The record number of women who stood as candidates and won in the US midterm polls marked an unprecedented advance critical for the achievement of gender equality and sustainable development, the UN gender equality agency has said.
A total of 277 women ran in the midterm elections for the US House of Representatives and Senate from both major parties Democrat and Republican – representing an array of ages, races, religions, sexual orientations, backgrounds and cultures, which UN Women described as an “historic victory” and cause for celebration.
“The new cohort of elected women will bring the total number in the Congress to more than 100. This is a record,” the statement issued by UN Women Thursday said, adding that there was a 75 per cent increase in women of colour seeking to hold office in the House or Senate.
Some of those making history include the first Native American women ever to win seats in the House – New Mexico Democrat Deb Haaland and Kansas Democrat Sharice Davids, who is also the first openly LGBT member of Congress from the state of Kansas.
The first Muslim women, Rashida Tlaib, Democrat and Ilhan Omar, Democrat, hailing from Michigan and Minnesota, respectively, also made history and celebrated victory on Tuesday night. Tennessee Republican Marsha Blackburn became the state’s first woman elected to the Senate.
At just 29, New York Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won her general election race, becoming the youngest women ever to be heading to Capitol Hill. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, became the first woman of colour in her state’s congressional delegation.
This sort of inclusivity is “a vital human right and critical for the achievement of gender equality and sustainable development,” the UN agency said.
“With more women in decision-making positions in many countries, we see more inclusive decisions, and we find different solutions to long-standing problems.”
The involvement of women in key political debates and decision-making that impacts them, means these issues “are paid greater attention.”
The UN Women said that “when girls growing up can see women in leadership roles, it raises their educational attainment and career aspirations.”
The statement cited the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, aiming to leave no one behind, which includes a specific target of ensuring more inclusivity of women, from equal opportunities in leadership, to political and economic decisions.
“This is key to unlocking the transformational change we want to see to improve societies everywhere and build a safer, more equal and prosperous world.