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The Biggest Outrage: Lack of female representation in Western Government

Having looked at the state of women in politics in 1996, Our Other Sisters have used the data collected in the Google Fusion Table intensity maps to determine what progress, if any, women have made in their quest to get their voices heard and represent the people of their respective countries in politics today. The data used is taken from a study by the Inter-parliamentary Union; the statistics were published in December 2011 and are the most up-to-date figures we are able to obtain at present. 

Tunis elections courtesy of European Parliament on Creative Commons

Before we analyse the implications of the statistics from 2011, it is necessary to first disclose the motive behind this piece of data journalism.

A stereotype, which Our Other Sisters have been trying to deconstruct, infers that women in the Middle East are under-represented, repressed and politically disengaged.

The Arab revolutions of 2011 in some way broke down these stereotypes.

Possibly the biggest hypocrisy of these inherent perceptions of non-Western women is the perception that Western women are fully engaged politically, and have equal rights, privileges and political opportunities as men.

These statistics suggest otherwise.

Women in Ministerial Governmental Roles

The government in Bahrain has 27.5% female representation, with the Afghan government comprised of 28% women.

In 1996 neither country had any women in ministerial governmental roles; this is an astounding improvement.

Furthermore, Bahrain’s subministerial government is 10% women, which shows an improvement on a smaller more regional scale.

The following are the highest proportion of female representatives in NATO countries: Belgium (40.8%), Canada (36.7), Netherlands (36%) and Spain (33.5%)

In stark contrast, the current UK government has only 21.9% women in ministerial roles, which is less than Bahrain and Afghanistan.

The USA has a mere 17% of women in ministerial roles, which is less than half the number proportionately than they had in 1996.

Women in Subministerial Governmental Roles

The statistics for women in subministerial government are equally promising for Middle Eastern countries.

Afghanistan has 28% of women in subministerial roles, with Tunisia 26.7% and Iraq at 25.5%.

The UK government has 22.3%, which is less than a quarter of women representatives in subministerial roles, as well as being lower than Afghanistan, Tunisia and Iraq.

Interestingly, Egypt only has 2% female representation in government, which is possibly a consequence of military rule.

Qatar and Saudi Arabia’s figures stay unchanged from 1996: neither country has women in subministerial government roles.

North Europe

Northern European countries come out on top. The Netherlands (40.7%), Iceland, (39.7%), Denmark (39.1%) and Belgium (38%) have all made steady progress since 1996 and are gradually improving female representation in government.

France and America’s figures are bleak: France has 18.9% and USA only 16.8% in the current government. These countries, as well as the UK, are promoters of democracy in the Middle East, and yet their inclusion of women in government is embarrassingly low.

Perhaps NATO countries should reflect on the state of their own women’s representation in politics before preaching to MENA countries.

Ultimately, Belgium has the highest proportion of ministerial representation (40.8%) but no country, neither in the Middle East nor within any of the NATO countries, has over 50% or even close to 50% of female governmental representation.

In the twenty-first century, this is arguably the biggest outrage.



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