One voice for quotas for women
Asia’s women politicians gathered in Seoul and they all argued that women’s participation in politics is greatly needed to maintain peace and prosperity given that women represent half the global population.
The 7th ICAPP (International Conference of Asian Political Parties) Special Conference on “Women’s Leadership and Empowerment” opened in Seoul on September 13.
During the plenary session, participants discussed over topics of “Women’s Leadership in Politics,” “Women’s Participation in Economy,” and “Women’s Role in Peace-building.” Women politicians and leaders from 41 political parties from 25 countries joined the session. They exchanged ideas about the role of female politicians and ways to promote women’s involvement in politics, and shared information on women’s representation in parliament.
The ruling Saenuri Party lawmaker Park In-sook said, “Korean women’s representation in parliament is only 15.7%, much lower than the global average. This is very low for a country with a female president.” She argued that female quotas need to be increased in the private sector, as well as in the government so that female leaders will have more opportunities to speak out.
Leaders from countries without female quotas strongly believe they need to implement the system. Misako Yasui from Japan’s Democratic Party said, “In Japan, gender roles are clearly defined. Therefore, it is very difficult for women to get into politics. To reflect opinions of women who make up half of the world’s population, female quotas need to be enhanced.”
A Chinese representative said, “Although the college enrollment rate for women exceeded that of men, there are still not enough female political leaders. This is why political parties have to introduce the quota system so that more women can be involved in politics.”
Some also argued that women’s engagement in social issues has to be promoted in order to boost the quality of women’s lives. According to Kantha Phavi, Cambodia’s Minister of Women’s Affairs, the government has incorporated women’s needs and successfully provided loans to impoverished women in rural areas.
Lee Bok-sil, Korean Vice Minister of Gender Equality and Family, introduced Korea’s policies for women, namely parental leave, short working hours for child care, replacement day off, and ‘Reemployment Service Center’ for 2 million Korean women.
Leaders also agreed that female politicians play a critical role in establishing peace across the globe. Chua Soi Lek, the president of the Malaysian Chinese Association, argued that it is women politicians who can truly comfort helpless women in war-torn countries. He also encouraged more female politicians to be involved in resolving conflicts and building peace.
The conference closed on September 14 with the adoption of “Seoul Declaration on Women’s Leadership and Empowerment.”