WOMEN, POWER, DECISION-MAKING, AND INSTITUTIONAL MECHANISMS
By Anne Hoiberg,
CAWA Institutional Mechanisms Policy, 2005
Co-Chair Judy Bloom
The Beijing Platform for Action of 1995, adopted by 189 nations, urged governments 1) to take measures to ensure women’s equal access to and full participation in power structures and decision-making and 2) to increase women’s capacity to participate in decision-making and leadership. To implement the actions outlined for power and decision-making, governments are to create or strengthen national machineries and other governmental bodies; integrate gender perspectives in legislation, public policies, programs, and projects; and generate and disseminate gender-disaggregated data and information for planning and evaluation.
Actions and Achievements:
1. More women were elected to office in the last election cycle. Beginning the new session of Congress in 2005, 66 women (15.1%) serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, joining 14 women (14.0%) in the U.S. Senate, an all-time high. The California Democrat delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives includes 18 women and 15 men, whereas the State Republicans’ delegation of 20 has only one woman and 19 men. Both U.S. Senators from California are Democrat women. In our State Assembly, 31.3% are women: 19 Democrats and six Republicans; in the State Senate there are 12 women (30.0%). Worldwide, 15 countries now have more than 30% representation of women in their parliaments.
2. Many women were trained to be candidates throughout California.
Throughout our State, women seized the opportunity to learn about being a candidate and the basics of running a campaign, primarily presented in numerous cities by the National Women’s Political Caucus. Lifetime Television for Women and Loews Hotels also participated by funding candidate-training sessions for women with local logistical support from NWPC. Both Emily’s List and Wish List also brought professional trainers to various locations to conduct workshops on the media, fundraising, political consultants, and campaign managers.
3. The Women’s Vote:
With a total of almost 62 million women voters (54%) in the United States, the outcome of the November, 2004 elections should have been decided on the basis of our strength. The presidential election results, however, showed 51% of women voted for John Kerry and 48% for George W. Bush. Men voted at 55% for Bush and 44% for Kerry. The following breakdowns represent Kerry’s strongest voting constituencies: Blacks (88%), Jews (74%), and single women (64%).
The major difficulty in ensuring women’s representation in elected and appointed office is that of identifying women who are interested in public service. Not enough women are running for elected or appointed office. Strategies need to be developed to become effective recruiters of women candidates, even beginning with girls and young women running for school offices. Unless more women put politics at the center of their lives—recruiting and supporting one another as they pursue political power—the country will continue to be shaped without their influence. Many women with brains and political talent are choosing not to make that commitment; we also need to identify older women to become elder stateswomen to counter balance all the elder statesmen who do not represent the values of all women.
In addition to power, decision-making, and institutional mechanisms, governments at all levels must implement actions identified in the ten other critical areas of concern as stated in the Beijing Platform for Action and the California Women’s Agenda: poverty, education, health, violence against women, armed conflict, economy, human rights, media, environment, and the girl child. Other continuing issues include saving Roe v. Wade, trafficking in women and children, HIV/AIDS, indigenous women, information and communications technologies, Millennium Development Goals, and men and boys. The process of implementing the Platform for Action has been excruciatingly slow. Pro-choice elected women can make an important difference in the Congress, in the Senate, and in City Hall; such women will ensure that women’s voices will be heard on all of the aforementioned critical areas of concern.
Education, recruitment, training, support, unity, win! We have to better educate the public about these critical issues and areas of concern to all women. Then, we need to identify pro-choice women who will champion our issues and run for elected or appointed office. We need to provide training for these women candidates and encourage all other women to work on their campaigns while giving generously to fundraising endeavors. Uniting women’s organizations, such as the network created by CAWA, will prove beneficial in getting our 54% of the population to vote for women candidates. When women run and when women vote, women win!
1. Spokeswomen, speakers’ bureaus, and writers are sought to begin the process of educating the pubic and recruiting candidates for elected and appointed office at all levels of government. Strategies need to be developed in efforts to identify elected and appointed positions and to build a pipeline for women candidates to fill all positions, especially with the advent of term limits. All women’s organizations and political parties must be involved in this process.
2. All organizations included in the CAWA network should commit energy to ensure the success of this strategy of education, recruitment, training, support, unity, and winning. All girls and women need to unite to create a society to nourish and cherish.
TO ADD YOUR VOICE TO THE CALIFORNIA TASK FORCE REPORT ON INSTITUTIONAL MECHANISMS, SEND COMMENTS ON WHAT HAS HAPPENED IN YOUR COUNTY OR REGION WITH RECOMMENDATIONS TO: CAWA Contact