The Women Parliamentarian Network (WPN) convened regularly online throughout the pandemic to connect women parliamentarians with relevant experts and decisionmakers to discuss the impact of the pandemic on women and to identify potential policy responses. The Network also met in-person in Helsinki in November 2021 to explore these issues further, and to discuss broader challenges.
The coronavirus pandemic had a disproportionate impact on women globally. The economic fallout of the pandemic significantly affected women and additional domestic care responsibilities furthered economic and social burdens. There was a marked increase in domestic abuse globally throughout the pandemic and this highlighted ongoing legislative challenges that parliamentarians face. However, the gendered implications of covid-19 were not accounted for sufficiently in policy responses. This exposed the urgent need to increase and enhance the inclusion of women in decision-making at all levels to ensure that policies are prioritised in accordance to need, and that resources are allocated accordingly.
Women parliamentarians and decisionmakers from Europe and the Gulf-MENA region share a common understanding and experience of the challenges that women in politics and broader society face. These shared experiences enable the identification of ongoing challenges that must be addressed and creates significant opportunities to identify ways in which solutions can be advanced together.
The attached report captures the work carried out by the WPN between 2020-2022. In that time, the network steadily expanded to include women leaders from sixteen countries across the Gulf-MENA and Europe. The Network continues to grow, convening in-person and online to respond to the challenges that women face globally. The foreword to the report, written by Baroness Helena Kennedy KC, is included below:
Since 2020, I have had the pleasure of chairing the Helsinki Policy Forum’s Women Parliamentarian Network (WPN), which has steadily expanded to incorporate women leaders from sixteen countries across Europe, North America, and the Middle East. This report captures the analysis of the Network over the past two years as the members of network found themselves responding to Covid-19.
What strikes me from this report is that, despite the many differences between countries in terms of GDP, political culture, and history, the challenges facing women policymakers are shared.
Women everywhere are still denied opportunities because of their gender. Daily, they face the prospect of violence and confront misogyny online. The burden of care work continues to fall disproportionately on women, and when economic crises hit, it is women who are the first to find themselves unemployed. Women who try to speak out against these ills and reject the structures that produce them, are too often dismissed, mocked, or silenced.
Given these realities, there is considerable value in having a confidential space where women policymakers come together as peers, to offer practical advice. While every context is unique, the insights from one experience can prove profoundly helpful to those trying to develop answers to similar problems. As this report outlines, there are countless examples of this within the Network, from British parliamentarians supporting their colleagues in Lebanon design legislation to combat domestic violence, to the Network sharing ideas on how to make Covid recovery packages gender sensitive.
I want to thank all the members of the network for their energetic engagement and tireless efforts to build a world where women are full, equal, and respected members of society. This work must continue.