Unrepresentative power

Category: Open data

Country/area: Russia

Organisation: Transparency International – Russia

Organisation size: Small

Publication date: 27/12/2019

Credit: Evgenia Verbitskaya (the author of the text), and participants of the hackathon: Anastasia Platonova, Dmitry Usov, Ilya Tchaikovsky, Daria Titova, Evgeny Potapov

Project description:

The project is a study carried out as part of a hackathon on discrimination and focuses on the representation of women in the regional parliaments of Russia. We uploaded and analyzed data on 500 thousand candidates at the municipal and regional levels (2013 −2017). We used open data published in open sources, conducted interviews with the representatives of regional parliaments and studied international documents and Russian legislation. As a result, we published a study according to which the number of women in the regional parliaments of Russia is less than 15% of the total number of parliamentarians.

Impact reached:

The main thesis of our work is that women face discrimination at all stages of elections to regional legislative assemblies. They are less likely to be elected to leadership positions and earn less than male deputies. We have found out that with a relatively large number of female civil servants, only a few hold leadership positions that allow them to make decisions. 

Statistics show that the higher the position is, the fewer women can take this role. And vice versa, there are a lot of women in low positions. We believe that this has a direct negative impact on the standard of living in the country, including lack of protection of women’s rights. 

According to the UN estimates, the “critical mass” of women represented in legislative authorities should reach 30%, otherwise women will not be able to significantly influence any changes or decision-making processes and to promote their initiatives. 

The publication of the study caused a stir in social networks. It was posted on the official website of Transparency International — Russia, and also posted in a number of large Russian media with a high audience reach. 

We believe that in the current situation in terms of gender equality in Russia, it is important to raise awareness, ask questions about the activities of the state on the implementation of international agreements and the national gender plan, and thereby change the situation in the country. We wanted to make sure that the constitutional rights of every citizen and resident of the country are respected, and from this point of view, the project has fulfilled its function.

Techniques/technologies used:

We used the data from the State automated system “Elections” that contains information on all candidates who submitted applications to election commissions. To collect this data, we created a parser in Python and performed several iterations of data processing. It is worth noting that the indication of the gender of the candidate was determined automatically during parsing by identifying the end of the middle name (in Russian it depends on the gender). Problems arose when the middle name was not indicated, typos were found in the candidate’s name, or when the gender was difficult to determine. In addition, errors were found on the website of the Central Election Committee. For example, there were candidates born in 1903 or 1915. There were also some obvious typos and mistakes in the titles of political parties, etc. We also used various open databases.

What was the hardest part of this project?

The main difficulties in the implementation of the project arose when we were trying to find Russian reports on the implementation of paragraphs of international documents regarding gender equality, as well as when we looked for information on the implementation of the National Strategy for Women.

The uniqueness, complexity and at the same time the advantage of our project lies in the fact that it brought together specialists in various fields united by the common idea of ​​combating discrimination. Our team included programmers, journalists and designers. Most of the work was done during the weekends, in our free time, under the mentorship of the representatives of Transparency International in Russia. 

We believe that the strongest and most successful projects are implemented by those people who are ready to fight discrimination in any of its manifestations, and that is why we believe that our project deserves winning.

What can others learn from this project?

We believe that our project is an illustration of the fact that in order to contribute to changes in society, it is not necessary to be a large organization or a large project with serious funding. It is enough to get together a group of enthusiasts. The information we analyzed is available in the public domain. This means that with the availability of human resources, such studies are quite feasible. When comparing the data, we made a number of important observations. For example, we have found an indirect correlation between the representation of women in parliament and the corruption perception index (CPI). We have articulated an evidence-based fact that the higher the position is and the more authority, access to the distribution of budgets and real power this position brings to a person, the less likely it is that a woman may occupy this position. We have drawn attention to the fact that despite Russia’s active foreign and domestic policy regarding the promotion of women’s rights, the real changes are insignificant and are rather nominal in nature. We have also pointed out that in Russia there is no single body dedicated only to promoting women’s rights and improving their position. Our study emphasizes that women’s voices help to take into account a wider range of public interests and bring additional knowledge and experience to the parliamentary debate. The participation of women, therefore, allows to take into account various points of view and ensure maximum awareness of parliamentarians in the development of public policy. These are simple things that are accessible to everyone, so we believe that our project has not only raised awareness about important problems in society, but also shows that ordinary people can and should be involved in the life of their communities and form an active civil

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