The Parliamentarian
2019: Issue One: Women and Parliament: 30th anniversary of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP)

The Parliamentarian is the quarterly Journal of Commonwealth Parliaments published by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) and features articles and news written by Members of Parliament and Parliamentary staff across the Commonwealth about international issues.

In 2019, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) recognises the many achievements of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP), established in 1989 as a network of women Members of Parliament spanning the nine CPA Regions who work tirelessly for greater representation of women in Parliaments, and for gender equality in and across our Commonwealth Legislatures. The network also seeks to build the capacity of women elected to Parliament to be more effective in their roles and to increase the awareness of all Parliamentarians of issues affecting women and girls across the Commonwealth.

As we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the CWP, this issue of The Parliamentarian features many articles by Commonwealth Parliamentarians and academic experts – women and men – that identify the many achievements of the CWP and women in Parliaments over the years and look at the significant challenges that many women are still facing in the campaign for gender equality across the world. Across the Commonwealth today, only 18% of all Commonwealth Parliamentarians are women, far below the target set by the Commonwealth Heads of Government of 30% female representation in Commonwealth Parliaments and Legislatures. 

There are some success stories in the Commonwealth – with one Commonwealth national Parliament having over 50% female representation and three Commonwealth national Parliaments with over 40% female representation. However, there are some areas for concern with a number of Commonwealth Parliaments having few or no women Members of Parliament. It is therefore incumbent on the CWP network to share these examples of success and the initiatives that have worked so that others can learn from them.

The Chairperson of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) Executive Committee, Hon. Emilia Monjowa Lifaka, MP (Cameroon) in her View article writes about gender equality, women and Parliaments and the challenges faced by women standing for election. The Chairperson of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP), Hon. Dr Dato’ Noraini Ahmad, MP (Malaysia) examines one of the key issues that the CWP network is tackling – that of cyber harassment against women on social media with particular examples from Malaysia.

Hon. AnÄ¡elo Farrugia, MP, Chairperson of the CPA Small Branches (Malta) writes about women and their participation in Parliament with particular reference to the Parliament of Malta. The CPA Secretary-General, Mr Akbar Khan in his View article writes about the successes of parliamentary gender caucuses in the Commonwealth and their support for the work of the CWP. He quotes a poster held by a female activist that said: ‘Without women’s equal participation, democracy is incomplete’.

This issue of The Parliamentarian features many contributions from across the Commonwealth on women and Parliament that give different perspectives from the nine CPA Regions.

Hon. Lindiwe Maseko, MP (South Africa) was the first elected International Chairperson of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP) in 2004 and she writes about the history of the CWP and her reflections on the last 30 years of women’s representation in Commonwealth Parliaments. Rt Hon. Harriet Harman, QC, MP (United Kingdom) writes about Commonwealth women in politics and the progress that has been made across the globe from her unique perspective as the current ‘Mother of the House’ in the UK Parliament as the longest continuously serving woman MP, first elected in 1982. She also references the Women MPs of the World Conference which took place in November 2018 and brought together women Parliamentarians from across the world in the UK Parliament’s House of Commons. 

Rt Hon. Rebecca Kadaga, MP (Uganda) is a former Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians International Chairperson. She gives a personal account in this issue of The Parliamentarian of her political and parliamentary experiences as the first woman Speaker of the Parliament of Uganda and one of the first women Ministers in Uganda. Hon. Shirley M. Osborne, MLA (Montserrat) writes about women and gender in Caribbean politics and reflects on both the successes and challenges facing women in the CPA Caribbean, Americas and the Atlantic Region.

This issue of The Parliamentarian features a number of articles that examine the role of women in Parliament and the work of the CWP network in the CPA Australia and CPA Pacific Regions. Hon. Michelle O’Byrne, MHA (Tasmania) is the current Vice-Chairperson of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians and Chair of the CWP Australia Region Steering Committee and she looks at the important issue of working towards safe work environments in Parliaments. Anahila Kanongata’a-Suisuiki, MP (New Zealand) writes about women’s political participation in the CPA Pacific Region where a number of Parliaments and Legislatures have faced challenges in gender equality. Former Commonwealth Youth Parliament member, Elise Delpiano (New South Wales) provides a youth perspective on gender equality and writes about the challenges of increasing women’s parliamentary participation in Australia and New Zealand, based on the findings of her research report for Emily’s List Australia. Anna Watson, MP (New South Wales) gives a personal account of her experiences of being a woman in Parliament in Australia.

Meraj Hamayun Khan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) is a former Member of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly, where she started the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus, and she writes about increasing the numbers of women in Parliament in Pakistan. Rt Hon. Baroness D’Souza (United Kingdom) was elected as the second Lord Speaker of the UK House of Lords in 2011 and the second woman to hold the position. She gives her reflections on women’s empowerment and writes about the importance of education in increasing political participation. Hon. Dawn Butler, MP (United Kingdom) is currently the Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities in the UK Parliament and writes about finding policy solutions to increase women’s economic empowerment in the UK.

Rt Hon. Maria Miller, MP (United Kingdom) is the Chair of the Women and Equalities Select Committee in the UK Parliament and she writes about the importance of the work of the Committee and its impact on legislation. Professor Sarah Childs from Birkbeck, University of London looks at women’s political representation in the UK Parliament and questions if the centenary of women’s suffrage in 2018 will result in any significant changes in gender equality.

Dr Lesley Clark (Queensland) is a former Parliamentarian and she has recently been appointed as the Champion for the new CWP Alumni Initiative. In this article for The Parliamentarian, she writes about women supporting women in politics and introduces the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians Alumni Initiative. Maurice Corry, MSP (Scotland) writes about male Parliamentarians as ‘agents of change’ and the role that all Parliamentarians can play in gender equality.

As a series of exhibitions and events are organised to mark the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in Jersey, Anna Goodyear, Assistant Greffier of the States of Jersey takes a look at the history of Jersey women in politics. Until recently, Norma Paris (Alderney) was the only woman Member of the States of Alderney, one of the smallest Legislatures in the Commonwealth and she shares her experiences of politics in Alderney.

This issue of The Parliamentarian also highlights a number of other events and activities. Hon. James Duddridge, MP (United Kingdom) reports on Commonwealth Parliamentarians at the 67th Westminster Seminar and their discussions on how to create effective Parliaments. Hon. Daphne Caine, MHK (Isle of Man) provides an insider’s guide to the CPA Fundamentals Programme for Commonwealth Parliamentarians from CPA Small Branches after participating on the CPA course in Canada.

The Parliamentary Report and Third Reading section in this issue includes parliamentary and legislative news from Canada Federal, British Columbia, India, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, United Kingdom and Australia Federal. 

In 2019, The Parliamentarian is celebrating its 100th year of publishing and we will be publishing our centenary issue of the publication in early 2020 to mark 100 years since the first issue. If readers have any memories of the publication that they would like to share for an upcoming feature on the publication’s centenary, then please contact the Editor.

We look forward to hearing your feedback and comments on this issue of The Parliamentarian, on the issues affecting Parliamentarians across the Commonwealth and to receiving your future contributions to this publication.

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Updated 04/03/2019/CPAHQ