Theo-Ben Gurirab

Theo-Ben Gurirab is President of the Inter-Paliamentary Union and Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Namibia and Former Prime Minister.

Despite the remarkable progress of women in many professions, politics is not one of them. Indeed, around the world, women have been conspicuous by their absence in decision and policy making in government. When the United Nations First World Conference on Women was held in Mexico City in 1975, the international community was reminded that discrimination against women remained a persistent problem in many countries; and even though governments were called upon to develop strategies to promote the equal participation of women, political participation was not yet identified as a priority. Since then, though there has been an increasing focus on women's representation and their impact on decision-making structures, the increased attention did not reflect in immediate results. For example, in 1975 women accounted for 10.9 per cent of parliamentarians worldwide; ten years later it increased by one mere percentage point to 11.9 per cent.