Women in Parliamentary Committees: A New Term, but the Same Old Practice

On July 15, 2020, the new members of the Assembly of North Macedonia were elected. After a number of changes in its structure, the current Assembly comprises 61% men and 39% women. When the new parliamentary composition was established, the layout of the parliamentary committees this mandate was also brought into question.

The parliamentary committees exert great influence on the quality of the state’s legal framework and the effectiveness of parliamentary oversight of the executive branch of government. At committee sessions, MPs debate on the essential need of passing legislation, they monitor the execution of parliamentary acts and they examine other issues in its field of competence. Within the committees, the reports of the institutions that are accountable to the Assembly are being revised and oversight debates are being organized.

Consequently, the legislative domain where women will have the greatest impact on, as well as whether they will contribute to the promotion of women’s rights when legislation is being drafted, hinges on the representation of women within the committees. The female MPs that are poorly represented in a committee face challenges when they want to speak up for the rights that affect the women in their committee.

The committee structure in this parliamentary term, too, does not steer away from the practice that has been typical of the Assembly so far. Despite the fact that representation of women in the Assembly is on the rise in terms of percentage, the committees which have the smallest or the largest number of women have been the same in seven consecutive mandates.

The smallest percentage of women has been noted in the committees on defense and security (25%), on oversight of the work of the National Security Agency and the Intelligence Agency (31%), economic affairs (30%); agriculture, forestry and water economy (25%) and local self-government.  In this mandate too, the largest percentage of female committee members and deputies can be found in the committees which are relevant to the sphere of everyday’s life of women. This includes the committees on education, science, and sport (61% are women); culture (55% are women); labor and social policy (67% are women) and health (55% are women). Female MPs dominate the Committee on Equal Opportunities of Women and Men (85%). Ever since this Committee was founded in 2006, the average representation of women has exceeded 65%, and so far all presidents and deputy presidents of this committee have been women.

This practically constant allocation of female MPs in parliamentary committees concentrates their decision-making powers in the areas considered to be “soft”, that is in the committees which cover services, care, education, culture, and social issues. Consequently, since women are absent in committees that make decisions in the areas of defense, security, trade and economy, their decision-making power in thеsе domains is reduced, which means that decisions in these committees are made by their male colleagues.

In order to change this situation, we need to provide greater representation of women in the leadership structures and in the membership of committees that have a bearing on the “hard” areas, such as defense, security, trade, and economy. Despite the fact that the Assembly’s Rules of Procedure prescribe that the composition of committees needs to be in accordance to the Law on Equal Opportunities between Women and Men, which would ensure equal participation, this is still not the case in practice. This could be changed by introducing a more transparent method for selecting members, adjusted to their skill set, their varying levels of work experience and their preferences. In addition, affirmative measures are also needed. When new members are selected, the measures would ensure women are given priority in cases when they have equal qualifications as their male colleagues. Increasing cooperation between all committees and the Club of Women MPs in the Assembly would also contribute to inclusion of women MPs’ positions in decisions being made in the committees where they are poorly represented.

The comprehensive analysis of women representation in the Assembly is available on the following link:

Essential or sterile: The representation of women in the parliamentary compositions in the Republic of North Macedonia (1991-2020)

Поврзани објави