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capable than their husbands. 8. Many women around the world have little or no access to education. Consequently there is a need to build women’s capacity and ensure that they work hard to be able to qualify for leadership positions.

9. Men do not often speak up for women’s interests, nor will they surrender their comfort zone. Ultimately you must utilize all international legal instruments available to compel the government to respond to the need to equality and inclusion of women in the political arena.

Role of women MPs

Raising awareness: Kirron Kher, a candidate in the 2014 General Elections in India during her political campaign

being oppressed. There is therefore, a need to deconstruct this mind-set to galvanize women to act with a shared vision.

Women politicians pay a higher price to attain a position of power. While society accepts that a male politician has to for example, spend a lengthy time away from home, women on the other hand are more likely to be labelled as an unfit mother and wife.

Ultimately, women are more challenged to balance their political life with maintaining traditional gender roles.

Women have to walk a political and gender tightrope. As a woman who has gained political power, you have to contest certain cultural and religious notions that relegate women as second class citizens. While challenging the status quo to achieve change, you have to appeal to the religious and cultural leaders to support your cause, even though the values that oppress women may have been imposed by such leaders. Juggling cultural and religious

expectations is essential in order to succeed and survive.

The media coverage of women tend to undermine their substantive contribution and concentrate on social and personal matters. Issues tend to fixate upon women’s fashion choices and their personal relationships rather than topics of greater concern. Such trivial focus can not only tarnish professional reputations, but in some cases can also affect personal ones too.

When you access a position of leadership, you must use your position to ensure that the door remains open for other women to enter. To ensure this, it is important to negotiate for legal reform so that a quota system for women is included in the national constitution.

Most women fear the social cost of politics if they attain power. Some women fear that a position of power lessens their chances to get married, given that men may prefer women less ambitious. For married women, there is the fear that excelling in their career could be seen as being more

176 | The Parliamentarian | 2014: Issue Three

Women getting into Parliament is only the start of the journey. Once elected, it is critical that efforts are continued to keep working towards engendering the parliamentary processes. Approaches of achieving this include:

• Engendering parliamentary debates. Ensuring that during par- liamentary debates, key issues of concern to women are raised either through Prime Minister’s Question Time, Questions for Oral Answer, motions and proposing key amend- ments to Bills to integrate women concerns during debates. • Engender and reform laws. It is vital to realize that the foundation of access and participation of women must be constitutionalized. It is thus important to work and entrench affirmative action for women in the constitution. Most of the countries that have made progress in increas- ing women’s political participation has had to use some form of quota system. Therefore, women MPs must work to legalize the quota system in the constitution and operationalize it in subsidiary legislation like the Politi- cal Parties Law, the Local Govern- ment Law, the Parliamentary Elec- tions Law etc. Several laws related to violence against women, marriage and employment laws are obsolete in many countries. Women MPs should work to reform such laws. • Engendering the structures of po- litical parties. Political parties remain the dominant factor in organizing

and facilitating participation in politics. Their structures are vital in choosing candidates, setting campaign rules and choosing leaders for various leadership positions when they are in power. It is vital for women to entrench legal quotas in their political party constitution and ensure that all the structures and processes of political parties takes into account the interest of women. • Engendering the Rules of Procedures for Parliament. When in Parliament, the Rules of Procedures of the House remain key in enabling women to access positions of leader- ship, facilitating the gender debate, establishing a dress code and work- ing hours. It is vital that these rules respond to the specific interests of women. Parliaments should work to ensure that the rules provide a clear minimum representation of women in all leadership positions of committees and other parliamentary positions. • Conducting monitoring and field visits at grassroots level. Women MPs remain key role models at a national level, meaning it is impor- tant to mentor other women at the local level. Therefore, through the caucuses, women Parliamentarians can conduct field visits to monitor im- plementation of gender laws, policies and government programmes while raising awareness on gender issues.

Strategies to strengthen the roles of Parliamentarians The following are some of the main strategies to help women maximize their power and effectiveness as representatives.

1. Raise awareness. Media campaigns should focus on the importance of balanced participation and representation of both men and women. Political parties or women’s organizations could be financed to mount such campaigns and related activities. Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) interested in encouraging the participation of women in political life have often been active in raising awareness. To encourage such campaigns, male and female politicians must be proactive in identifying and

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