On June 19, 2019, the Otto Benecke Stiftung e.V. (OBS) and the German Association of Cities hosted 55 guests at a Regional Conference at the North Rhine-Westphalian State Parliament. The conference gave participants from the OBS project “Female Migrants in Local Politics” an opportunity to meet with representatives from the government, various institutions, and parties to discuss the current situation of immigrant women in local politics. In addition to the project participants, Pavle Madzirov and Angela Hebbeler from the Düsseldorf City Council and Ksenija Sakelšek, Acting Chair of the NRW State Integration Council, were also on the podium.
The event was moderated by former Bundestag member Dr. Lale Akgün, who began with a short overview of the percentages of women in politics. Of the members of the German Bundestag, just under 31% are female; in the respective state parliaments, the share of women is between 24.5 and 40.6%. In the European Parliament, the share of women is nearly 37%, and it varies widely in local governments, with a current average of 27%. The percentage of women in directly elected top local positions is especially sobering, at around 10%. Overall, women and men with a migrant background are very underrepresented in parties and committees. They make up just under 4% of council members in large cities.
“Female migrants are a minority within a minority, and there is an enormous need for action here. The project ‘Female Migrants in Local Politics’ showed that immigrant women in particular have a strong interest in participating actively in local politics, and in helping to shape local political developments,” said OBS Project Manager Teresa De Bellis-Olinger.
The discussion with forum participants showed that all of the parties still had some way to go in considering female migrants for the upcoming local elections. “It is logical and politically advisable to support this commitment. Female migrants on political committees make a significant contribution to integration, and they are a great asset for the local community,” said the Managing Chair of OBS, Dr. Lothar Theodor Lemper.
In her closing remarks, the project’s sponsor, NRW State Secretary Serap Güler, encouraged the women in the audience to keep networking, to persevere, and to keep the goal of political engagement firmly in mind.
The “Female Migrants in Local Politics” project took place in the five German states where local elections are being held through 2020 (North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, Baden-Württemberg, Saarland and Bavaria). Through tailor-made seminars and extensive networking, it gave immigrant women better ways to actively engage with local politics and to seize their opportunities for shaping local political developments.
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