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Assembly Women’s Caucus takes first steps on journey towards a Gender Sensitive Assembly

Increasing the participation of woman in politics is not as simple a proposition as it should perhaps be. In recent years we have become more and more aware of the barriers faced by women in all walks of life, not least of all in the political sphere, an environment that remains heavily dominated by men. Levelling the playing field is often easier said than done, it’s not just a matter of spearheading equality for equality sake, we need to recognise the particular circumstances faced by women and work together to create an environment which identifies the hurdles to participation and maps out a route around and over them. 



With women making up just 35% of the total number of MLAs in the Northern Ireland Assembly, it is clear that much more needs to be done to encourage woman to enter political life. But where do we start? Well, the Northern Ireland Assembly Women’s Caucus, a group open to all women MLAs, may just have a plan and it’s one that they appropriately unveiled on March 8, International Women’s Day.  For the very first time, the Women’s Caucus which was formed in 2016, brought a motion to the floor of the Assembly which called on MLAs to endorse and adopt an Action Plan to create a Gender Sensitive Assembly. 


The Action Plan was based on the recommendations stemming from the Assembly and Executive Review Committee’s 2015 report on Women in Politics and the Northern Ireland Assembly. It calls for the Assembly to adopt and put in place targeted measures that will help to create and support a gender sensitive environment within the Assembly. This includes the adoption of processes that facilitate universal participation; the creation of tangible actions that promote equality and participation; an accessible working environment; and gender-sensitive political parties. 


Speaking just before the Assembly debate, the Chair of the Women’s Caucus, Clare Bailey MLA spoke about “…the marginalisation of women and how the Gender Sensitive Assembly Action Plan seeks to address this by focusing on the structural barriers to women's full participation in political life.”  She stressed the need for “…creating targeted actions to break those barriers down, towards a vision of a Northern Ireland where women are equally represented in politics.” 


She underlined that the central aim of the Caucus was to “...encourage women to get into politics, support them when they're elected, enable them to remain in those positions, and champion their progression.”


Echoing the Chair’s sentiment, Deputy Chairperson Rosemary Barton MLA said that “…the Women's Caucus Action Plan lays out essential and achievable priorities, and strategic well targeted interventions - for the Assembly environment, its processes and structures, as well as for the political parties.”  


She added that a Gender Sensitive Assembly would be “…founded on the principle of gender equality so that both men and women can access their equal right to participate without discrimination. "


The motion was overwhelmingly supported and passed, but of course this is just the start of the journey. Over the coming weeks and months, the Women’s Caucus will be developing and spearheading a number of initiatives and events as they work towards ensuring the full implementation of a Gender Sensitive Northern Ireland Assembly.  


So how can you get involved? Well, we’ve created a webpage, which over the coming months, we’ll be continuing to populate with new resources and content and where we’ll also provide information about our upcoming initiatives and events. You can also sign up to our mailing list and follow us on Twitter @NIAWomensCaucus. 



If you missed the debate on International Women’s Day, you can watch it in full at

Prepare to be inspired and as the great Ruth Bader Ginsberg once said remember that “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made. … It shouldn't be that women are the exception”


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