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International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) invited us to “Unpacking Democracy: Why Gender Equality Matters” presented by Summit for Democracy’s Gender Equality Cohort.

“The cohort on Gender Equality as a prerequisite for Democracy is jointly led by Sweden, Romania, Georgetown University’s Institute for Women, Peace & Security (GIWPS) and International IDEA.

The purpose of the cohort is to highlight and promote the connection between gender equality and democracy and to develop policy recommendations to bolster women’s participation in and contribution to democracy. In particular, the recommendation will look at the issues of Inclusion (economic, social, political), justice (formal laws and informal discrimination) and Security (at individual, community, and societal levels). In addition, the Cohort will serve as a global platform to call attention to the need to address harmful and rigid gender norms that hinder women’s full participation and representation in democracy and emphasize the importance of gender equality in rebuilding societies after crisis and conflict.” (Source Democracy cohorts and more information here.)

The topic of Why Gender Equality Matters in democracy was unpacked by panelist from Swedish and Romanian Foreign ministries, Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace, and Security (GIWPS) and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) sharing interesting perspectives and insights on the theme.

While research shows that women’s involvement in conflict resolution leads to more sustainable peace, in reality women are still marginalized in the processes. Which becomes a double loss both for the future peace and in the present as women in general are more affected by the consequences of conflict. The gender equality cohort aims to identify harmful gender practices. Tools to mitigate those are for instance UN security council resolution (UNSCR) 1325 on women, peace and security and CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women). However, policies can only serve its purpose IF they are implemented.

Research shows that there is a strong correlation between the level of protection women can expect and the general safety in the country, the safer a woman is the safer is the country. There is also a strong correlation between the level of democracy in a country and the level of women rights in the same. Where the opposite can be seen in many countries today, where anti-democratic leaders are pushing back on women rights. Which leads to two conclusions, first the importance of the National Action Plan (NAP) all countries are bound to develop framing the plan to implement UNSCR 1325 to strengthen the role of women. It also emphasis the importance of including women in the early stages of the peace process as it will lead to stronger democracies and safer countries, for all. To strengthen the democracy, you need to strengthen the women. This is not a battle for women to fight alone, men and boys need to be engaged to reach change together.

One method to enhance the voices of women is to use more online communication, an easy way to with small means reach a big audience with your message. A tool widely used by female activist and politicians around the world, to empower themselves and other women. This though come with consequences – digital violence and online bullying. Women are twice as likely as men to experience digital violence, leading to a silencing of women as the price is too high. Meaning that if we want to empower women to use digital tools to gain voice and strength which will lead to more democratic and safer countries, we also need to provide mitigation for digital violence and support women when they become targets. The importance and prevalence of digital communication continue growing, and the next step is the increase of Artificial Intelligent (AI). The technology is already here, further development needs to have a gender dimension in mind, as the future will not wait.