The Political Empowerment of Women in Thailand: Gender Quota Systems and Policy Advocacy

After the success of "The Glass Ceiling," UNDP aims to reach out further to Thai women, expanding efforts into Thailand's restive South.

Despite being one of the first countries in Asia to allow equal political rights for both male and female, women’s representation and participation in Thai politics remains historically low. Yet the debate over the role of women in politics has gained renewed attention. Many have argued that when women participate in leadership and decision-making, good results occur, like lower corruption levels, improved quality of life, and higher social inclusiveness.

UNDP’s strategic objective is provide multi-dimensional information sources on poverty and gender issues, particularly in the area of gender quota system in Thailand. Empowering women politically will directly affect the lives of their families and the local communities and help Thailand advance progress in meeting MDG 3+ targets.

What have we accomplished so far?

UNDP surveyed public opinion and Thai attitudes towards women in politics, and conducted a study on gender quota systems in Thailand, through the mobilization of key stakeholders and women advocacy groups across the political spectrum. Interviews were conducted with Thai Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, Opposition leader Mr. Abhisit Vejjajiva, and UNDP Administrator Helen Clark. Interviews were also conducted with village/local (Tambon) and female provincial leaders to gain a better understanding of  local resistances, struggles and successes.


UNDP in Thailand had two main successes. The first, was the release of a documentary film, “The Glass Ceiling,” which recognizes the importance of women’s political empowerment in Thailand and in the Asia-Pacific region.

The film highlights the statistics showing that out of 7,000 political positions in villages and towns across Thailand, women account for just 4 percent. In the Parliament, female politicians only make up 16 percent. This is exceptionally low, considering the fact that women represent more than half of Thailand’s population.

UNDP also commissioned a report on the importance of gender quotas in politics by a leading Thai scholar. The report recommends a holistic approach toward empowering women politicians that should be introduced as a package--emphasizing both short- and long-term life-spans.  In other words, a quota system should not be done independently, but be conducted along with efforts such as fostering young girls’ interest in politics and public affairs, and encouraging public speaking and training in girls’ leadership in schools.

The report demonstrated that public support for political equality is higher than ever, as 85 percent of respondents agreed that a gender quota system in Thai politics would help to increase female participation and provide greater opportunities for women in Thailand to demonstrate their leadership and decision-making skills.

Project Overview
Project start date:
August 2010
Project end date:
December 2010
Focus area:
Project Officer:
Ms. Tongta Khiewpaisal
Ministry of Social Development and Human Security (MSDHS)