For information only - not an official document.
Press Release No:  UNIS/PI/205
Release Date:   9 June 2000
Deparment of Public Information, Inter-Parliamentary Union
To Launch World Map of Women in Politics 8 June

NEW YORK, 8 June (UN Headquarters) -- The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the United Nations Department of Public Information will jointly launch a world map of women in politics at a press conference today at the United Nations Headquarters.

The poster-size map provides a snapshot of women in the two branches of State -- the Executive and the Legislature -- as of March 2000.  Its presentation was timed to coincide with the "Beijing + 5" special session of the United Nations General Assembly to help to provide a visual assessment of women’s progress in achieving fair representation in key political posts. 

As far as the Executive branch is concerned, data is available for 151 States that responded to requests for information.  With regard to the Legislative branch, data is available on 174 of the 177 existing national Parliaments and for the two regional parliamentary assemblies elected by direct suffrage.  In addition to a number of regional statistics, the world poster uses percentages and colour-coding by countries to depict the presence of women in the various national parliaments.

The statistics compiled by the IPU reveal that the representation of women in the two branches of the State -- Parliament and the Executive -- has changed very little since 1995, the year of the Fourth World Women's Conference in Beijing, and has even diminished in some cases. 

Two fundamental principles inspire the map and are quoted on it.  The first is that "the achievement of democracy presupposes a genuine partnership between men and women in the conduct of the affairs of society in which they work in equality and complementarity, drawing mutual enrichment from their differences" (Universal Declaration on Democracy, 1997). The second is that "without the active participation of women and the incorporation of women's perspective at all levels of decision-making, the goals of equality, development and peace cannot be achieved" (Beijing Platform for Action, 1995). 

As vividly illustrated in the map, Finland is the only country in the world which has a woman Head of State, a woman Presiding Officer of Parliament and a sizeable share of women ministers and women members of parliament (44 per cent and 36.5 per cent respectively).  Another high performer is Sweden, the only country where women account for over half of the Executive (55 per cent) and where the percentage of women in Parliament (42.7 per cent is the highest globally.  More generally, the map reveals that:

-- Heads of State or Government:  Only 8 countries had a woman in that position:  Bangladesh, Finland, Ireland, Latvia, New Zealand, Panama, San Marino (rotating six-month presidency) and Sri Lanka (where women held both positions).  Twenty-one countries also had a woman Deputy Head of State or of Government:  Albania, Austria, Belgium, Costa Rica, Croatia, Denmark, Fiji, Honduras, Indonesia, Ireland, Netherlands, Philippines, Republic of Moldova, Russian Federation, Sweden, Tajikistan, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Yugoslavia.

-- Presiding Officers of Parliament:  Of the 177 States with a Parliament, including 65 with bicameral ones (totalling 242 Chambers of Parliament), only 22 have a woman Presiding Officer of Parliament. Only in four cases -- Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Jamaica and South Africa -- do women preside over both houses. 

The total number of Members of Parliament throughout the world is 40,256.  For those whom statistics are available, 34,078 are men and only 5,260 are women (13.4 per cent when both houses of parliament are combined).  There are 4,511 women (13.5 per cent) of 34,240 members in the lower Chambers and 749 women (12.6 per cent) out of 6,016 members in the Senates.  The Nordic countries, where women accounted for 38.8 per cent of all MPs, were closest to achieving parity.  The European States (when the Nordic countries are accounted) come in second, with 15.8 per cent of women in the lower Chamber and 13 per cent of women in the Senate (15.2 per cent for both houses combined).  Next are the Americas, with 15.3 per cent of women in the lower Chamber and 14.8 per cent in the Senate (15.2 per cent for both houses combined); Asia, with 14.3 per cent of women in the lower Chamber and 12.9 per cent in the Senate (total: 14.2 per cent); the European OSCE countries (excluding the Nordic countries), with 13.6 per cent of women in the lower Chamber and 13 per cent in the Senate (total: 13.4per cent); the Pacific region, with 11.6 per cent of women in the lower Chamber and 25.4 per cent in the Senate (total: 13.5 per cent); sub-Saharan Africa, with 11.5 per cent of women in the lower Chamber and 12.9 per cent in the Senate (total: 11.7 per cent).  Last in line are the Arab States with 3.7 per cent of women in the lower Chamber and 2.5 per cent in the Senate (total: 3.5 per cent).

At the cabinet level, the poster also notes that the portfolios most often entrusted to women remain those of Social Affairs, Women's Affairs, Health, Employment, Family, Culture, Environment or even Justice.  Only two women head Ministries of Defence.  On the plus side, most States have at least one woman in government. 

The publication of the map rounds off the IPU study entitled "Participation of women in political life", which assesses changes in national parliaments, political parties, governments and the Inter-Parliamentary Union, five years after the Fourth World Conference on Women.  Published in late 1999, this study reveals a much greater awareness in parliaments of gender equality issues.  It also complements another IPU survey issued in early 2000 entitled "Politics:  Women's Insight" which highlights women's contribution to the democratic process.

Established in 1889, the IPU, the world organization of parliaments based in Geneva, currently has 138 affiliated national parliaments and five associated regional parliamentary assemblies.  It also has a Liaison Office with the United Nations in New York.  Constantly updated statistics on women in parliament are available on the IPU's Web site

The map is available upon request from the IPU Secretariat by e-mail, in format *.PDF.

For further information, please contact: In Geneva, Mrs. Luisa Ballin, IPU Information Officer, tel. (41 22) 919 4116/27, cellphone (41 79) 649 7145, fax (41 22) 919 4160, e-mail or  In New York, Mr. Santiago Romero Perez, Director, IPU Liaison Office, tel. (212) 557 5880, fax (212) 557 3954, or e-mail  At the United Nations contact: Ms. Laufey E. Löve, Development and Human Rights Section, United Nations Department of Public Information, tel. (212) 963 0352, fax (212) 963 1186, or e-mail

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