Women at Local Governance: Would the national pattern follow? 21st March The Local Bodies Elections In The Netherlands

The campaign is well on its way! The voters in the Netherlands will choose who will have access to resources and the mandate to maintain and improve the living conditions of citizens and their direct businesses and social and political interest in respective municipalaties: Who will make the streets safer for our children?; Who will solve the housing crisis?; Who will offer support to victims of domestic violecnce?. Would it matter if such decisions are made on parity basis? Though parity is evident between male-female voters but why does it differ when it reaches to the decision-making parity level. Women`s inclusive governance remmains to be a problematic issue in Europe. It is nearly 100 years of acknowldgement of women`s right to vote in the Netherlands, yet evidently the instruments that may establish gender parity prove to be quite outdated here .

As a gender and development organisation that is recognized as an international election observation organisation, in commemoration of 100 years of women’s voting rights (passive voting rights in 1917, and active voting rights in 1919), Gender Concerns International observed the Dutch National Elections last year in March through its GEOM (Gender Election Observation Mission) NL 2017 instrument[1]. The Netherlands is regarded as one of the strong promoters of global gender equality; however the recent lowering of its international gender equality ranking demonstrates a widening gender gap in the country. According to the Annual Report of the World Economic Forum, the Global Gender Gap[2] in the Netherlands has dropped from rank 16 in 2016[3] to a rank 32 in 2017.[4] When the ranking for women’s political empowerment is concerned, the Netherlands fell further from 14th in 2016 to 25 in 2017[5].

Prior to the above mentioned report, earlier that year, The GEOM NL 2017 Final Report[6], indicated that the gender disparities are embedded and continue to persist in the Dutch electoral system. The report points out that a significant reason for this disparity is the declining number of women achieving high-level political representation.The number of Female MPs decreased in the last election, as only 2 women headed the candidate lists of the political parties. Continued efforts to bridge the electoral gender gap and to promote more women assuming political decision-making positions, the upcoming local elections in the Netherlands will provide further evidence to measure the persistance of the gender-gap in the Netherlands.

Prior research has shown that the underrepresentation of women in local politics is an even bigger challenge than on the national level[7]. Women’s participation in local decision-making processes is an imperative to ensure female political leadership that further supports their engagement in politics and policy-making processes at the broader national level.As a follow-up to our GEOM 2017, Gender Concerns International will observe the emerging trends in upcoming local elections in The Netherlands. Commemoration of 100 years of women`s political rights continues in coming years as an endorsement to our vision and commitment to the mission.

[1]Gender Concerns International (2017), GEOM Brochure

[2]World Economic Forum (2017) The Global Gender Gap Report, available at: http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GGGR_2017.pdf.

[3]World Economic Forum (2016) The Netherlands Feature Demonstration Report, available at: http://reports.weforum.org/feature-demonstration/files/2016/10/NLD.pdf

[4]World Economic Forum (2017) The Global Gender Gap Report, p 13.

[5]World Economic Forum (2017), p 13.

[6] Gender Concerns International (2017), Final Report: Gender Election Observation Mission (GEOM) The Netherlands 2017, available at: http://www.genderconcerns.org/pdfs/Final%20Report%20GEOM%20Netherlands%202017%20-%20digital%20version.pdf

[7] Atria Kennisinstituut voor Emancipatie en Vrouwengeschiedenis (4 February 2016), Onderzoeksrapport

Vrouwenstemmen in de raad, https://www.atria.nl/epublications/IAV_00111589.pdf.