Helen Clark during her speech / Photo: Club de Madrid
The Diplomat. 14/10/2018
“Only 7.2% of heads of state and 5% of parliamentarians are women. At this rate we will take 217 years to reach parity”. This is how forceful Helen Clark, former prime minister of New Zealand, was during an act on women and power organized at the headquarters of the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID).
The Women, Power and Equality in the 21st century conference was organized on October 8 to mark the 125th anniversary of the conferral of women’s suffrage in New Zealand, the first country in the world to recognize women’s right to vote. The organization was held by the New Zealand Embassy in Spain, the Elcano Royal Institute, the Club de Madrid and Casa Asia and among its assistants was the New Zealand ambassador, Andrew Jenks.
During the presentation of the event, the director of the AECID, Aina Calvo, highlighted the lines of action of the Agency on gender issues, especially since the adoption of the gender strategy in 2007, as well as the commitment to the Objective of Sustainable Development number five regarding the full and effective participation of women in political, economic and public life. For her part, Soledad Murillo, Secretary of State for Equality, stressed the need for governments to be involved in this task through legislation.
The most outstanding intervention was that of Helen Clark, who, in addition to being prime minister between 1999 and 2008, was the first woman to lead the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), between 2009 and 2017, and she opted in 2016 for the position of Secretary General of the United Nations.
The former prime minister says that, at the current rate, it will take 217 years to reach parity
“Only 7.2% of heads of state are women, including queens, and only 5% of parliamentarians are women. At this rate we will take 217 years to reach parity”, lamented Clark, who has devoted a good part of her professional career to defending the empowerment of women in the political, economic and social spheres.
“Once someone asked a woman candidate if she thought to have a baby while she was a MP. And I wonder, why men do not ask if they plan to suffer a heart attack during his office?”, Helen Clark continued, who congratulated the Spanish Government for having a 61% female representation in the executive, something that has not yet been matched in “a pioneer country” like New Zealand.
New Zealand was the first country in the world to recognize, in 1893, the right of women to vote in a general election. They were followed by Australia (1902), Finland (1906), Norway (1913), the Soviet Union (1917), Germany (1918) and the United States (1920). The Spanish could exercise this right in 1931, with the establishment of the Second Republic, although after the Civil War had to wait for the Constitution of 1978 to recover the vote.