On November 13, 2012, the Wilson Center and the Finnish Embassy hosted a breakfast meeting for the diplomatic corps of Washington D.C. at the Finnish Embassy. The breakfast was attended by ambassadors and representatives from 31 countries, along with Wilson Center CEO Jane Harman and President Jane McAuliffe of Bryn Mawr College.
The Women in Public Service Project (WPSP) at the Wilson Center, together with our academic partners, recommitted to our goals of “50 by 50”—that is, ensuring equal participation of women in all levels of public service by 2050. We invited country representatives to affirm their own commitments to the goals of the 1995 Beijing platform of action that called for "women's equal participation in decision-making as not only a demand for justice or democracy, but as a way to achieving development and peace. “
Rangita de Silva de Alwis, the Director of the GWLI, in her remarks at the breakfast quoted the President of Finland, Mr. Sauli Niinistö, who believes that empowering women to support their governments is not just an ethical question, but also a practical one: “Can we afford not to use today the full potential of the world’s women and girls?”
In her remarks, Rangita mentioned that during the 67th Session of the UN General Assembly, many governments made commitments to strengthening the Rule of Law for women. For example, the President of South Africa, H.E. Jacob Zuma, committed to including 50 percent women in public service in South Africa’s Gender Equality Law to be promulgated next year. Minister Dipu Moni, Foreign Minister of Bangladesh pledged her government’s efforts to mainstream equal numbers of women into law enforcement in the National Action Plan. Recently, Swaziland launched a 50/50 campaign in Ezulwini, Swaziland to enhance women’s participation in general elections.
Rangita de Silva de Alwis urged the ambassadors at the breakfast to also showcase their government’s commitments to equal representation of women in public service—as was done at the 67th Session of the UN General Assembly—by accelerating the goal of equal participation of women in all levels of public service by 2050 and called upon the Ambassadors to pledge support to GWLI, rededicate their efforts to equal representation of women in decision-making, and reaffirm their commitment to the 50 by 50 cause.
Ambassadors and embassy representatives were also invited to highlight existing national initiatives to advance women’s equal access to public service, including the areas of legal and institutional reform, and showcase specific measures taken by governments to expand opportunities to women’s equal participation in public service.
His Excellency Ibrahim Rasool, Ambassador of South Africa spoke of his government’s actions to reach this goal. South Africa boasts of 42 percent of women in parliament and 40 percent women in ministerial positions. In South Africa, women are also represented at 60 percent in local councils. South Africa is also committed to the Southern African Development Community’s Gender and Development Protocol which calls for 30 percent women in all decision-making structures by 2015. We were honored that Ambassador Rasool was joined by his wife Roseida Shabodien a commissioner of the South African Commission on Gender Equality—a Commission that is set up under the South African Constitution.
Dr. Al Saghira Al Ahbabi of the United Arab Emirates spoke of her government’s commitment, as did Irène Serot Almeras of the Embassy of France. Others, including representatives of the governments of Lithuania and Honduras, spoke of their government’s concrete commitments to the goals of WPSP.
In addition, embassies were invited to identify and recommend academic institutions and government ministries/agencies that would be appropriate partners.