This article published in Swissinfo and is written by Domhnall O’Sullivan
Last month, when the 80 members of Bern’s city parliament met for their first session of the year, there were 20 new faces among them: half were under 30, most were either left-wing or green, and almost all were women. Some 18 new female deputies were voted in on the back of an unprecedented surge in local elections last November, bringing the total number of women in the city “Stadtrat” or city parliament to 55, or 70% – a record in the country.
“It’s a truly exceptional situation,” says Martina Mousson, a political analyst from the gfs.bern polling institute. Across Switzerland, the average proportion of women in city parliaments is 32%, while in cantonal parliaments it’s 30%. Even at the national level, where a historic jump brought women in the lower house of parliament to 42% in 2019, the numbers pale in comparison.
Martin Chungong, Secretary General of the Interparliamentary Union (IPU), a Geneva body that collects data on representation worldwide, says it’s a proportion that “at the level of national parliaments, at least, has never been attained”. To date, he says, Rwanda has boasted the national parliament with the highest representation of women, at 63%. But the global average is about 25%, and progress on achieving parity in elected bodies worldwide has been “excruciatingly slow”.
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