Global Resources

Women in Power: Beyond Access to Influence in a Post-2015 World

Author: Nath P
Publisher: Voluntary Service Overseas
Publication Date: Aug 2013

One of the deepest and most persistent fault lines of poverty and inequality in the world today is the lack of power that women have to influence decision making compared to men. The post-2015 framework must include a clear and robust target to increase women’s participation and influence in political and public life and should be accompanied by quality indicators that measure not only numbers but also nature and impact. This report sets out VSO’s thinking regarding women’s equal participation and influence in public and political life and why it considers these issues to have instrumental importance. It assesses the current situation, demonstrating gaps in power, outlining barriers to and enablers of participation, and sets out how the post-2015 framework can integrate these priorities within a goal, target and indicator structure. VSO suggests a short list of indicators which are feasible, transformative and universally measurable, while allowing for a degree of local variation. A comprehensive list of indicators, together with an explanation on the feasibility, data availability and transformative quality of each indicator, is provided in Appendix Two.

  1. Proportion of seats held by women in national parliament, local government and traditional governance structures compared to men; proportion of those seats held at a leadership, ministerial or cabinet level; and proportion of seats occupied by women from low income households and marginalised groups.
  2. Perception amongst female politicians of the level of impact they have on decision making at various levels of government.
  3. Public attitudes towards women as leaders in public and political life.
  4. Number of women’s rights organisations working on gender equality and women’s empowerment in a country; and these organisations’ perception of progress made regarding women’s ability to adopt leadership positions in public and political life.

 Whilst a stand-alone gender goal is needed, it is also important to ensure that measures of women’s empowerment are mainstreamed across all goals and targets in the post‐2015 framework. This would recognise that gender inequality spans all dimensions of poverty, and that the ability for women to participate meaningfully in political and public life is affected by a wide range of issues, including education, healthcare and livelihoods.