66th CPC - Event Hub
7th Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP) Conference

CWP Workshop A: Empowering Women Parliamentarians and Promoting Diversity / Intersectionality

About the Workshop

CWP Workshop A: Empowering Women Parliamentarians and Promoting Diversity / Intersectionality

In order for Parliaments and legislatures to function as truly representative institutions and safeguards of democracy, it is vital that the views and priorities of all sections of society are represented. Whilst the number of Commonwealth legislatures with 30% or more women members has grown to an all-time high of 45 in 2022, the number of legislatures with no women legislators has grown to the highest level (14 legislatures) since 2016. Furthermore, other underrepresented groups have experienced low levels of parliamentary representation, with data on persons with disabilities in Parliament across the world being particularly difficult to find. Indeed, when the CPA Headquarters Secretariat sought to gather data on persons with disabilities in Parliament, a number of legislatures responded that they did not know the levels of representation or did not look to gather these statistics.

This session explored how the narrative can shift from a focus on a need for those underrepresented individuals to be better equipped for public office and towards how institutions and norms can better accommodate and promote increased diversity. Particularly, the session looked at the importance of women in positions of parliamentary leadership, including in traditionally hard portfolios.  The session also encouraged consideration of how Parliaments can better monitor their levels of diversity within the membership and why this is important. Finally, the session looked beyond the representative function of Parliament at what increased diversity can mean for better legislation and improved oversight of the Executive.


CWP Workshop A: Empowering Women Parliamentarians and Promoting Diversity / Intersectionality
Hon. Valerie Woods, Speaker of the House of Representatives, National Assembly of Belize

Valerie Woods holds a Masters in Tourism Administration from George Washington University, Washington D.C. and a BSc in Business Administration from Le Moyne College in Syracuse, NY.

She was a former Director of Tourism for Belize, a former Executive Director of Belize’s only national conservation trust fund, the Protected Areas Conservation Trust (PACT) and is currently the Country Manager of Chukka (Belize), a tour operating company with sister companies in Jamaica, Turks and Caicos and the Dominican Republic. She has jointly owned and operated an event planning company in Belize and continues to selectively conduct board orientation and management training and consultancies.

Ms. Woods served as a Senator from 2016 to 2019 and during that time, she served on the Board for Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA). She was elected as the first Chair of the Belize Chapter of CIWiL (Caribbean Women in Leadership) prior to her election of Speaker of the House of Representatives in December 2020. She remains a member of CIWiL and is a Director on the board of the NGO, Friends for Conservation and Development and its efforts to protect and conserve the Chiquibul Forest.

An outdoors, adventure person who enjoys exploring her Belize backyard, Ms. Woods has a lifelong commitment to the promotion of responsible tourism and development in Belize. She is an advocate of human rights, LGBT rights and inclusion and women in leadership.

Hon. Sunita Duggal, MP, Member of the Lok Sabha, Parliament of India


Hon. Laura Kanushu, MP, Member of Parliament of Uganda

Laura Kanushu is a Ugandan lawyer, politician and legislator, she represents the people with disabilities in the parliament of Uganda, she is a member of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) a party under the chairmanship of Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, president the republic of Uganda.

Sneh Aurora, Head of London Office, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)

Sneh Aurora is an international human rights advocate, strategist and facilitator. She is currently the Executive Director of the London office of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI). CHRI is an independent non-governmental organisation working towards the practical realisation of human rights in the Commonwealth, including access to justice, right to information, media freedoms and the eradication of contemporary forms of slavery and human trafficking.

Sneh brings over 20 years of experience in the human rights field, focusing on international human rights law, standard setting and policy development, evaluations and assessments, strategy development and programme management, civil society and institutional capacity building. As a former member of the international management team of Amnesty International, she led its global human rights education program and has provided technical advice and support to numerous civil society organisations, governments, national human rights institutions, and inter-governmental bodies, including the Council of Europe, UNDP, UNESCO, OHCHR, and OSCE/ODHIR. Sneh embraces rights-based approaches, participatory methodologies, social communication, and integrating a learning culture in organisations and institutions, with a sensitivity to gender issues and inclusion of marginalized and vulnerable groups.

Sneh holds a Juris Doctorate in Law from the University of Toronto, Canada and is currently based in London, UK.

Workshop Resources

CWP Workshop A: Empowering Women Parliamentarians and Promoting Diversity / Intersectionality

Workshop Summary

CWP Workshop A: Empowering Women Parliamentarians and Promoting Diversity / Intersectionality

This workshop explored how Parliaments and Legislatures can empower women Parliamentarians and better accommodate and promote increased diversity. In particular, this session looked at the importance of women and other underrepresented groups, including persons with disabilities, serving in public office, especially positions of parliamentary leadership.

The first panellist highlighted the increasing presence of women in political life in India and emphasised that true democracy can only be realised when all segments of society have a voice. The second panellist from Uganda explained how women with disabilities are often the most vulnerable members of society and are too often left out of the conversation about political representation. The Member emphasised that it comes down to political will to have dedicated spaces for persons with disabilities in parliamentary leadership. Delegates also heard from the panellist from the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) about effective steps that can be taken to close the representation gap and achieve a gender-sensitive Parliament.

The discussion at the conclusion of the workshop explored various issues in respect of women’s inclusion in political life, including youth engagement, the effectiveness of gender quotas in Parliaments and how to ensure substantive participation of women, and the need to engage political parties to encourage diversity within their membership and why this is important.

Workshop Recommendation

CWP Workshop A: Empowering Women Parliamentarians and Promoting Diversity / Intersectionality

As part of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference outcomes, each workshop put forward a recommendation. The following recommendation was agreed:


In promoting women’s empowerment and greater diversity in public office, Parliamentarians and legislatures should take an institution-centric approach towards lasting change.”