As we celebrate International Women's Day, we know that young women's participation in political life remains a challenge. 
How are young women engaging with political processes at European, national and local levels?  What are the main barriers and support mechanism for their participation? Who can be an ally in building a fairer and more inclusive society? 

Guest: Caterina Bolognese (the Head of the Gender Equality Division at the Council of Europe) and Anna Lavizzari (a researcher at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, a member of the Pool of European Youth Researchers).

Hosts: Lana Pasic and Dariusz Grzemny

Gender Equality Division website
Council of Europe Gender Equality Strategy
EU Gender Equality Strategy
General Recommendation - Istanbul Convention Action against violence against women and domestic violence
Sexism, harassment and violence against women in parliaments in Europe

What is UNDER 30'?

Welcome to UNDER 30, the podcast series by the EU-Council of Europe youth partnership that brings research results, explores trends in young people's lives and themes relevant for youth policy and practice.

The EU-CoE youth partnership is a co-operation programme between the European Commission and the Council of Europe in the field of youth, created in 1998, connecting youth research, policy and practice.

Dariusz: Welcome to UNDER 30, the podcast brought to you by the EU - Council of Europe youth partnership.

It's the International Women's Day today, so it's the best day to talk about women's political participation.

How do they participate in politics?

What challenges they face in this respect?

And what can be done to foster young women's participation in political life.

My name is Dariusz Grzemny and then together with Lana Pasic we are exploring these topics with our guests today.

Lana: Hello everyone.

Today we are speaking about young women's political participation
and also participation in social and economic areas of life.

We have with us today Caterina Bolognese from the Gender Equality Division of the Council of Europe and Anna
Lavizzari researcher on young women's participation and gender and a member of the Pool of European Youth Researchers.

Hello everyone.

Caterina: Hello, Lana.


Nice to be with you.

Lana: I would like to invite you both to briefly introduce yourselves and tell us what
you do, and why and how you have been working on this topic of young women's participation.

Caterina: yes, thanks.

I'm Caterina Bolognese, Head of the Gender Equality Division at the Council of Europe.

And, young women's participation is a really important part of the work on gender equality.

We have a gender equality strategy of the Council of Europe, which is
the second strategy, which is coming to an end at the end of this year.

And a strategic objective of the strategy is precisely balanced participation of women and men in decision making.

And, we really need more young women to be part of that, to take part in politics,
to enter politics, and to form part of the the field, in fact of politics.

Yeah, without young women on board, and motivated to enter politics, we won't ever be
able to achieve this balanced participation that is supposed to be our strategic objective.

Anna: I am Anna Lavizzari.

I'm a researcher at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid.

I work mostly on political participation and behavior, social movements and protest politics,
broadly speaking, but even more specifically looking at young people and even more specifically,
looking at gender dynamics, young women's political participation in our democracies.

And I think that even though it's a topic that it's growing in the literature, in the academic
literature and policy literature, still, there are many gaps and things to explore, understand
better, precisely in order to foster young women's political participation in our societies.

Lana: Thank you both.

And, both of you have raised the importance of young women's participation, but what do we know at the moment?

What is the situation regarding young women's political participation today?

How are they engaging in different political process at European, national and local levels.

And what are the main modes of engagement?

Is it through political parties?

Is it through social movements?

So, Anna, maybe from the research that you have done so far, you can start sharing on that.

Anna: Sure.

So, what we know today when we talk about the gender gap in young
people's political participation we usually refer to two dimensions.

First dimension is to what extent young women participate vis-a-vis young men, obviously.

So how much do they participate?

And we know that this gap is becoming little with time.

Young women are participating more and more and to the same extent almost as young male counterpart.

The second dimension refers to how they participate.

So, through which forms, as you were mentioning and in which types of fora or organizations.

And in this, again, we know that young women are far from being apathetic in political terms, so they do participate.

But they do participate still quite differently from young men.

And we know that, for instance, young women are more likely than young men to participate in so-called
unconventional types of political participation and processes, that they tend to be, or prefer actions and
type of organizations that are rather small scale, informal and that include also private forms of actions.

Examples of these are volunteering, participating in social movements
of course, or engaging in political consumerism, for instance.

And I think it's important this point because these differences in types of participation between young
women and men reflect actually gender stereotypes and gender socialization processes that concern,
supposedly, different roles of women and men in the public sphere and in their role as citizens.

Another point that, on this I wanted to make is that, from recent survey we also know that, for some
reasons, young women are less aware of some political participation opportunities, meaning that there is
a certain amount of information concerning possibilities to participate that doesn't reach young women.

