The Analysis: Women Rise in Global Politics and Their Failures to Reach the Political “Promise Land”

By: Josephus Moses Gray/Email:
J. Moses Gray
J. Moses Gray

Women’s political struggles for leadership and representation in global politics, once considered unacceptable in the male dominated political system, is now actively encouraged by powerful international state actors due to women persistent pacifism resistance to challenge their male counterparts in an internationally acceptable democracy process. The degree of democracy is not a good indicator of the percentage of women who will make it into the legislature or the cabinet, nor is the dichotomy between a presidential or parliamentary system, while certain electoral systems are more women friendly than others while the others are the opposite especially  the under-developed countries. These under-previldge countries are the majority in the world. The ideological nature of the party system affects the number of women elected and chosen for cabinet posts.

The international system in recent years has experienced a new phenomenon and fascinating developments in contemporary politics regarding the rise in women’s involvements in political governance including the presidency and vice presidency across the globe. This new phenomenon cut across the various continents from Africa to Asia, South America to Western Europe and the Scandinavia region. This new phenomenon did not come simply, unfortunately, women paid the heaviest price based on situation from one region to another.

The Scandinavia region was the first to experience the flood of female representations in the world, but the Nordic model has now been replaced by Africa, which has greatly experienced dramatic jumps in female parliamentary representation primarily through the implementation of several laws.

The African continent has enjoyed the gradual ascendency of female presidents, vice presidents, prime ministers, and foreign ministers, just to name a few. Although women, to a larger degree have occupied lucrative public positions in Africa, including Liberia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Gambia, Angola, Chad, and African Union Commission. Except for the Middle East, where women’s rise to power faces a difficult struggle to easily overwhelm.

This political struggle which goes with heaviest price has not started over a century, until in recent time when women started to occupied key political positions in the global system including the presidency and vice presidency and prime minister Positions.

Statistical data indicate among other are Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel,  Liberia’s Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf , Argentina President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner,Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, Bangledesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed, Lithuania President Dalia Grybauskaite,  Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Brazil former President Dilma Rousseff,             Kosovo President Atifete Jahjaga ,Denmark Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt,Jamaica Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, South KoreaPresident Park Geun-hye, Slovenia Prime Minister Alenka Bratusek, Cyprus (North) Prime Minister Sibel Siber,Senegal Prime Minister Aminata Touré , Norway Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Latvia Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma, Central African Republic President Catherine Samba-Panza and Chile President Michelle Bachelet.

Others are Switzerland Presidents Micheline Calmy-Rey and Switzerland President Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, Kyrgyzstan President Rosa Otunbayeva, Costa Rica President Laura Chinchilla ,India President Pratibha Patil, Malta ,President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca,Poland Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz, SwitzerlandPresident Simonetta Sommaruga, Croatia President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic and former MalawiPresidentJoyce Banda.

The Bulk of these women were elected in democratic elections, including both direct election and parliamentary elections while some succeeded” refers to leaders who automatically assumed their positions following the resignation or impeachment of a predecessor, and were thus not specifically elected to their posts and other appointed” refers to leaders who were appointed to office by a ruling party or executive, and were thus not specifically elected to their posts. While others came to power through “coup” refers to a leader who staged a coup or revolution to take office through force.

The world also experienced women dictatorship including Bokassa, who would later declare himself emperor — was a mad and eccentric tyrant often considered one of Africa’s worst dictators, and is associated with many horrific human rights abuses, Milka Planinc (1924-2010) served as prime minister of Yugoslavia from 1982 to 1986, at a time when it was still a Communist republic; Biljana Plavsi (1930) became president of the Serb Republic within the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1996; Sabine Bergmann-Pohl (b. 1946) in her capacity as head of the East German parliament, served the final; Rosa Otunbayeva (1950) became president of Kyrgyzstan in the spring of 2010, following an uprising against dictator Kurmanbek Bakiev and Indira Gandhi (1917-1984) served two non-consecutive terms as prime minister of India that overlapped significant portions of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s.

On the global political level, these women’s predominance goes with pains and sacrifices; they paid countless prices to reach this level in the male dominance politics. At once a conflict region like Liberia and Sierra Leone, women were violated, harassed, beaten, raped, abused and stripped of their prides. Others were obliged to give themselves to the fighters to survive.

However, North America and the Middle East are the two regions that are yet to elect or appoint women as a president or vice president. The United States has been the greater advocate for women’s rights and democracy, but it has precisely failed to elect a woman to the president.

The women long political struggle for highest offices which started over the centuries, almost accomplished its ultimate objective for a woman to rewrite the political history of the United States of America and the United Nations. Had this missions not been upset by Republicans’ Donald Trump November 8 decisive victory against Democrats’ Hillary Clinton, and the October’s victory of  Portugal’s former premier Antonio Guterres for the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the women long struggle was to be achieved. Antonio Guterres will succeed Ban Ki-moon on 1 January 2017, had these two elections gone the other way in women favor, the message to the Arab World of women’s phenomenon was going to be forceful.

