Denmark elects its first woman prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt: http://universitypost.dk/article/thorning-new-prime-minister . UK comment from the Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/sep/16/helle-thorning-schmidt-denmark-leader?INTCMP=SRCH and http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/sep/15/danes-female-prime-minister-helle-thorning-schmidt?INTCMP=ILCNETTXT3487. The win was subseqently hailed as a victory for women. Not only is Thorning-Shcmidt, leader of the Social Democrats, now PM at the head of a left wing coalition, but two other (of nine) Folketing (parliamentary) parties are also led by women: the Danish Social-Liberal party led by Margarethe Vestager and the right-wing anti-immigration Danish People's Party, led by Pia Kjaersgaard. http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-world/tough-task-for-denmarks-first-woman-pm-20110916-1kcj6.html.
Dilma Vana Rousseff, Brazil's first female president, also became the first woman to open an annual meeting of the UN General Assembly last month. Brazil's president has historically been given the honour of making the opening speech. Ms Rousseff took the opportunity to address the UN on human rights. Her speech, however, was criticised by some in Brazil: http://globalvoicesonline.org/2011/10/03/brazil-dilma-speech-un/.
UN Women leaders
At the UN meeting of women leaders in September there were calls for greater participation of women in political decisionmaking. The leaders signed a joint statement setting out ways to increase women's participation in politics: http://www.unwomen.org/2011/09/world-leaders-draw-attention-to-central-role-of-womens-political-participation-in-democracy/#jointstatement . In the UK, the Fawcett Society commented: http://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/index.asp?PageID=1207.
Women in African politics
Kenya's new constitution, passed in August 2010, looks set to create up to 80 new Kenyan women MPs. The constitution provides for an additional 80 seats in parliament which the government has now decided will be allocated via a nomination list to women until Kenya's parliament fulfils its new constitutional requirement of one-third of its members being women: http://allafrica.com/stories/201109211232.html.
However, in other African states, women's representation is facing obstacles. In Uganda, women politicians and leaders complain they face continuing discrimination by being expected to fulfil traditional gender roles in addition to their political duties. This report contains personal statements from some leading women politicians on their own experience of campaigning for election: http://allafrica.com/stories/201110031115.html.
In Zimbabwe, women remain disempowered and economically disadvantaged. The women's movement is calling for a 50% quota system for elections. The government has announced various new measures to improve women's status, according to this report. But, the journalist wonders, "whether these gestures are improving the welfare of women or they are away of politely excluding women from the mainstream economy...when will women's empowerment become a top priority... in Zimbabwe's policies?" http://allafrica.com/stories/201110030368.html.
Peace and gender
Peace and peace negotiations have become a critical issue for feminist intervention and action. This month sees the 11th anniversary of the UN Security Council's resolution 1325 providing for a range of measures to increase the inclusion of women in the prevention and resolution of violent conflict and address the role of women in peace negotiations. Research by Christine Bell and Catherine O'Rourke discusses the success or otherwise of the resolution's implementation in Asia. Issues such as the inclusion of sexual violence in peace deals are crucial to women, as is the inclusion of women in peace-building strategies and laying the foundations for future political structures. The research found that only 16 per cent of peace agreements contained references to women, but that this represented an increase since the passing of SCR 1325. Read UN Security Council 1325 and Peace Negotiations and Agreements and other documents on peace and gender from the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue here: http://www.hdcentre.org/publications?filter0=677.
A report from the Cape Town Centre for Conflict Resolution on women and peacebuilding in Africa can be found here: http://www.ccr.org.za/images/stories/pdfs/Vol_9-WPA_Report_Final_Web-small.pdf. Author Joyce Laker's view is that women's participation in peace mediation and negotiations in African conflicts is unsystematic and ad hoc, and conditional on pressure from women's and other social movements.