Sanna Marin with newly inducted ministers Li Andersson, Katri Kulmuni and Maria Ohisalo in Helsinki, Finland. File/ AFP
In recent years we have seen a rise of female representation in governments throughout the world owing in part to certain measures that have been taken allowing for more women in politics. One such measure, albeit a controversial one which to this day stirs quite a debate ranging from it defying the principle of equal opportunity to being outright undemocratic, is the gender-based quota imposed by governments to ensure a substantial female legislative representation. Governments in the MENA region have also taken this issue in stride, a great example of this is seen in the UAE’s Federal National Council (FNC), where the female participation quota has been increased to fifty per cent in an attempt by the government to cement the legislative and parliamentary role of women in the nation's development. Topping this growing list of governments with the greatest gender parity is Rwanda where women make up 61.3% of the lower house.
The gender-based quota argument lies in viewing such a mandate as a somewhat blunt instrument and that a more nuanced approach would be to focus on the deeper layers impeding women from getting nominated for elected offices. Nevertheless this idea seems to have taken traction with over a hundred countries enforcing this directive. Statistics show that women who run for governmental positions are less likely to win votes even if their campaigns were stronger than their male opponents. According to a recent poll by Pew Research conducted on American voters, the most common reason cited for why there are fewer women in high political positions is that “women who run for office have to do more to prove themselves than men”. We witnessed this in the UAE’s 2019 FNC elections where a minute number of women were elected by voters spanning the seven Emirates despite most women running being more experienced and leading more active campaigns than their male counterparts who still managed to win seats with a record number of votes. It is evident that there is a societal mistrust in women filling political positions and at this point in time, if not for gender-based quotas women would be few and far between in the governance of nations and that would be a grave disadvantage for countries worldwide.
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