Beate Gangaas, Norwegian Equality and Anti-discrimination Ombud (Photo: Ida von Hanno Bast)
Ingrid Guldvik, researcher at the Eastern Norway Research Institute (Photo: Beret Bråten)
“The lack of gender equality in power positions is a democratic problem", states ombudsperson, Beate Gangås.
According to investigations recently carried out by the Ombud, the current gender imbalance looks to be more or less sustained in the nomination lists for next year’s local elections. Thus, the Ombud encourages the political parties to mobilize on behalf of their women. But they’re in a hurry: The deadline for submitting nomination lists is
The Ombud’s campaign comprises a competition between the political parties, in which the winner is the party with the highest female representation in each county’s nomination lists. Only the first and second positions on each list count in the competition. In this way, the Ombud hopes to influence the final stages of the nomination process, so as to increase the number of women who are nominated to key power positions. In addition to the competition, the campaign will launch its own website, which will function as inspiration and a tool for local governments and for individuals to make an effort on this issue. If the campaign succeeds in increasing the numbers of women nominated, it will then pursue its objective throughout the election campaign to try to make sure these women are actually elected.
The campaign is receiving wide support throughout Norwegian society – from political parties as well as a number of women’s groups and other organizations. Several members of the government have also stated their support, among them the Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, Åslaug Haga. "The gender balance in local politics is the responsibility of the political parties", she says. "If the 2007 election doesn’t provide significant improvements in these figures, we shall have to consider gender quotas."
This is not an unlikely scenario, as the increase in female representation in local politics is steady, but very slow.
Several recent initiatives have addressed this problem, in addition to the campaign now launched by the Ombud. One such scheme is a research project called Selvsagt [Of course] organized by The Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities (KS), in cooperation with Norwegian political parties. The aim of the research project is to increase the number of women in key positions in local government. Also, the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development has organized a project, in which selected municipalities are to test a variety of measures to increase female representation, throughout the next election period.