The Mother of the House of Commons, Harriet Harman MP, has today published the findings from the first-ever Women MPs of the World Conference which saw women from 100 parliaments and 5 continents debate in the historic Chamber of the House of Commons on 8th November 2018.
The summit considered a wide range of issues and found:
- virtually all the women MPs face opposition to their participation in public life. That ranges from abuse online, threats in person and threats to their families.
- some women had fewer children than they would have wanted because of finding it a struggle to combine their political duties with their family responsibilities. Some women found that their husband struggled to accept their role in public life. One was told by her husband to choose her marriage or her politics. She said her choice was politics but when she became successful he relented, becoming happy to share the limelight.
- once in parliament, many women MPs find that they are overtly discriminated against - they reported not being called to speak and not being able to sit on committees let alone chair them. They spoke of being criticised for their appearance including having the temerity to wear lipstick.
- in many countries there was abuse and manipulation of the quota systems to support women MPs. This ranged from men putting their wives, girlfriends, mother’s or sisters into quota seats so that they could control them.
- women found that working in women’s caucuses across party was essential to ensuring their demands could be acknowledged and met.
- there was a strong strand of work by women MPs on women’s safety - at home, at work and on the streets. Many countries are bringing in tough new laws against street harassment.
- some younger women MPs reported being sexually harassed by older male members of their legislature.
Harriet Harman MP, Mother of the House of Commons said:
“There are now women in nearly every parliament in the world. We have fought our way in past prejudice and discrimination, often in the face of threats and violence.
“Women in parliament are pioneers. We have been elected to sit alongside men in our legislatures. But we are, as yet, not on equal terms. We are still in a minority and are relatively new arrivals in legislatures which are male-dominated.
“Most global summits are male-dominated or even men only. For men MPs the international network is well developed, but it isn’t for women.
“Out of our conference has come a powerful global network of committed women who want to work together for progress for each of our countries and all of our people. There was a strong desire to hold the conference annually in different parliaments around the world so we can continue to support each other and share ideas. Women in politics are a new force for global change.”
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Notes to editors:
- Full report attached.
- This conference was supported by the FCO, DFID, GEO, Wilton Park, British Council, Westminster Foundation for Democracy, IPU and CPA.
- The Chamber was used for the plenary sessions. The “breakout” sessions were in the Commons Committee rooms.
- The plenary sessions in the Chamber were broadcast live and a Hansard transcript was produced.
- The chairs of breakout sessions were women MPs from the UK and other countries jointly.
- Women make up 24% of global legislatures. The UK is ranked 38th in the world, with 208 women MPs (32%).
- Twitter: #WomenMPsoftheWorld