A common excuse is that female speakers are a little harder to find; well, panel organizers just have to look a little more. The ‘Manels’ are an aberration when the issue under discussion directly concerns women, such as sexual and reproductive rights. The young activists had a motto, “none of us without us”; the same goes for women’s issues.
If we want gender equality in presidencies, parliaments and other positions of power, then we should certainly be able to have women in every committee. There is no reason to exclude women from any discussion, and there is every reason to include them, because they bring another perspective and raise questions and problems that men may never have considered.
World Bank / Nugroho Nurdikiawan Sunjoyo
A commitment ‘without manel’
For these and other reasons, we at the UN in Indonesia have made a “no-manel” commitment and, with our encouragement and the strong support of the Ambassador of Canada, we have won over 40 ambassadors, including not only donor nations, but also ambassadors representing a wide range of countries from every continent – to participate in.
In addition, senior Indonesian government officials have joined this initiative. There continues to be considerable interest and we expect the number of ambassadors, ministers and even CEOs from the private sector to grow in the coming weeks.
UN Indonesia is putting together a practical and easy-to-use guide to help our national team members and our external partners avoid situations of co-organization or intervention at an event with a “manel”. It is clear that in some disciplines there are far fewer women than men and, even with the best of intentions, it is particularly difficult to find suitable experienced women.
However, there is no silver bullet, no quick fix. The phenomenon of “manels” will not disappear overnight, but the UN will undoubtedly have raised the bar, increased the cost of neglecting the voices of women, generated greater public awareness and created a multiplier effect towards the normalization of the gender balanced public policy discourse.
The commitment “without manel” is sometimes interpreted as a strike against men. None of this to discredit the views of men, just to point out the obvious and turn it upside down: a panel without women is a disservice to the world of equality, freedom and peace that we try to build and need.