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Women to unite over political inequality

By Noel McAdam

Women from all the main parties are set to join forces next week — to demand an increase in females in the next Assembly.

Yet only one in six candidates fighting it out for the 108 seats are women — a marginal drop compared to the last Stormont election.

Women now represent a slight majority in the province (51%) even before the next census figures are revealed.

The Women’s Resource and Development Agency, an ad hoc group made up of trade unions and other groups, is urging the parties to take steps to tackle the gender imbalance and reduce the male domination in politics.

It is due to launch a Women’s manifesto on Tuesday which will urge parties to set targets to boost female representation, not just at Stormont but in local council chambers.

Senior female politicians, including Jennifer McCann of Sinn Fein, Anna Lo from Alliance, Sandra Overend (UUP), Bernie Kelly (SDLP) and Ruth Patterson representing the DUP are expected to attend.

The Equality Commission, which is supporting next week’s launch, said the number of female MLAs at Stormont has dropped from 17% in 2007 to 14% in 2011, — and while women make up 51% of the population, they form only 14% of the Assembly.

Other organisations involved 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 and the NI committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

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