And this is of course, problematic.

And we know also that this is especially for venues of participation at the European and transnational level.

So hinting that it's certainly an area where we should do better and more.

Lana: Thank you, Anna.

Caterina, following up on what Anna has already mentioned, what are some of the things that the Council of
Europe Gender Equality Division is aware of when it comes to young women's participation and ways of engaging.

Caterina: Well, I'd like to to echo Anna's affirmation that women, young women are far from apathetic, and
what we are missing is the key to get them to engage in the full breadth of political participation models.

And if we think of the classic indicator, it's, women's participation in politics.

We have at the Council of Europe, in 2003, we established this minimum of 40% of
participation in all public and political decision making, so that includes parliaments.

And, there we have still a long way to go in terms of the average
of women, let alone young women, participating in parliaments.

In recent statistics we have, worldwide, the I P U data on youth participation in Parliament shows
that only 2.2% of parliamentarians worldwide are under 30 years old and less than 1% are young women.

So, although we have definitely, evidence of young women being very active and visible on issues and protest movements,
especially feminist and environmentalist movements, we don't match that with the results in terms of representation.

And so there is a very important gap that, that, we are concerned about in the Council of
Europe and that we are trying to motivate the member states to take really concerted action on.

So, we do concentrate on this very, let's say basic indicator of participation in parliaments.

But I do appreciate a lot what Anna has has mentioned, which is other forms of participation.

It's also very, very important.

Dariusz: I just want to maybe continue with this, I am very happy that you present the
very bright side of young women's participation, that they are interested in politics.

And if you look at a lot of studies recently published, like Plan
International published a study on young women's participation.

There is the latest data for from UN Women as well on women's
participation, Council of Europe data as well what Caterina was mentioning.

So there is a lot of bright side to it, the interest, also the different forms of participation and so on.

And also what you Caterina mentioned, the dark side as well, that there is still underrepresentation
of women and especially young women in political structures, in the parliaments, in the governments.

Also, there is this data from UN Women, saying that, a very low percentage of women are also heads of
states or the heads of the government in the world, and they even estimate that it'll take us another
130 years to actually reach 50 /50, which is of course the statistics and which is also the estimation.

But I want to ask you, so what are the main challenges to young women's participation?

You mentioned some of them.

On one side, the challenges and also on the other side, what also may prevent young women to participate in politics.

I think this would be interesting to hear your thoughts on that.

Caterina: Oh, sure.

Well, I think one really major factor is funding, access to funding.

So, young women running for office often don't have access to the resources for campaigning.

So, it's really a significant barrier for young women to compete for elected seats.

And you do have a tendency of political parties also who are reluctant to support
young women because of the perception that they're not likely to be able to win.

So it's this self-perpetuating situation where the funding will go to the more likely winners and , rightly or
wrongly, women are set up not to be the winners, basically whether it's what they've been told themselves as growing
up or what others who could be the ones to support them believe in terms of what the potential is of, of young women.

It is also so evident that women are discouraged from entering politics because of violence, because sexual
threats, because of a whole range of toxic often attacks that they see that other women are subjected
to or that they experience themselves, if they dare to expose themselves online and expose opinions.

There is a very important element out there of haters who will
beat down this kind of discourse when it comes from a woman.

And so like the easiest way to shut up a loud master woman is to shock her with violence.

And that is done again and again, and not just of politicians, but we
see it also in other women, who dare to speak up and take up space.

And so it's, this is a very discouraging environment for women
and potential women who, who might want to join politics.

Anna: I can follow up on this.

I think it's a very important point that Caterina was mentioning.

. I mean, we know that especially formal politics, so politics that happen at the institutional level
through political parties can be challenging for young women precisely as an environment because
it tends to promote, well, first of all, a sort of a male dominated environment by numbers, we
know that, but also in terms of practices that are promoted to be successful in this environment.

So we often talk about vertical kind of decision making processes, very hierarchical environment in which
marginalized again, by numbers, subjects, such as young women can be very difficult to participate, in these terms.

So, I think what we need to think about more possibly, for instance, the feminist literature give us
important ideas on this topic, which is, for instance, the idea of safe or safer spaces, which are
spaces in which actually, we tend to promote or develop practices way of interacting, way of doing

politics that do not exclude, do not marginalize, that are inclusive, horizontal, and exactly they put in
practice different ways of doing politics so that people that are participating feel safe and comfortable.

I think this is, I mean, the most obvious example will be try to have a political spaces that
are obviously free from discrimination, gender-based violence, sexual violence and so on.

But it goes even beyond that, I would say.

