A global analysis:
What has worked for women in politics
and what has not, 1975-1998
(introduction only)

Christine Pintat
Assistant Secretary General of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU)

The question, which this paper is supposed to answer, is indeed a "64 thousand dollar question." The way it was formulated could give the impression that what is expected as an answer is a series of recipes. Clearly, this paper will provide none. While it is obvious that women's involvement in the political process is, nowhere in the world, proportionate to the 50% of the population which they represent approximately or to their input to society - whether this input is or is not accounted for in the GNP - there exist no ready-made solutions immediately applicable in any context.

Politics is not a series of techniques but a very complex phenomenon which, in every region of the world and for that matter in every single country, is deeply rooted in historical and institutional developments and has evolved against the background of cultural values, including religious or ideological values. What may have worked - or not worked - in the last 20 years in Sweden, Russia, South Africa or Argentina in a given social and political context and with a specific cultural and spiritual or ideological background may not work or on the contrary work in China, India or the Philippines where the political conditions, the historical background and the relationship between men and women are completely different.

It is very true however that in some 20 years there has been a dramatic evolution almost everywhere in the world in women's participation in the political process. This evolution concerns the perception of women's political participation, its need and meaning for society as a whole, as much as - if not more than - the actual scope and impact of women's involvement in politics and the techniques and strategies applied to develop it.

Clearly, what follows will be more of a brief and incomplete shopping-list than a detailed analysis and a review of specific success stories or failures. Furthermore, it is worth stating that this paper is not based on personal political experience but on data accumulated by the Inter-Parliamentary Union for which the question "what works and what does not work" has been at the heart of 20 years of steady work. In this context, it is relevant to mention that the IPU is just launching a series of in-depth interviews of women politicians around the world to learn about their experience of what has worked and what has not for them individually and the difference they have made on the political process. The outcome of this inquiry will be analyzed and interpreted at a meeting in 1999 at which an equal number of male and female politicians, belonging to Parliaments and to Governments, along with representatives of the media, political scientists, sociologists, philosophers, historians, specialists of opinion and electoral polls, etc., will reflect on the kind of "genderised" democracy we all advocate for the third millennium.

Note: this paper was presented at the Second Congress of the Global Network of Women in Politics held in Manila, Philippines, 28-30 August 1998.
Please note
that this is only the introduction to Christine Pintat's paper. You can also download the complete version in either Microsoft Word format (230k) or in Adobe Acrobat format (86k).


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Dated: May 29, 2005