Measures to increase the political representation of women in Northern Ireland were highlighted at a conference organised in Belfast on 9 March 2012 by the Centre for the Advancement of Women in Politics at Queen's University Belfast, and supported by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).
The conference, marking International Women’s Day, brought together representatives of political parties, civil society and academia to discuss good practices in advancing women as leaders, decision-makers and candidates for public office.
During the conference ODIHR presented its Gender Equality in Elected Office: A Six-Step Action Plan, which identifies trends in women’s political participation in the OSCE region and proposes strategies for enhancing women’s representation and influence in public life.
Ajla van Heel, Gender Officer at ODIHR, stressed that political parties as guardians of democracy should recognize their responsibility to advance gender equality in elected office. “They should seek appropriate measures to effectively promote women as candidates for public office,” she said.
Professor Yvonne Galligan, Director of the Centre for the Advancement of Women in Politics from Northern Ireland, said she hoped “the event would bring women closer to having an equal say in elected councils and assemblies across Northern Ireland, to the benefit of all.”
Currently only one out of five members of the Legislative Assembly of Northern Ireland are women, noted Lynn Carvill from the Women’s Resource and Development Agency. “It is essential that Northern Ireland Executive introduces legislation on gender quotas and to further support the women already in politics, to ensure a level playing field,” she said.
This event was part of ODIHR’s work in providing expertise to the OSCE participating States in implementing their commitments to advance gender equality and women’s political participation.