And I wanted to make another link, which I think is a good example and important topic, that
we are starting to explore more and more, which is the digital field for participating.

So online participation for young people in general is becoming more and more important.

And it can be actually one of the key drivers for participation for young people.

But there again, young women have, generally speaking, less access to the digital space to participate.

Less resources, less skills.

So, it will be extremely important to guarantee through resources such as education, IT education,
equal access to both young men and women, and also to make it a safe space for participation.

We know that young women are more often than anyone else victims of cyber
bullying and gender based violence that is happening actually online.

Caterina: Can I just come in on this as well?

So, I wanted to add what the Council of Europe is doing as well, perhaps, this is
the right moment to mention that, that in order to answer to these challenges we
try to develop policies and co-operation programs to implement those policies.

And we also have the monitoring of some of our instruments, which could be relevant here.

So on the policy side, I mentioned already the, the gender equality strategy where we have
balanced participation as strategic objective four under our gender equality strategy.

And then, the main instruments we can look to 2003 recommendation.

And there we set 40% as the minimum threshold for either women or men, below which it is considered underrepresented.

But if we see that, if this was set in 2003 and we haven't managed to
get to 40 even by 2022, then perhaps this 40% isn't really good enough.

And we have already, you know, as an outcome from the CSW from 2019,
the decision that we should have 50%, 50/50 for elected positions.

At the Council of Europe we are currently developing the new gender equality strategy.

And I will hope to be able to push for a, let's say, a parity rather than this
40% minimum, which has served usefulness, but now is proving to be insufficient.

There's that and, apart from the 2003 recommendation, which
goes into a whole range of measures that parties can take.

But it is our soft law.

Another interesting soft law that I should mention is our 2019 sexism recommendation.

So it's the first time we an international legal definition of sexism.

And it includes advice for member states on how to tackle sexism in a range of different fields, including
an education, including in all those areas that, that will actually make a difference to potential female
politicians, in what they want to aspire to and what society expects from them as well, in terms of stereotypes.

So we really have to tackle stereotypes in many different ways.

That's the key lesson that we have learned, but we just have to find a way to act upon effectively.

I want to mention that the Istanbul Convention, the Council of Europe Convention on
preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, it's relevant here too.

We have from the monitoring mechanism, the GREVIO, the independent experts are called GREVIO.

They have produced a general recommendation number one a year and a half ago, and it
clearly spells out that the Istanbul Convention, which was adopted in 2011, it may not have
explicitly included reference to the digital dimension of violence against women at the time.

But, there is nothing to prevent the member states, the states parties from reading
into the convention the full meaning of all forms of violence and we know very well
that online digital manifestations of violence are violence and have real impact.

And, we know now that the GREVIO more and more in its monitoring visits will look more closely at
the action being taken also as concerns the digital manifestations of violence against women.

And that includes online hate, but then also digitally facilitated forms of violence, control, intimidation,
all sorts of ways that women are made to feel smaller, basically, and to take up less space.

What we need is mechanisms to encourage women to take up space.

Men have this clear advantage, many men, not all men, but many men, who are in
positions of power today were taught from a young age that the world belongs to them.

And if we have to think of what we need in order to redress the balance, get to parity
or at least some level of balanced participation, we need to change a whole lot because
women, girls need to be taught , that it's perfectly legitimate for them to take up space.

That they can have the power and must also have power.

And it's so basic, but it's fundamentally very, very difficult.

And there are so many different ways in which this message needs to be
evened out so that we can level the playing field and give women a chance.

Lana: Thank you, Caterina and Anna.

The discussion so far has been really enriching because it really
pointed to numerous barriers that young women are facing today.

And also to the importance of continuous work on this topic.

However, we know that the work on gender equality tends to be sort of isolated field in its way, that it is often young
women who work in this area and it is often people who work on human rights and equality that are working on supporting
young women's participation and knowing that, who are some of the other actors who could be involved in this process.

Caterina, you already mentioned education and other areas, but who could also be these
allies in addition to policies and strategies and instruments that could encourage
young girls and young women to enter into the political sphere and raise their voices?

Caterina: Thank you for that question, Lana.

You know the expression, it takes a village, you know, we need, across the board, vertical
and horizontal, everyone to pull together to work, on this very necessary change, that's
very complex, but one group of allies that comes to mind is for me, obviously men and boys.

We can't actually get there unless men and boys feel invested in making this change.

And it's not just, you know, out of generosity to help someone with whom they identify because they happen to
have a sister or a mother or you know, we need something stronger than this what could be a bit of lip service.

