As of January 2017, women accounted for only 4.9 per cent of Parliament in Thailand, ranking 184thout of 190 nations globally. Neighbouring countriesof Cambodia and Malaysia have at least double the number of women in parliament with rates of 20.3 per cent and 10.4 per cent respectively.

Thailand also ranks low on UNDP’s Gender Inequality Index (2017)coming in 93rdplace compared to Belgium, which is 5th, and Finland, which is 8th.

Both Finland and Belgium have successfully increased economic growth and sustainable development by promoting gender equality within their societies.

By learning from such European examples of gender equality in politics, the Seminar on Promoting Women’s Leadership and Political Participation aims to empower Thai women to enter politics at the local and national levels in preparation for the upcoming general elections in February 2019. 

“Increasing women’s political participation requires a whole of society approach,” explains Anna-Karin Jatfors, Deputy Regional Director, UN Women Asia and Pacific.

“Overcoming obstacles for women to enter politics will not only create an enabling environment to increase female political participation, but can bring about transformative change for all.

For example, evidence from around the world shows that countries with more women in politics rate higher on assessments of the quality of governance, including with respect to educational systems and infrastructure investment.”

The seminar is being co-hosted by UN Women in partnership with the EU Delegation to Thailand, the Embassy of Finland, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, King Prajadhipok’s Institute and the Association for the Promotion of the Status of Women.

“Equal political participation of women and men is an important condition for good governance and effective democracy,” says Pirkka Tapiola, EU Ambassador to Thailand.

“It can help improve the lives of women and men, bring more equitable societies and inclusive governance, increase standards of living, enhance positive develop­ment in education, health and infrastructure, and reduce political corruption.”

Thailand has demonstrated its commitment to implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which recognize that progress on gender equality is fundamental for realizing human rights for all and achieving sustainable, equitable and inclusive societies.

The SDGs articulate the critical importance of women’s political and economic leadership for delivering on the broader promise of the 2030 Agenda of “Leaving no one behind”.

“From experiences in local development, it is clear that mindset and perspective of women areabsolutely vital to problem-solving and development,” emphasizes Warisara Ampornsiritam, Research and Development officer at King Prajadhipok’s Institute.

“The Seminar aims to create a policy brief that will encourage government departments and political parties to empower women through increasing the number of women in positions of leadership and decision-making bodies.”

The one-day seminar will consist of two panels. The first will feature international speakers from Belgium, Finland, the European Parliament and the UN Women Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.

It will be moderated by Vitit Muntarbhorn, a law professor at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, who has served on various United Nations bodies. This session is aimed at Thai women who want to become more actively involved in politics and leadership positions and the Thai Government.

The second panel will discuss the role and responsibility of Thai political parties in promoting women’s leadership and participation in light of the SDGs and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

The panel will feature representatives from seven political parties including Bhumjaithai, Pheu Thai, Democrat party, Chart Pattana, Future Forward, Chartthaipattana, Action Coalition for Thailand and the Palung Prachachart Party. Ratchada Jayagupta, PhD, senior researcher and a lecturer at the Asian Research Center for Migration at Chulalongkorn University, will moderate the discussion. 

“It is an investment that rewards the whole society, it builds a more prosperous, sustainable and equal future,” says AmbassadorSatu Suikkari-Kleven, Embassy of Finland in Thailand. 

“Let’s get together to inspire each other in supporting the goal of a more equal political participation in the world!”

This event will seek to empower women, using examples from leaders in gender equality such as Finland and Belgium, to meaningfully participate and engage in Thai politics at local and national levels.