New initiative calls on voters to circle female candidates

The proportion of women in the Czech lower house of parliament is still significantly lower than in many other EU countries. A new initiative called Zakroužkuj ženu or Circle a Woman wants to change that in the upcoming elections by calling on voters to use their preferential votes for the female candidates on the ballot.

I discussed the issue with one of the initiative’s founders, Markéta Brabcová, and started by asking her why more women are needed on the Czech political scene:

“It is important to realize that female experience is different to some extent from the male one. So when it comes to decision making on the highest political level, where the most important laws effecting the entire country are being discussed, both men and women should be represented.

“Unfortunately, that is not the case here in the Czech Republic. We have 52 percent of women in the society, but we only have 23 percent in the lower chamber of the Parliament. We in the initiative are convinced that a representative democracy should have a more gender-equal representation.”

What kind of impact would it have if there were more women in top-level political posts?

“First of all the perspectives that are being overlooked now and issues that are not given such importance would get more attention, be it caretaking issues, safety in public spaces, sexual violence, but also different perspectives on seemingly gender-neutral issues, such as urban planning or public transport, that is actually used much more by women than by men.

“In addition to that, studies also show that mixed teams work better and therefore creating a more diverse scheme in the chamber of deputies could help it work more efficiently.”

Do you think circling female candidates on the ballot is an effective measure to deal with the problem of underrepresentation of women? Wouldn’t it be more affective to call on political parties to have more female politicians in top-level posts?

Source: Zakroužkuj ženu initiative

“There are actually two aspects to this question. The circling is a democratic tool that each of us who votes in this election has and can use and it is very simple.

“If enough voters decide to do so, it will send a signal that people believe that there is a place for women in the parliament and that we want them there.

“The best case scenario is that if enough people circle female politicians in this election, we might get a more equal representation in the parliament.

“And when it comes to the other tools, I would say that a combination of all of these approaches is important. It is of course important to call on political parties do to so and we do already have initiatives here focusing on that.

“But we believe that it is equally important to show political parties that their voters are interested in seeing more women in politics and to give them an incentive to start to deal with this and focus more attention on more gender-balanced representation.”

Apart from giving preferential votes to women, what measures could help to have more women in top political posts?

“I believe it is exactly what we have just mentioned. It is also important that political parties focus on equal representation within their internal structures, and that they create internal procedures that take into consideration the different needs of male and female politicians and focus on creating an environment that allows them both to be politically active and to juggle their family life and career.”