We need recognition by everyone and here I mean women too because
women take such an active part in raising boys and the men of tomorrow.

We need a recognition that everybody has to pull together and that everybody can play a part.

And we can only get there if everyone is invested because they've realized it's fundamental to, not
just fairness, but you know, not just a high lofty ideal, but something that is, deeply a malfunction,
it's a dysfunction, this, this inequality that we see in the sharing of power, and we won't get there,
we won't get men as allies unless they too recognize that it's dysfunctional not to have this sharing.

. And so the Council of Europe has been developing guidelines on the role of men and boys
in gender equality policies and in policies to combat violence against women and girls.

And they are up for adoption very soon, we hope.

But there's also a section in there about men as agents of change and recognizing that they have a really
important role to play, if we let them and if we give them the opportunity but also the responsibility to do. Yeah.

Anna: Can I follow up on this?

So I wanted to say, because I was thinking something very similar in the sense, if you look at some of,
again, some surveys that ask young people, both women and men, which topics are you most interested?

Oftentimes for young women, gender equality, women's rights are at the top of the list and the gap, you
know, vis-a-vis men in the amount in which they are themselves interested in these topics it's quite big.

So precisely points to the fact that still there is this narrative
and perspective that gender equality equal to women's issues.

So it should be only women's concern.

And that's, as Caterina was saying, it's extremely unfair, which should work on this.

And I think teachers, schools, education even informal education is very important in this sense.

I'm also thinking, I was thinking before the media, mainstream
media, I think at every level, even, you know, within the family.

But again, if we think in terms of access to rights, it's important that there are other actors
that actually open up opportunities for young women to participate, to foster their participation.

And also, as I was mentioning at the beginning, information about
this opportunity that can be targeted information specifically.

Why not for young women to let them know that there are venues for them to participate together with young men.

I think these are very important steps to implement, to make.

Dariusz: Okay.

As we are also recording a podcast, which is the podcast of the EU - Council of
Europe Youth Partnership, I think we should mention the role of youth work, the
role of youth research, the role of youth policy also in bringing this change.

Lana, I have the question to you.

What about the youth partnership?

If you would like to mention, we know that there is a study coming on young
women's political participation, if you can tell us a little bit more about that.

Lana: Thank you Darek.

Indeed, and starting with what Anna has said regarding the role of family and
role of different groups in society, encouraging young women's participation.

Actually we, decided following the study, meaningful youth political participation to look into
the gaps, and young women's participation came as one of the very obvious gaps in this regard.

So that's why from 2022 we started researching more into this topic.

And Anna together with another researcher are actually working on this study in paper on young women's participation.

But, we are also recognizing, at the Youth Partnership and also through research, there are many more
factors, and the paper will also look at young women's participation through the lines of intersectionality.

So, identifying other areas of discrimination, other barriers and
other challenges young people from different backgrounds are facing.

So, I would say that for us, this is just a start, kind of opening a door into the research
on young women's participation, but also research on gender in other areas of our work
that includes also access to rights, social inclusion, digitalization and other spheres.

Dariusz: Good.

And, we are recording this episode one day before International Women's Day and
this podcast episode is airing on the International Women's Day, 8th of March.

I was wondering what can we wish, what can we say as the last words on this very special day.

Caterina: Well, maybe I'll start.


I think young women's participation in formal politics is so important.

Young women are often leading change through activism on issues like, climate change, racial
justice, and gender equality and they're, they're really powerful advocates for intergenerational
collaboration as well, and for accountability towards a more just, sustainable and equal world for all.

So, it'll benefit all of us, to have more young women in all their
diversity represented when political decisions for the future are being made.

Anna: I would like to invite young women, the ones who have the possibilities again, of
course, to actually engage tomorrow, the 8th of March, across Europe, across countries, to
actually participate in some of the initiatives that are taking place in many cities.

Again, where possible and where it is safe.

Go out, strike.

That's the motto for the 8th of March.

Get in touch, look at feminist movements, what they're doing.

I think they give us a lot of hope towards change towards the future, as Caterina was mentioning, I would say that.

Lana: Thank you both.

It was a challenging podcast for me, I must say, talking about this topic.

It is and still remains a topic very close to my heart and also close to
the work of both partner institutions, so the EU and the Council of Europe.

And I think the message that both of you have sent is quite clear,
inviting, inspiring and motivating young women, but also young men.

To engage in this process, and to support creating safer spaces and more opportunities
for young women's participation and Happy International Women's Day to all of us.

Dariusz: Exactly.

Happy International Women's Day, and thanks a lot to everybody for being with us today.

Thank you.