From the ages of four to eleven, primary school sports days marked a low point in every slightly-chubby child's life. Whether it was the egg and spoon race or the three-legged sprint, crushing defeat usually followed. It didn't matter if that beanbag was gaffer-taped to my head, or if the bottom of the sack had leg-holes, last place is where you'd find me. However, fifteen years later, there is a silver lining. Many of us can take pride in the fact that we did not come in 65th place. No, that title is reserved for UK Parliament. As according to statistics released by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, Britain ranks 65th in the world for women MPs.
With 650 seats in the House of Commons, only 147 are filled with females. This means that 51% of the British public are represented by a mere 23% of MPs. So, let's put that 65th place into a global perspective. That's only three places lower than China's 24%, and just 11 places higher than Saudi Arabia's 20%.
Frankly, we're not in a great crowd. Parliament, the body that represents the British public, is dramatically out of balance with the way the country looks. Consequently, at the center of the country's decision-making process lies undeniable inequality. Women remain British politics' largest untapped resource. Even in the Prime Minister's cabinet, only three positions are held by female cabinet ministers, notably the Minister for the Home Department, the Minister for International Development, and the Minister for Northern Ireland.
Access to power and resources isn't just an issue for the halls of Westminster, it's a global embarrassment. Take, for example, a striking statistic from the ONE Campaign's recent report "Levelling the Field: Improving Opportunities for Women Farmers in Africa." According to the report, if female farmers had the same access to resources and rewards as men do, they could increase the amount of crops on their farms by 20-30%, lifting between 100 and 150 million people out of hunger.
So, what's the solution to this equality drought? A possible answer comes from the country topping the list for female representation; Rwanda. A nation plagued by one of the most devastating genocides of the 20th century now boasts a female MP representation rate of 64%. That's almost three times higher than Britain. How is that possible?
Over the last twenty years Rwanda has been rebuilt, predominantly by women. Even Rwanda's constitution states that 30% of parliament must be made-up with women, and the results have been revolutionary. Compared to two decades ago, women now have the right to own property and keep their own personal bank account in marriage. As well as this, police forces have been specifically formed to protect women against violence, and harsher sentences have been created for criminals involved in gender crimes. It is no surprise that Rwanda was voted the safest place for an African woman to live in 2012.
Women are at the forefront of creating gender equality. While it is important to emphasise that men play an essential role in creating tackling inequality, in the words of Professor Vernon Bogdanor "the life experience of women is bound to be different to that of men, not superior or inferior but different, and that needs to be represented in Parliament."
So, in our global sports day, Britain isn't doing too well. 65th place doesn't exactly scream success. Even the most supportive parents would struggle to work-up a smile with that performance. As the case has been in Rwanda, the drive towards everyday equality of women has been propelled by the decisions and greater influence of women. It's a simple formula, and frankly, it's one which could bring Britain into the 21st century.Suggest a correction