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Right through most of the history, women in general have had less lawful rights and career break through than men. Motherhood and wifehood have been considered as women's most important professions. In addition, ever since the early period, women have been exclusively viewed as a resourceful source of human life. Also historically, women have been regarded not only inferior intellectually to their men counterparts but also a major cause of temptation and evil. In the real sense, what lies behind the inferior status bestowed upon women is their position in the field of politics. Globally women face challenges to their participation in politics, this point to a pressing need to analyze the role that women play in politics. Lack of financial support, binding traditions and culture, domestic responsibilities, growing criminalization of politics and the threat of character assassination like Indira Gandhi who was the prime minister of India have made it increasingly difficult for women to be part of the political structure. This essay sets forth a strong argument in favor of women participation in politics. The essay argues that women have the ability to perform excellently in politics only that some obstacles hinder them from achieving them. In this sense therefore the essay will act as a quick reminder to all the leaders at all calibers to do their best and create ways of enabling women participation in politics.
Furthermore, women politicians point out that still within the political parties, women are rarely found in leadership positions. In the year 2005, it was estimated that women were represented by 16% globally although the figure has gradually increasing since then (Khurana, 2007). The largest democratic India in the world elected its first woman president in its 60th of independence. This indicates clearly the position of women in politics in India and the rest of the world. However, it is in the 20th century that women in many countries succeeded to have the right to vote and enhanced their educational and job opportunities. These women have been successful in sabotaging the barriers of gender and in operating in a very violent male-dominated area. The most important fact to be noted is that these women are precisely the elite. The class from which most of these women come from is possibly the most important factor in their successful inclusion into the political system. The most important fact is that most of these women fought for and to a large extent achieved a reevaluation of the traditional outlooks of their role in society.
Sample of Significant Women in Politics Globally. Ever since the 1920, American women have had the right to vote even though their roles in politics have been negligible. In the year 1917, that Jeanette Rankin of Montana was the first woman to be elected as a member of the United States House of the Representatives. Hattie Caraway of Arkansas was the first woman to be appointed in 1932 and in the year1933 was elected to the United States Senate. Senator Margaret Chase Smith served Maine for 24 years as from the year 1949 through 1973.
Shirley Chisholm of the New York City was the first black woman to be elected to the House of Representatives in the year 1968. It is also in the year 1984 when a major party chose a woman by the name Geraldine Ferraro of New York City to run for the post of the vice-president (WIC, 1994).
In international affairs, Eleanor Roosevelt was chosen to the United
Nations in 1945 and served as chairman of its Commission on Human Rights. In the year 1949, the first woman to be appointed as an ambassador to Denmark from the United States was Eugenie Anderson. Jeane Kirkpatrick was also appointed as the ambassador to the United Nations in 1981.
Patience Sewell Latting was elected in the year 1971 as the mayor of the largest city in the country known as Oklahoma City. In the year 1990, Sharon Pratt Dixon was elected as a mayor of Washington, D.C. By the end of the year 1979, two main cities were headed by women: San Francisco, by Dianne Feinstein and Chicago by Jane Byrne.
Also the former wives of ex-governors became the first women governors: Miriam A. Ferguson of Texas and Nellie Tayloe Ross of Wyoming. Another important woman to be noted is Ella T. Grasso of Connecticut who won a governorship on her own worth or merit in the year 1974.
During the leadership of the President Franklin D., Frances Perkins was the first woman who was a member of cabinet to be appointed as the secretary of labour. Roosevelt. In the Dwight D. Eisenhower Cabinet, Oveta Culp Hobby was the secretary of education, health and welfare. In the Gerald R. Ford's Cabinet, Carla A. Hills was the secretary of housing and urban development. Juanita M. Kreps as secretary of commerce and Patricia Roberts Harris as secretary of housing and urban development were the two women chosen by Jimmy Carter for his original Cabinet. The first African American woman in a presidential Cabinet was known as Harris. During the cabinet of Ronald Reagan's: Margaret Heckler as the secretary of health and human services and Elizabeth Dole as the secretary of transportation were included. Under the reign of George Bush, Dole became the secretary of labor and she was succeeded by the Representative Lynn Martin. At the same time, Bush chose Antonia Novello who was a Hispanic for the surgeon general in the year 1990 (WIC, 1994).
In the early 1980s, Gro Harlem Brundtland was elected as the prime minister of Norway; Vigdis Finnbogadottir as the president of Iceland and Milka Planinc as the premier of Yugoslavia. the president of the Philippines in 1996 was Corazon Aquino. Benazir Bhutto was the first woman prime minister of Pakistan to head a Muslim nation from the year 1988 to 1990.
Mary Robinson was the elected president of Ireland and Violeta Chamorro of Nicaragua in the year 1990. Carmen Lawrence of Western Australia was Australia's first female premier in the1990 and Canada's was Rita Johnston of British Columbia in 1991. Also in the year 1991, Khaleda Zia became the prime minister of Bangladesh and Socialist Edith Cresson was named France's first female premier. The first female Prime Minister of Poland, Hanna Suchocka was elected in 1992 (WIC, 1994).
