Alina Nychyk, Brussels-based political analyst, social activist.
Gender equality in Ukrainian politics: is it so bad?
Few people are aware of gender discrimination in Ukraine and moreover of gender equality in Ukrainian politics. However, when we go for numbers, the situation looks not so pleasant. While women take 22% of places in national parliaments around the world, in Ukraine only 12.5% of deputies are female. A few years ago, the number was 4% and later 8%. The percentage of women in the parliament in Ukraine is even lower than the medium one for Arab countries, which is 17%.
Talking about lower levels of politics, there is only one woman the governor of the region – Kharkiv oblast. While there are only 9.6 % of women heading cities, there are 19.3% heading villages. It is easier for Ukrainian women to be elected to lower positions in politics.
Why in the society, where women have been playing crucial role in the whole history, female part of 45-million nation experience huge difficulties in entering the world of politics? Ukraine definitely has its history of women in power. Grand Princess Olga, Anna Yaroslavna – the queen of France or Roksolana, who was ruling the whole Ottoman Empire – are only the most well-known examples. From the other side, one of the biggest feminist organization in Europe, the Ukrainian Woman’s Union, was founded during the 1920s in western Ukraine.
While Ukraine is integrating with the European Union and gender equality is part of its values, there are some positive steps in gender indiscriminative legislation. In 2013, the legislative quota of 30% was adopted, but the results were not impressive in the 2014 elections (20 out of 29 parties did not fulfill this requirement). The problem is that there were no penalties for the violation of the law. Now, there are only 53 women out of the 423 deputies of Verhovna Rada. Out of the 47 women elected in 2014 to parliament only 2 achieved this by winning a constituency (the election used a mixed electoral system with 53.2% MP’s elected under party lists and 46.8% in 198 constituencies). This proves the attitude of general public to women as politicians in Ukraine.
The European average amount of women in national parliaments is 23.4%. Only in neighboring Romania the rate of women in the parliament is lower than in Ukraine (9.6%). In the European Parliament, 37% of deputies are women. Countries with the highest percentage of women in national parliaments are Norway and Sweden – 40 and 45 % respectively.
Ukrainian women work hard for the development of the country, but sometimes stay behind the curtain and do not reveal their whole potential. Women can become the driving force of democratic reforms, but also of Ukraine’s integration into the EU. However, attitude of Ukrainian society still keeps many talented women away from their dream jobs in politics.
Increasing women’s representation in the government can empower women and is necessary to achieve gender parity. Women stand for stability, social justice and sustainable development. They support cooperation between nations and less probably get involved in interstate conflicts.
Ukraine is going to the European Union and empowering Ukrainian women to become part of this road will definitely accelerate the process!