Open Letter on the Gender Parity Quota Law for Representation of Women and Men
We are impressed, as UN civil servants, to be able to witness this encouraging trend towards women’s empowerment first hand. The draft law is the result of hard work by Bissau-Guineans which started with the Canchungo Declaration in 2014 which advocated for the promotion of gender equality through institutional reform. In subsequent years, we have been encouraged to see these reforms promoted by the President of the Republic and in the highest State institutions.
All Bissau-Guineans, men and women alike, should feel proud that their country is among the first five countries in the sub-region to take a significant step towards ensuring greater gender equality in political participation and national decision-making. Continuing with this trend, Guinea-Bissau may soon join the top ten African countries with the highest number of women in parliament.
For too long, the half of the population that is female found itself excluded from gaining entry points to decision-making about how their country should be run. This exclusion is particularly unfair in Guinea-Bissau where every day we see that women are among the hardest workers, in the house, in the fields, in the markets – indeed, it could be said that women carry the country on their backs, just like the children they carry from birth.
The women of Guinea-Bissau are both resilient and organized. The many civil society organizations that promote feminine empowerment bears witness to this esprit de corps. This year, the UN was proud to be associated with the organization of the Women’s Council – an event that marked a milestone in women’s organization. And to the many women and girls involved in these movements, we send our sincere congratulations and encouragement for them to continue their quest for empowerment and political, economic and social justice.
One of the first female activists in Europe, Millicent Fawcett, who fought for the right for women to vote back in 1897, used to say: “Courage calls to courage everywhere, and its voice cannot be denied."
And this is happening in Guinea-Bissau. Many party members are having the courage of giving up their ‘traditional’ positions on the electoral lists to women, and many party leaders are taking the courageous decision to implement the Quota Law in the next elections and within their party structures.
Women’s empowerment is very well studied and documented. And it is recognized by the United Nations as having a positive and tangible impact on the life of the whole community. When more women enter parliament, the levels of corruption in public sector are reduced and public spending on health and education increase, as recent studies have shown.
Here at the United Nations in Guinea-Bissau, we are all looking forward to working with the women candidates to making the next parliament a more inclusive and representative place, an assembly which truly reflects the diversity of Guinea-Bissau. Through the work of elected women leaders, we will see more laws that answer the needs of the people that parliament serves.
However, the process towards achieving the goals of the Gender Parity Law is far from finished. We should recall what one female character from the work of the great Guinea-Bissau novelist, Abdulai Silá, advised: "Concentrate on what you can influence with your action and put the rest in their place. So you can glimpse the end of one situation and the beginning of another. This is the secret of life”. We wish the women of Guinea-Bissau every success in their quest to achieve greater equality and representation, along with their menfolk.
United Nations in Guinea-Bissau