Gender equality and overcoming barriers to political participation emphasised at 2018 Commonwealth Women's Forum 

The 2018 Commonwealth Women's Forum has emphasised women's positive political, economic and societal contributions ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings (CHOGM) in the United Kingdom. The three-day Commonwealth Women’s Forum (CWF) saw many Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP) speaking at the forum on a wide range of issues.

The 2018 Commonwealth Women's Forum held a wide range of workshop sessions reflecting on some of the global challenges still faced by women, as part of a commitment to ‘leave no one behind’ in the Commonwealth journey to achieving gender equality by 2030. The Commonwealth Women's Forum saw international delegates from the Commonwealth and globally highlighting women's positive political, economic and societal contributions and establishing mechanisms for how women and girls will be key to building sustainable and resilient societies.

Key highlights included: the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, HE Sheikh Hasina and UK Secretary of State for International Development, Rt Hon. Penny Mordaunt, MP speaking about education empowering girls; UK Home Secretary, Rt Hon. Amber Rudd and Commonwealth Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland speaking about the SDGs; CPA Vice-President, Rt Hon. Rebecca Kadaga, Speaker of the Parliament of Uganda on violence against women in elections. 

The CPA’s focus on SDG 5 is highlighted most clearly in the work undertaken by the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP) in its mission for greater representation of women in legislatures and the CPA and CWP held a joint session at the CWF on ‘Women’s Political Participation at All Levels’ in partnership with the Commonwealth Local Government Forum and the CPA UK Branch

The session was chaired by Rt Hon. Helen Clark, former New Zealand Prime Minister, UNDP Administrator and current Patron of CLGF who led the discussion on the challenges facing women’s political participation in local and national government. Helen Clark also invited delegates to contribute pledges on what they will do to empower women and girls for leadership roles in their communities.

The Mayor of Makeni, Sierra Leone, Sunkarie Kabba-Kamara gave the keynote address and spoke of her inspiration from the women in her community who believed that the return of local democracy would help them and how she had mentored young women in Makeni. Delegates then heard from guest panellists on their experiences. Hon. Angela Thoko Didiza, MP, Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP) Africa Regional Chairperson stressed the need to demystify politics for women and said: "Like any other job, you need a support system around you." Councillor Buumba Malambo from Zambia highlighted the importance of education and mentoring for women - "more women need to be sat at the table not in the audience when it comes to taking political office."

Hon. Maria Browne, MP, Minister of Housing, Lands and Urban Renewal in Antigua and Barbuda spoke about the role of men in helping to empower women in politics and Councillor Bev Esslinger, Chair of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Standing Committee on International Relations from Edmonton, Canada spoke of the need for more women in local government to be encouraged to stand for elections. The session was summarized by Sarah Childs, Professor of Politics and Gender at Birkbeck University and Director of the Centre for the Study of British Politics & Public Life. Members of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP) including the CPA Chairperson, Hon. Emilia Lifaka, MP (Cameroon) also asked questions at the session.

The full session from the 2018 Commonwealth Women’s Forum – please click here to view the video.

Women from parliaments and local government reflect on the 2018 Commonwealth Women’s Forum – please click here to view the video.

Members of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP) also met in London, UK in the margins of the 2018 Commonwealth Women's Forum.

The final session of the Commonwealth Women’s Forum saw HRH The Duchess of Cornwall speak about the problems of domestic abuse across the globe and how this hidden problem needs to be tackled. Jude Kelly from the WOW (Women of the World) organisation also addressed delegates at the close of the Forum.

The outcomes of the workshop sessions at the Commonwealth Women’s Forum were fed into the outcomes document presented to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings (CHOGM) 2018 taking place later the same week. 

For further information about the CHOGM 2018/Commonwealth Summit please visit


The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) and associated Forums take place every two years in a different Commonwealth country.

Additional images provided by the Commonwealth Secretariat and CHOGM 2018 teams.

Updated 26th April 2018.

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