Stephen Moutray MLA with Dame Rosemary Butler AM
The Committee decided some months ago that it would like to look more closely at the role of women in politics in Northern Ireland and that has set the basis for our current Review. We have always been mindful, that with only 22 female MLAs in the Assembly, which makes up just 20% of all MLAs, much more needs to be done to encourage the participation of women in public life here.
During preliminary research to inform our Review, we were interested to note that out of all the regional legislatures, the National Assembly of Wales came out top in terms of female representation, with woman AMs accounting for 42% of overall membership. As a Committee, we were obviously very keen to visit Wales to find out why there is such a marked difference there and importantly to find out more about the initiatives that have been put in place to inspire and support the interest and involvement of woman in politics.
One of the people, we were eager to meet on the visit was the Presiding Officer for the National Assembly for Wales, Dame Rosemary Butler. Dame Rosemary launched and indeed spearheaded an initiative in 2012 called ‘Women in Public Life,’ which is aimed at the elections in 2016. This important initiative included the creation of a ‘Women in Public Life’ web portal; a seminar series to raise awareness of current issues and to look at options for increasing and sustaining female participation. A conference was also organised to draw together outcomes from the seminar series as well as a Development Scheme for individual women interested in participating in public life. My colleagues on the AERC Committee Paula Bradley MLA and Caitríona Ruane MLA spoke to Dame Rosemary and you can find out more by listening to their interview:
The visit also gave us an opportunity to meet other key stakeholders including two Members of the Welsh Assembly’s cross-party ‘Assembly Women in Democracy Caucus’, representatives from the Equality and Human Rights Commission and from Chwarae Teg (Women in Public Life Initiative) as well as a Senior Academic from the Cardiff University. The discussions certainly provided much food for thought and the information gathered has given the Committee an excellent foundation from which to draw up our terms of reference and decide the way forward on our Review. The Committee hopes to put out a Call for Evidence this summer and we are keen to hear from all interested organisations and individuals who would like the opportunity to inform this important review.
Find out more about the work of the Committee by visiting their webpages.