More women 'are needed in politics'
Under-representation of women in Northern Ireland politics has reached crisis point and must be confronted, campaigners have warned.
With just one female in every six candidates in the upcoming Assembly election women's groups have called for action.
The candidate make-up is 83% male, up slightly on the last Stormont poll in 2007.
The break down was highlighted by a coalition of women's groups as they launched a Women's Manifesto calling for gender equality ahead of the Assembly and Local Government elections on May 5.
Lynn Carvill, of the Women's Resource and Development Agency. called on the political parties to do more to address the gender imbalance.
"It is not enough for the parties to say they are finding it difficult attracting female candidates," she said. "All of the parties need to look at setting challenging targets to increase the numbers of women in the Assembly and local councils."
The manifesto was drawn up by the Women's ad hoc Policy Group, comprised of a number of organisations and trade unions.
Bob Collins, Chief Commissioner of the NI Equality Commission, said: "Women make up 51% of the population but only 14% of the Northern Ireland Assembly; the challenge is to ensure that this figure is not worse after the May 5 election. At a time when the need to protect women's rights is as important as ever, it is of real importance that our democratic institutions give a strong lead and that political parties make use of the positive action provisions in the legislation."
The manifesto also addresses issues affecting the status of women in Northern Ireland, including the economy, childcare, domestic violence, education and health.
The organisations involved in the launch of the Manifesto include the Women's Resource and Development Agency (WRDA), the Northern Ireland Rural Women's Network (NIRWN), Foyle Women's Information Network, Northern Ireland Women's Aid Federation, the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Northern Ireland Committee.