For the third year in a row, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) will be holding an annual Conference of Women Parliamentarians and Women in Political Decision-making Positions of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) States. This year's meeting will be held in Muscat (Oman) on 21 and 22 December 2008 and will be hosted by the Shura Council of the Sultanate of Oman. Intended to provide a forum for women in politics to meet, debate and strategize on issues of common interest, this annual event brings together women from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
Despite many remaining challenges, there has been an upward progression in the number of women legislators and women in decision-making positions in most of the GCC States, reflecting encouraging improvements in the view of the IPU. Nevertheless, there is a need for greater mobilization by all actors of society to increase the number of women in politics and to strengthen their input and visibility. Both objectives will require cooperation with the media, women's association and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), all important partners for women candidates, women parliamentarians and women politicians.
Entitled Partnership between women parliamentarians, the media and women's associations, this year's Conference will debate two key questions: 1. How can the media and women's associations serve as useful vectors of change for women in politics? 2. How can women parliamentarians, the media and women's associations partner on gender equality and women's issues?
Ms. Rose Mukantabana, Speaker of the Rwandan Chamber of Deputies - the parliamentary chamber with the highest percentage of women legislators in the world (56.3%) - will share the Rwandan experience with participants. For other figures on women's representation, see IPU webpage
Belgian MP and IPU Executive Committee member, Mr. Geert Versnick, will also be present. He says that meetings of this kind are key to sharing experiences and good practices among countries and regions on measures and legislation to promote gender equality in politics. Adding that Belgian legislation can serve as an inspiration to many countries that have the ambition to improve gender equality in political representation, he explained that "…the Constitution was amended to provide that every political party must present an equal number of men and women candidates on its election lists. Even more interesting is the fact that the first two candidates on each election list must be of a different gender. These measures have significantly increased the number of women in key political positions".
Among the panel of experts and legislators who will take part in the Conference are representatives of Arab and international television stations, such as Al Arabia and BBC Parliament, as well as regional non-governmental organizations such as the Arab Women's Organization (AWO).