But the crushing defeat of  Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump did not only ruined the Clintons’ dream, women in general; women were to be in the middle of leadership of the five Permanent Members of the UN Security Council (UNSC) countries since one is currently headed by Theresa May  of the United Kingdom. These unforgotten political devastations in the recent US and UN’s elections took place in less than a month, all on the soil of the United States. A win for both women for the White House and UN Secretary Post was to complete history of the women’s phenomenon in the men dominated world.

While the Hillary enthusiasms were cutting across the world, the Americans were going for the opposite and made their decisions for USA and not what the world wanted; they went for Trump, a New York business Tycoon and not Washington, D.C. political establishment with over thirty years in the mainstream of world politics. The devastated defeat of Hillary Clinton, simply means America is not quite ready to have a woman for a president.

A Similar situation occurred in New York, at the UN Headquarters where 194 UN Member States, not just America, decided to elect a male as the new Secretary-general instead a female to serve as the World Number one diplomat.  My disappointment, among others, is the failures of women leaderships across the world to speak out on the defeat of all the six women candidates for the Secretary-General post; but angrily spoken out against Hillary’s defeat.

However, it is the Obama’s administration that undermines the leading woman candidate from being elected as the nine Secretary-General of the UN; the lady was the choice of the Eastern bloc heavily supported by the Russian Federation. Washington has threatened to veto the election of the Russian backed candidate while the Russian in retaliation also threatened to veto Washington’s choice, from South America, therefore as a bargained, Portugal’s former premier Antonio Guterres was elected over the leading woman’candidate.

According to Dele Meiji Fatunla, African affairs Editor, for record sake, there has been a list of 13 female leaders in Africa both Head of State and government, amongst them are former leaders and others are currently warming highest chairs of their countries. The continued dominance of political life in Africa by men is not good for men, it’s not good for women and it’s not good for the continent. At continental level, Beny Gideon Mabor discloses that it is evident that African women have made remarkable progress in democratic intercourse and become part of governance.

UN report (2015) indicates that while the number of female leaders has more than doubled since 2005, a woman in power is hardly the norm around the world. Sixty-three of the 142 nations studied by the World Economic Forum have had a female head of government or state at some point in the 50 years up to 2014, but in nearly two-thirds of those nations a woman was in power for less than four of the 50 years – including 11 countries (17%) where a woman led for less than a year.

But exceptionally, Africa leads in Women presidency and parliamentarians. This new phenomenon did not come easily, unfortunately, women paid the heaviest price based on the situation. Although women, to a greater extent occupying lucrative public position on the continent, their ascendency goes with pains and sacrifices, paying the price.

At once a conflict region like Liberia and Sierra Leone, women were violated, harassed, beaten, raped, abused and stripped of their goods. Others were obliged to give themselves to the fighters to survive. The new political phenomenon across the world of women’s leadership can be described as a   breakthrough of the female to the highest echelons of power.  In several continents, including Africa and South America women are holding key positions they took the power in their hands.

In general, the proportion of women in decision-making in most countries is low and far below their proportion in the population and labor force. The participation of women deputies in parliament and other representative bodies is extremely important not only for women, but for society as a whole.

Practice shows that for women, such issues as the environment, child protection, health care, social security and so on, and the issues standing at the periphery of the interests of men. Among other things, the lack of representation of women in government provides a basis for the question of how legitimate the relevant political structure, whether the democratic political system of the state.

There are at least two theories about women in politics. According to one, in the policy there is a special women’s style, which is characterized by great attention to human, social issues. It is believed that a woman’s style is more peaceful, because women do not tend to solve problems by force, launch wars and conflicts.   The second view is that the style of the policy does not depend on the individual’s gender, but on the psychological characteristics of the policy, because there are men who are peaceful and attentive to the individual’s personality, and there are women who are warlike and are not careful people.

The process of flowing women into politics thoroughly shakes the stereotype politics – for men, family, and children – for women. In general, the proportion of women in decision-making in most countries is low and far below their proportion in the population and labor force.

The gradual changes of roles of the modern state not least formed a hard request for recovery of gender balance in the leadership of the state and create a more efficient mechanism of governance at all levels. That is why the promotion of women in power considered now as a tool of a stable, humane, and sustainable development of society as truly equal status between men and women change the priorities of the state policy, the life of the country.