By the year 1990, three women held their countries in the highest elective offices. From the year 1960 to 1965 and from 1970 to 1977, Sirimavo Bandaranaike was the prime minister of Ceylon the current Sri Lanka. From 1966 to 1977 and from 1980 until her assassination in 1984, Indira Gandhi was the prime minister of India. From the year 1969 to 1974, Golda Meir was the prime minister of Israel. The first woman as the head of state in the America was Juan Peron's widow, Isabel, president of Argentina from the year 1974 to 1976. Elisabeth Domitien was the premier of the Central African Republic in 1975 to 1976. The first prime minister of Great Britain in 1979, Margaret Thatcher, was the only person in the 20th century to be reelected to that office three terms consecutively. Also in 1979, the first president of the European Parliament was Simone Weil of France (WIC, 1994).
Regarding to the above challenges, it is essential to investigate the strategies that women can use to reach the public sphere in the perspective of a male dominated social-political system. There are women who have succeeded in sabotaging the boundaries of gender, and in operating in a very aggressive male-dominated sphere. It is worth noting that many of the politician women who have been successful come from a setting of the political elite. Their background and class is perchance the most significant factor in their successful inclusion into the political system. Some forms of support within the society are essential for the growth of the women’s role in politics, and there are already those that have succeeded through these forms of support (Azizah, 2002).
The first and the most vital form of support is that of political awareness. This is what has made the Muslim women who had until of late been relatively not felt in the public sphere to suddenly fill up the conference halls and organizing campaigns for the rights of women, human rights, civil rights and for democratic rights. Among the outstanding women were those from the Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (ABIM), Jemaah Islah Malaysia (JIM) and a variety of civil society Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) such as Tenaganita and Suaram (Azizah, 2002).
The second thing is education which provides the central part of up to date and competent female opinion. Finally, there are many women who are at higher-ranking positions in the nation’s civil service. This ensures women’s contribution in the planning and implementation of the government policy.
It is worth noting that people and governments should not concentrate on the often asked question of how to raise the numbers of women in parliament, rather move towards presenting instances and experiences of how women can bring change on the political process while working through a parliamentary structure. The availability of women at the highest ranks of decision making does not necessarily mean that the issues expressed will be generally women’s issues. However, there is surety that the interests and needs of women form half of the population is given the necessary consideration (Azizah, 2002).
Challenges Facing Women in Politics and Possible Solutions
Discrimination and cultural limitations:
These have been blamed for the scarcity of women in the political office. Lack of female role models in outstanding political positions has further contributed to the political participation among female voters. It has been proved women become more politically involved when they are in seats with women MP's.
The Electoral Commissions which are established to encourage female voters have shown that women are turned-off by male MP's and less likely to get involved in political campaigns when a male is dominating. In places where the voter turnout has equalized between men and women, there is still a gap in political activism because of the gender roles, financial barriers, educational level, lack of political confidence and perceptions of male dominance all contribute to the lack of female participation and political role assumption in various nations.
So as to boost female politicians, a variety of positive actions have been proposed like implementing the quota system to ensure that women are equally represented in political offices. This does not to imply that women do not have the potential intellect and ability to succeed on their own, but to a certain extent, the current male-dominated system often thwarts their efforts from achieving success, despite their knowledge and ability (Khurana, 2007).
Political gender gaps deters women voters.
Women are significantly more likely to turn out and vote if they are represented by a woman than a man, and they are more likely to become involved in an electoral campaign on behalf of a female candidate. Secondly, they also feel to be strongly connected with the government, are more likely to be interested in an election and are more likely to discuss matters pertaining to politics. However, if they are represented by a male MP, they feel deactivated. It is not true that women are less likely to turn out to national, regional or local elections than men. It is important to point out that the levels of turnout are statistically comparable in most cases. In addition, it is worth to point out that women are more likely to be engaged in cause-orientated activities, such as signing a petition or boycotting products for ethical purposes (Kishwar, n.d.). Although when it comes to the taking part of people in campaign-orientated activities such as donating money to or working for a political party, contacting a politician, women are significantly less likely to be involved (Khurana, 2007; Azizah, 2002)
Parties’ are moving too slowly in attracting women.
Even though many in politics have long been aware of the political trends, this is the reason why women all of a sudden re-emerge on political platforms as elections draw near. The findings given by the commission's comprehensive research is a fundamental evidence for women politician candidates in the final months before the next election. The parties’ failure to select women candidates is the source of the number of women in parliament likely to reduce. Hence the cycle of alienation and disengagement is perpetuated.
Women play a very important role in the politics of a nation. Women prefer campaigns, action to meetings and are more likely to be moved to a political activity that is in the support of the fellow woman. Women are more satisfied with the efficiency of government if their MP is a woman. Women find that the way other women address them to be more persuasive; a triumph, possibly, for the women ministers who caution of the negative impact of using the language of war to domestic politics. The main challenges faced by women politicians in most nations are majorly thought include: male dominance in politics, lack of financial support, binding traditions and culture, domestic responsibilities, lack of women role models, growing criminalization of politics and the threat of character assassination. Some of the earliest politicians internationally include: Indira Gandhi of India, Sirimavo Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka and Golda Meir Israel among others. Beyond that, the presence of women at these levels will mean that women’s perspectives will be easier to hear and more highly valued in national discussions, in the direction of creating a more just, open, fair and equitable society.