When I was studying politics some years ago I came across a worrying statistic that showed that women in Ireland were proportionally less represented in elected politicians than The Sudan. Yep, you read that right, The Sudan. That was some years ago and from what I can remember represented only the ROI, but it was still a shocking figure. Have things improved much? Last months ROI elections saw 24 women elected to the Dail, two more than 2007, but that is out of a possible 166 seats. Ireland still trail behind The Sudan, Kazakhstan and Iraq in world league tables. Here in N.Ireland representation isn't much better, with 18 female MLAs elected to Stormont in 2007, a paltry 16% of the total seats.
Of course there are some great female politicians and candidates, victories in 2010 Westminster elections for the likes of the Alliance Party's Naomi Long, against First Minister Peter Robinson no less, and Sinn Fein's Michelle Gildernew in the tightly contested Fermanagh seat, prove that female politicians can do the business come voting time, and it may be simply a case of ensuring that more women are encouraged to stand. In this year's Local Assembly Election's I'm extra pleased that the environmental option in South Belfast lies with the Green Party's Clare Bailey (pictured). I'll set my impartiality aside for a moment and state that I've been canvassing with Clare in recent months and I can safely say that my vote has never been in better hands.
Of course a great deal of political involvement starts at school or university, and I'm also please to say that the QUB Feminist Society is now up and running as an active society for students in Belfast. Recognition should go to co-chairs Ashleigh Simpson and Judith McGimpsey for making such head way in recent months.
Finally I'd just like to highlight three inspirational women who have influenced me in their politics, dedication and commitment to eco and female issues:
Caroline Lucas: The first English Green Party MP on her election last May, Caroline Lucas's leadership of the party over the past three years, and eleven year stint in the European Parliament, have seen the profile and image of eco concious politics in the UK raised significantly. She's also done more than her fair share for women, campaigning on issues of domestic violence, breast cancer, sexual health and maternal care.
Petra Kelly: Instrumental in the creation and development of Die Grünen, her tragic murder in 1992 may have meant that she never fulfilled her full potential, but what she did manage in her life was extraordinary and she is truly as inspiration and role model to environmentalists across the globe, male and female alike.
Harriet Lamb: As Executive Director of the UK Fairtrade Foundation, I guess Ms Lamb is having a busy time of at at the minute as we're right in the middle of Fairtrade Fortnight (check out Fairtrade Pancake recipe of Greensheen Kitchen). She is also the author of Fighting the Banana Wars and Other Fairtrade Battles, which is available via Amazon.