Women are becoming more engaged in a variety of governmental to multilateral institutions of a local government, legislators, and even the executive. Africa is a leader in women’s parliamentary representation and presidency globally (BBC reports).  In the decades leading up to 1990s, only six countries in sub-Saharan Africa had adopted quotas, while today more than half (25 out of 53) of all sub-Saharan African countries have adopted gender quotas which are measures that increase the chances of women being elected to office.

Liberia is working to follow same for greater representation in the Legislature.  The 1995 UN Conference on Women held in Beijing helped to spur these trends by adopting a Platform of Action that encouraged countries to advance women’s political leadership.

The Prospects of Women Leaderships in Africa have gained momentum, but much needed in this direction.  The effect on societies and gender relations was much more profound in these post-conflict countries in South Saharan Africa, including Liberia, where the incumbent is a female and also Chair of Economics community of West African States (ECOWAS) while in Chad the current Interim president is a female and a former president of Malawi a female. Overall, there have been nine female prime ministers in Africa since 1993 and 12 female vice presidents 12 female vice presidents.

The African experiences are also challenging conventional understandings of the impact of religion on women’s rights. Religiosity and, in particular Islam, has been seen by comparative scholars like Pippa Norris and Ron Inglehart as constraints in women’s political representation. However, many of the countries that have adopted quotas in Africa have significant Muslim populations, including Tanzania, Mauritania, Senegal, Eritrea, Sudan, Niger, and most recently Somalia.

This trend has now continued in all the countries in the Maghreb, including Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, Mauritania and Morocco. Muslim-majority countries have been motivated to adopt quotas for a variety of reasons: as a result of pressures from women’s movements and from female elites; in an effort to comply with changing international norms and donor pressures; and in an attempt to win women’s votes.

Generally, the African female leaders, both current and former must be thanked for their valuable role in shaping the position of women in Africa as integral stakeholders in governance equally with men. A topical example is late Agathe Uwilingiyimana, former Prime Minister of Rwanda who allowed herself to be brutally murdered in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, in order to save her children after her 15 guards were slaughtered during the genocide. May God rest her soul in peace!

In other jurisdictions, despite challenges facing women in transitional democracies, nevertheless, the government of the day in some African countries managed the issue of gender sensitive a priority. Countries such Senegal, South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique, Kenya and Rwanda all rank highly for their level of women’s representation in parliament. The only country in the world with the highest number of women in parliament is Rwanda.

African countries have some of the world’s highest rates of representation:  Rwanda claimed the world’s highest ratio of women in parliament in 2003 and today Rwandan women hold 64% of the country’s legislative seats. In Senegal, Seychelles and South Africa, more than 40% of parliamentary seats are held by women, while in Mozambique, Angola, Tanzania and Uganda over 35% of seats are occupied by women. By contrast, women in the US women hold 18% of the seats in the House and 20% in the Senate.

The parliamentary patterns are evident in other areas as well. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf became the first elected woman president in Africa in 2005, and more recently, Joyce Banda took over as but later lost her bid for reelection in Malawi.

Also the current interim president of Chad is a female while there have been 12 female vice presidents like Wandira Speciosa Kazibwe in Uganda and nine female prime ministers in Africa since 1993, including Luisa Diongo in Mozambique, who served for six years. Since 1975 Presently there are female vice presidents in Mauritius, Zimbabwe, Gambia and Djibouti and there have been others in South Africa, Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Burundi.

Of particular, Josephus Moses Gray’s new book titled The Paradigm of Oil Diplomacy chapter Six covering 35 pages detailed women leadership world particularly Africa. It is a fascinated subject to read. Going further, Gray’s book narrates the contributions of women activists such as Madame Mary Brownell, a respectable woman of society by all accounts, a classroom teacher and peace campaigner. Her search for peace, he said, has gone beyond national borders, and have greatly impacted humanity.

Also highlighted in the book are the Presidency, Vice Presidency and Prime Ministers, respectively.  President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Africa’s First female democratically elected president is lauded for her hard works and contributions in restoring her nation’s image abroad and interrupted peace and stability. While Angie Brooks Randall, is also mentioned;  the first female president of the General Assembly of the United Nations, and Senator Ruth Sando Perry, former Chair of the Six-man Council of State.

The book, also, revealed how Sando Perry is credited for her efforts in helping to restore law and order and improving the overall conditions in the country during the transitional period.   Also singled out is Roberta Leymah Gbowee, peace campaigner and joint winner of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize who led the women’s movement to help end the war in Liberia. The book further detailed Mother Suakoko of Bong County; her role in the fight against injustices in  her country.

According to statistical data obtained, currently there are about  18 female world leaders, including 12 female heads of government and 11 elected female heads of state (some leaders are both, and figurehead monarchs are not included), according to United Nations data. These women account for about one-in-ten of today’s leaders of United Nations member states. Half of them are the first women to hold their country’s highest office.

By: Josephus Moses Gray



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