by Stella Ramsaroop
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 06 April 2006)
The world cannot help but take notice of the scores of women leaders who have recently come to the forefront of the international community. It is true that the gender of these leaders alone is news since women have been relegated solely to the position “housewife” for thousands of years – whether she wanted this position or not.
However, it is not only the fact that women are stepping out as world leaders that is catching the world’s interest. It is the finesse and quality of their leadership abilities that is wowing those who serve with these them and the constituency of their respective countries.
Last week in Israel, the nation’s newest centrist party, Kadima (which means forward), won the elections after putting the very popular female Foreign Minister, Tzipi Liyni, out in front of the public in the campaign ads for the party. Kadima took 32 of 120 seats, with the next closest party only taking 22 seats. Maybe this is the year for new parties with feminine leadership and new visions?
ABC’s news show, Nightline, talked about the factors that made this female leader so popular in Israel, a country where old “backstabbing” men dominate the political scene. One Israeli man said, “When she says something, she gives the public the feeling that she means it.” What a novel idea!
Liyni is a mother, a lawyer and a former member of the Israeli intelligence organisation, Mossad. According to Nightline, she has quickly climbed the political ladder, serving as Justice Minister and Minister of Immigration without making very many enemies, which many believe has positioned her as a candidate for Prime Minster one day.
Another Israeli said, “I think people are judging her by her qualities, not by her sexual identity because she is very different from all the other people we know in our politics.” Indeed, Liyni’s vision for Israel takes the country out of the ongoing conflict with Palestine so it can focus on building a thriving state.
The new party formed by the now comatose Ariel Sharon supports shrinking Israel’s presence on the land and walling the nation’s borders from enemies. Liyni says she was the architect of this concept that encourages a peaceful and democratic Israel as opposed to a warring and fragmented nation of two people groups.
Innovative leadership like this is refreshing, especially when one considers the state of the do-it-my-way-or-die approach taken by many male world leaders. The masculine strategy has too often led to death, poverty and repression for many generations. It is no wonder that so many women are being elected into powerful positions throughout the world to balance the masculine power struggle with a bit of feminine diplomacy.
Greece has a female foreign minister as well, Dora Bakoyannis, who was mayor of Athens when it hosted the highly successful 2004 Summer Olympics. According to a recent Reuters article concerning Bakoyannis, U.S. President George Bush said a couple weeks ago, “"It is a wise government that relies upon the judgment and advice of a woman as a foreign minister or secretary of state.”
In Liberia, the brave new female President, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, recently addressed the nation’s legislators, which included several corrupt and murderous politicians. She looked the allegedly corrupt Speaker of the House straight in the eye and vowed to clean up the public offices.
This is what a Newsweek article from April 3 had to say about the new Liberian president. “Johnson-Sirleaf’s ascendance is the most dramatic development in a quiet revolution transforming Africa. Across the continent, women’s empowerment initiatives, disgust with male-dominated politics-as-usual and the inspiring examples of a few female leaders are propelling women to positions of clout in record numbers.”
The most pungent part of the article said, “But Africa’s transformation also reflects a growing recognition that the corruption, civil war and decay that have plagued the continent for generations have been largely the work of men. In the past few years, grass-roots women’s groups have been sounding a distinctively feminist message, arguing that the qualities displayed by women at he family level - fiscal integrity, maternal nurturing – may be what Africa needs to lift itself off its knees.
Give an African woman a loan, they argue, and she’ll spend it on her children’s school fees and food for the family. Give it to a man, and he’ll just as likely fritter it away.”
Guyana’s dire need for more feminine leadership is just as acute as Israel’s and Liberia’s. What has been done to this nation under a gender imbalanced leadership is in keeping with the shortcomings other nations have recognised and decidedly started to remedy.
The sooner Guyana begins to introduce more female leaders in strategic places, the sooner the country will start to heal from decades of maltreatment and ineptitude. Other countries in Africa have even successfully put women into position that men have failed miserably, such as law enforcement and security.
The previously mentioned Newsweek article also talked about how Nigeria’s female led National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control has chased off the drug lords, even after they tried to gun her down. She refused to be bought and instead seized loads of phoney pharmaceutical drugs, raided warehouses and destroyed the illegal drugs in huge public bonfires.
Britain’s Department for International Development said that since 2004 Nigeria has seen a whopping 80 percent decline in the circulation of illegal drugs. This is the kind of law enforcement leader Guyana needs!
Moreover, the countries where women are in leadership positions, issues like domestic abuse, rape, paternal financial support, etc. are being addressed and new laws created to protect and advance the women of those nations.
The longer women cower in the shadows, the longer they will be subjugated to the dark forces that forced them into the shadows in the first place. Guyana needs her strong women to stand up and take their rightful place as leaders of the country. The sooner the better.