The equal participation of women and men in government, in the economy, in cultural life and in society is reflective of the level of democracy in that society. A true democracy cannot and does not exclude women. This is true for communities, nations and international institutions.
For Socialist International Women, however, the goal is not simply to elect more women to positions of power in the world's parliaments. The social, economic and political structures that prevent women from truly exercising their rights in a democratic society must also be changed. We must understand the gender ramifications of policies in order to establish policies and programmes that will enhance women's equality and empowerment.
Thus, from the point of view of socialist, social democratic and labour women, several aspects of gender politics must be addressed in order for women to achieve equality. Measures must be implemented to ensure that women are represented at all levels of government and party structure. Affirmative action must be taken to promote women within these institutions, for example:
- the preparation of more gender-balanced lists of candidates for elections of any kind;
- the assurance of gender-balanced representation in party structures;
- the promotion of women to leadership positions, such as ministries and executive positions in international institutions;
- the close scrutiny of the media to ensure that women's issues are put on the public agenda and that women in public positions are well represented.
The promotion of women in and of itself will not necessarily strengthen women's position in society. Strong support should be given to women who are committed to strengthening women's position in society. Women elected to office should act on their commitment by addressing the social, economic and cultural barriers facing most women.
An important strategy for achieving power for women is to reshape policies and programmes to ensure that the situation of women is positively addressed. We must support programmes that provide for investment in people, and particularly women. Such programmes will address those areas where gender differences and inequalities place an additional burden on women. Programmes must also be evaluated to ensure that they do not explicitly or implicitly discriminate against women.
Ensuring the equality and empowerment of women will thus require nothing less than the restructuring of our societies, economies and governments. The equal representation of women and men in decision-making processes in politics and economics, in addition to being an issue of human rights and democracy, contributes to good governance and ensures a more just and productive development of societies.