually unite the whole community for the sake of their collective interests.

Women, especially in the Global South, must be allowed to exercise their right to vote freely, beyond any family pressure or ethnic loyalties. This is the first and foremost stage for participation in the political process. Merely showing and representing women in the political process is not enough to empower them. Their opinion should be given as much importance as their vote in the approval of legislation.

Most women in the parliaments are appointed to reserved seats. Reserved seats are allocated to each political party in the proportion of its total occupied seats in the legislative assembly. Due to the particular selection method, these female legislators aren’t provided with funds and other privileges that make their presence in the house ineffective and they are only operated by political parties for the sake of their interests. to make their role effective, their scope of work needs to be defined.  


**The views presented by the author in the article are their own and do not reflect the position of The Diplomatic Insight. Nor does The Diplomatic Insight bear any responsibility for the accuracy of the information cited.