Women’s representation in political decision-making continues to grow globally, but at the top levels of political power, women’s representation is slipping.

The biennial Inter-Parliamentary Union in conjunction with UN Women released their biennial Map of Women in Politics on the sidelines of the Commission on the Status of Women, currently underway in New York.

According to the IPUs analysis, the Americas continue to lead all regions in terms of average share of women in parliament while Rwanda continues to lead the global ranking despite only relatively modest progress in the Sub Saharan region in 2018.

The IPU says the share of women in national parliaments has increased by nearly 1% point in 2018  from 23.4% in 2017 to 24.3% a year later.

It was just 11.3% in 1995  and quotas are often the main catalyst for change.

IPU President, Gabriela Cuevas Barron says: “We need to change culture and that’s not easy. Again, I believe that we need to make institutional changes to make faster cultural changes otherwise culture takes too long and we cannot afford to wait any longer, it’s for us, it’s for our daughters, our granddaughters, they should have a better and more inclusive world and that has to start from politics.”

Rwanda remains the country with the most number of women in parliament at 61.3% followed by Cuba and Bolivia.

South Africa closes out the top ten at 42.7% female representation in the lower house. 75% of all legislators are men.

Only ten countries have gender equal cabinets, with Spain leading with 64.7% female representation.

5 European countries have 50% or more followed by Latin America with three and two in Sub-Saharan Africa with Rwanda and Ethiopia leading the way. South Africa has 48.6% women in Cabinet.

Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka says: “We need to make a strong case about democracy being for the people by the people not for the people by the men. And therefore create very concrete thresholds that political parties must cross in order for them to have legitimacy in parliament.

Despite being more than half of the global population, women make up just 6.6% of heads of state globally and as heads of government just 5.2%. With several countries in the SADC region heading to the polls later this year.

Mlambo-Ngcuka adds: “The men and the women of those countries who care about these issues must use the space that exists in those countries to demand more and to call for better and more changes and to use their vote to actually bring about changes and I would say to all the heads of state of southern Africa, we need 50-50 cabinet. I am here not representing my region or my country necessarily in this position but it would be nice if people from region would affirm the office I work for by giving UN Women  a present of 50-50 – I’m just asking.”

With a message that gender equality is fundamentally a question of power, as the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres explained.

“Why parity? Why is it such an important objective? Why are we striving to open doors of opportunity for so many outstanding, talented, qualified women? Yes, of course, it is about equality. Of course, it is about fairness. But it goes beyond that.  We need parity and let me repeat again, to change power relations in societies for gender equality to be a reality. ”

The IPU and the UN have long argued that equal representation of women in government is fundamental for democracy to be truly representative and effective.

Some countries have not a single women minister –Azerbaijan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Thailand among 11 in total.

Micronesia, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu don’t have a single women represented in their parliaments, while 141 countries have less than 30% representation of women.