We’re on our second day of class in the Woman as Change Agents course, and I absolutely love all the girls, the lectures, and the amazing conversations I’ve had so far! Yesterday as part of the introduction, we spent time in small groups discussing the Millennium Development Goal #3, to promote gender equality and empower women by 2015. We talked about issues that we think are limiting women, and how far they have come in the last 100 years.
One issue we discussed was the under-representation of women in the political decision-making process. Although women form half of the global population they only represent 20% of parliament on a world average, (Sedghi, 2012). Therefore a large percentage of female opinions regarding family planning, health care, economic opportunities, legislature discrimination and legal justice, domestic violence, amongst others, cannot be heard in the decision process. In Saudi Arabia, one of the most restrictive political environments to be female, women in 2011 were promised the vote in 2015 and to be able to run for council elections, yet how long will it be before female candidates will be able to secure the many necessary recourses and voter support? (Epakto, 2011) Women aspiring to enter politics need tools for change: education, empowerment, opportunities, contacts, and resources. That’s why all of us are here in Panama today, to use our resources to empower ourselves, so we can empower other Generation Y women to take on global issues. In less-restrictive political world regions, women candidates may have resources but they face barriers of unconscious gender bias from voters and the media, glass ceilings, and the conflicting ‘double-bind’ cross-gender leadership style.
Young women in Cairo taking action, (Los Angeles Times, 2011)
On a global level, many young women are uniting in the decision that they deserve the right to voice their opinions on issues directly impacting their lives, through campaigning on the streets, such as the women of Tahrir Square in Egypt (Higgins, 2011), and involving themselves in huge numbers in social activism. Yet when “women [take] leadership roles, it has been as social reformers and entrepreneurs, not as politicians or government officials,” (Hunt, 2007). The role of young women today should be to bring their leadership in social reforming directly to where the decisions are made, politics. In the workshop yesterday, we talked about issues that are making entrance into politics more difficult for women, like domestic violence, lack of role models, gender stereotyping and superficial media portrayal of women, to name a few! Together, these issues are part of the cause of the female leadership crisis.
Already young women are empowering themselves – Generation Y is going to revolutionize the world! Women are educating themselves to bring social activism from the streets to the decisions. Today we had a great ‘Dream’ workshop in a park, led by Paula of Chispas de Amor, Panama’s own 100% Panamanian social entrepreneur. Almost EVERYONE had the same vision – to create a world with more love, opportunities, and sustainable growth.
Here’s a great site to track women’s progress across the world. http://genderacrossborders.tumblr.com/ Get inspired and submit an article 🙂
Ami Sedghi (2012). Guardian, UK [online]. [Accessed 8 March 2012]. Available from: <http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2012/mar/07/women-representation-in-politics-worldwide?INTCMP=SRCH>.
Larisa Epakto (2011). PBS Newshour [online]. [Accessed 8 March 2012]. Available from: <http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/2011/09/saudi-arabia-women-vote.html>.
Madeleine M. Kunin (2008). Pearls, Politics, Power. 1. ed. Vermont: Chelsea Green Publishing.
Michael Higgins (2011). National Post [online]. [Accessed 8 March 2012]. Available from: <http://news.nationalpost.com/2011/12/20/beating-of-blue-bra-woman-reignites-egyptian-protests/>.
Swanee Hunt (2007). Swanee Hunt [online]. [Accessed 8 March 2012]. Available from: <http://www.swaneehunt.com/index.htm>.