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From 50 percent of the population to 50 percent of seats

When I last contributed to the Girls’ Rights Gazette back in 2014, I stated that “women remain under-represented in our parliaments”. Since then, the European Parliament has seen a slight increase in its number of female members, going from 34,9 to 36,1 percent of seats held by women[1]. This relatively low number is telling of the fact that even though girls and women make up approximately 50 percent of the global population, that share isn’t reflected in seats in Parliaments or other decision-making positions – in either public or private institutions. The under-representation of women in such positions in turn affects the type of policies that come out of these spaces. The European Union is no exception. I have been calling and will continuing to call for the EU to step up gender mainstreaming all its policies, programmes and funding. Regardless of the many commitments made to tackle gender inequalities, including women’s access to leadership positions, there is still a long way for the EU to go.

For transformative change to take place, gender equality must become a driving social and political issue and power holders must use their authority to challenge the deeply held negative attitudes that perpetuate misogyny, waste talent and impoverish all our lives. For example, I expect to see the EU’s international commitment to the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development backed-up by the required resources in the next EU budget. The time is ripe to make sure that we use all the tools we have at our disposal to make gender equality a priority and make sure that women are equally represented at all levels of power and decision-making – whether political, social, economic or financial. As recently highlighted by the EP Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality [2], if gender-sensitive budgeting became an integral part of all the stages of the budgetary procedure, we would be promoting gender equality and thereby contributing to transformative change in the lives of girls and women.

In the run-up to the International Day of the Girl on 11 October, I believe we need to reflect on what we can do to unlock girls’ power. It’s about putting in place policies that protect and respect girls’ and young women’s civil and political rights and that provide for their empowerment, engagement and participation. It’s about investing in their ability to shape their own future and that of their societies. And it’s about creating the opportunities and the spaces to make sure that girls’ and women’s voices are heard on the issues that matter most to us. Only by taking these actions will we be able to go from 50% of the worlds’ population to 50% of seats.

Nothing about us without us!