Promoting gender equality in politics – official letter to the European leaders

We are half a year away from the next European Parliament elections. From local, national to the European level, women are underrepresented in the process of decision-making and in political life. I addressed an official letter to the President of the European Parliament, the leaders of political groups in EP, the European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, also to all the members of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality in EP.

Promoting equal participation of women and men in politics should become a priority both for Romania and for European Union. I strongly believe in the necessity to set a quota for women of 50% on the next European Parliament electoral lists. I think that one way to implement gender quotas is by reserving a certain number of leadership positions for women. Only 37% of the elected members of the European Parliament in 2014 were women, an increase of just 2% comparing to the 2009 elections.

We have to bring more women to the table, to discuss and to tackle the most important issues we are facing. Now it’s the right moment to nominate bright women on eligible seats, ensuring a 50-50 share for women and men. Equal participation of women and men in politics is an important condition for effective democracy and good governance. Apart from strengthening and enhancing the democratic system, the participation of more women in political decision‑making has many positive effects on society that can help improve the lives of women and men.

The European Union has been facing massive challenges in the past years and the next European elections are crucial. We need more women in the Parliament to solve the problems and implement good policies. Promoting women’s political participation and gender equality is an essential condition for a healthy democracy and for the social development of the Union and of all member states. You can find below the official letter I addressed to the European leaders concerning the issue of women’s poor representation in politics:

„We are merely half a year away from perhaps the most important EU elections of our time. Hardly have there ever been more challenging circumstances such as the rise of illiberal democracies in the East, Brexit negotiations or immigrant refugees striving to build better lives in our Union. As issues become more and more complex, our approaches to solve them seem crippled by an inability to keep up, lacking that vibrant, engaging element that brought people together under the EU umbrella. I am writing to you as I believe I know how to regain it.

As a member of the Romanian Parliament, a member of Committee for Equal Opportunity for Women and Men and a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, I have had the privilege and the opportunity to give a voice to gender equality, women´s rights and children´s rights. For the past year and a half, I successfully pushed a vision for social justice on the national Parliament’s agenda, yielding significant results such as having the first street harassment law in Romania, civil partnerships in Romanian law, proposing a National Automated Register of sexual offenders and predators and raising to 7 years the age at which children from the protective system are sent to residential services. However, the more we succeed, the more we realize how much more there is to be done, both here as well as over the EU. And I cannot fathom a better opportunity to inspire these efforts than the incoming European Parliament Elections.

On 23-26 May, citizens in 27 EU member states will elect 705 MEPs to form the new House. 705 MEPs who shall represent the millions of citizens all over Europe. However, at the latest election, the share of women MEPs was at 37%, merely 2 percentage points higher than in the previous elections in 2009. As I am sure you will agree, if we are to build a society of justice, prosperity and equal opportunity, women must become a far more integral part of the political scene at the Union’s level. I am confident that equal representation of women in leadership position is essential in all sectors, private and public, and the European Parliament has the opportunity to be a pioneer of gender equality all over the world. We cannot engage economic decisions makers to advance women in leadership positions as long as the political establishment does not realize the outstanding potential women have. I should know: in Romania, only 19% of MPs are women. In the previous European election, the share was at 31%. It is high time we did better.

As politicians, we must steward Europe towards prosperity and equal opportunity. Women are a crucial part of that plan. Bring them to the table. As a European political leader, send a firm signal to all leaders from the national political parties and ensure they nominate bright women on eligible seats, ensuring a 50-50 share for women and men. Make sure we all let these women know how much we need them and give them the voice that so many years of discrimination have all but killed.

Respectfully yours,

Oana Bîzgan,

Romanian MP”