Emma Watson Says We Need More Female Leaders & Better Political Representation

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In July of this year the United Nations announced British actress Emma Watson as their latest Goodwill Ambassador, who would specifically focus on gender equality and female empowerment.

On Sept 17th she traveled to Uruguay to give a speech on the need for more female leaders around the world, and why greater political representation for women is vital in a lot of countries.

It was her first official UN country visit which came at quite a good time. Uruguay is about to have a national election on October 26, and for the first time ever, a new law guaranteeing 30 per cent women’s political representation will be implemented. This gender quota electoral law was passed in 2009 and will finally come into play in this election. The campaign for the new law was funded by the UN Women’s Fund for Gender Equality.

Just an aside, while some may view laws like this as favoritism and takes away from women fighting for their right to a seat, we believe it is vital and encourages leadership. Heck, if we had this law in the US, perhaps there would be less of a chance of the Paycheck Fairness Act being voted down 4 times in a row…

In Uruguay, Emma met with women’s advocates from around the country, and listened to their strategies for increasing women’s voice and agency across all political platforms.

“Women’s rights are personal to me, especially on political participation and leadership. I am delighted to be here today as a Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women and learn about the work on the ground, hear from the people at the frontlines, and to understand what is working and what is not. I am here to support and to amplify these voices and share this work with a global audience,” she said.

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Global statistics show one in give women are parliamentarians, and Uruguay ranks 103rd in the world in terms of the participation of women in Parliament by the Inter-Parliamentary Union and UN Women. The US by comparison has 18% of women, nothing to boast about there either. Interestingly, the country with the highest percentage of women at a national government level is Rwanda, with 64% and they are a third world country!

For Uruguay, we are thinking the new 30% rule will change things drastically, as this is what has been implemented in Rwanda. The more women’s voices are part of the national conversation, real change can happen where it is vitally needed.

“Women must have a say in matters that affect their countries, communities and families. After all, they are half of the population, so women’s equal participation in decision-making is a question of justice and democracy,” said Emma.

“I have learned that it is also a question of priorities, as women are more likely to focus on issues such as education, health, unpaid care economy and the environment. These are important issues that affect all of us.”

The campaign for the 30% law in Uruguay government was spearheaded by 3 feminist organizations: “Cotidiano Mujer” [Daily Women], the National Monitoring Committee (CNS) and Women Citizens’ Network (CIRE). For those who still think there is no need for feminism at a government level should re-read that sentence again.

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Marta Piñeiro, who attended the workshops as a political and social activist from the Department of Rivera, in the north of Uruguay in July shared sentiments that show women are desperately ready for change.

“A better life for women also depends on our commitment and obstinacy; that this change is playing out on every street and every corner, and that we want to be part of this change, so we can look our mothers, our grandmothers and our daughters in the eye. The future depends on us, women.”

Uruguayan actor and journalist Christian Font who starred in a series of ads about the campaign said while Uruguay is seen as progressive because of the implementation of this new law, they still have a long way to go.

“The participation of women in the spheres of decision-making and management of our country is not a politically correct demand. It is absolutely necessary.”

This statement may have been specifically referencing women in Uruguay, but it also applies to women everywhere. Until we start seeing more women represented at the highest levels of government around the world, we can’t always expect the necessary changes to be made that will empower our lives.

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