Women Making a Difference

Fact Sheet No. 2

Numbers are a necessary but not sufficient condition for women’s full, equal, active and informed participation in economic, social and political decision-making. There is evidence however, that when there is a critical mass (at least 30%) of women in policy-making bodies, not only are women’s issues prioritized in the policy-agenda but they are more likely to be acted upon by policy-makers.

1. In Sweden, where women occupy 149 of the 349 (42.7%) seats in Parliament1 and 9 of the 11 (82%) cabinet ministries including the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Justice and Agriculture, issues such as child care and equal opportunities have gained importance.

2. In Norway, where women hold 60 of the 165 (36.4%) seats in Parliament4, the "politics of care" has developed which particularly addresses the state's responsibilities to provide opportunities for women to combine the obligations of motherhood with the right to economic independence.5 Such politics include:

3. In South Africa, where women have 120 out of the 200 (30%) seats in the National Assembly6 and 8 out of 29 cabinet positions (27.58%), women parliamentarians have played a key role in lobbying for the7:

4. In India, where the Panchayat Raj Act reserves 33% of the three-tiered panchayats for women (village council, council of cluster of villages, and the district council), there are now close to a million elected women leaders at the village level.8


  1. "Women in National Parliaments, Situation as of Novemebr 10, 1999," InterParliamentary (IPU) Union Data.
  2. Women in National Parliaments, Situation as of November10, 1999, Datas de la Union Interparlamentaria (IPU) www.ipu.org
  3. Kalliope Migirou, "Towards Effective Implementation of international Women's Human Rights Legislation, En "Women in Parliament: Beyond Numbers", pp. 208-209
  4. Ibid.
  5. IPU Data www.ipu.org
  6. Hege Skjeie, "Credo on Difference-Women in Parliament in Norway," in Women in Parliament: Beyond Numbers, p. 186www.womensnet.org
  7. IPU Data www.ipu.org
  8. Mihloti Mathye,"Participation in Elections as a Strategy -The South African Eperience", Case Study written for WEDO
  9. Suchita Vemuri, "The Panchayats of India"
  10. Ranjit Dev Raj, "Empowering Women from the Grassroots Up," Choices, the Human Development Magazine," March, 2000, pp.20-21.
  11. Ibid.