Data suggests women face structural obstacles which has led to less representation in politics

SFU lecturer highlights education and the prevention of violence as factors against women’s representation in politics

PHOTO: Marco Oriolesi / Unsplash

Written by: Nancy La, SFU Student 

In commemoration of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, The Peak spoke with Dr. Eirini Kotsovili, a lecturer in the department of humanities, to discuss the role of women in politics and their representation in the political scene.

“The fact that we don’t see more than [21%] of women in power as leaders or in parliament speaks volumes about the wide range of obstacles, across the globe, that women are being presented with,” said Kotsovili. She added change is slow and there are “important legacies to acknowledge in terms of who speaks for women — women are not a homogenous group.”

The data Kotsovili referenced came from a UN Women report that revealed women’s representation in governments across the globe — the report stated there are 21% of women in parliamentary positions and 14 countries which achieved 50% or more women in their cabinets. 

Kotsovili said there are structural obstacles to women actively participating in politics. She emphasised two major intersectional barriers women face while striving for political participation: education and safety against violence. 

“We have to talk about basic rights in terms of education. If we want to see women really becoming members of political parties, the opportunities are not there for them.” 

Kotsovili explained violence against women needs to be addressed so they can be represented within politics. She said factors such as law and reforms play a role in women’s opportunities. In speaking of violence, Kotsovili referenced the recent case of Sarah Everard whose disappearance and murder lead to outcry in the UK about violence against women.

She said different global and local initiatives can help the public understand these obstacles by raising awareness, encouraging self-education, and identifying women’s struggles can aid in reducing barriers.  

“I’m focusing on these young women emerging — that is very promising — and social media allowing for more visibility for individuals in remote areas to speak, regardless of ability, race, or class.” 

Kotsovili’s research involves the study of contemporary culture, modern Greek autobiographical literature, and women’s freedom through autobiographical literature. Her teaching interests lie in women and gender issues, along with reflections on memory and trauma.