Hillary Clinton may well become the first woman President of the United States. Through her nomination for President of the US, Clinton broke the glass ceiling.
But beyond the race for the White House, and despite the former first lady’s remarkable achievement, balancing work and family life is a challenge for many parents.
As mothers of young children, aged 18 and seven months respectively, ours is a first-hand experience. Both of us happen to be lawyers in self-employment. Adding political commitments to the equation makes it even tougher.
It is hard to believe that, in 2016, we still experience the not so occasional stigma associated with women in politics. Our participation in political life is, at times, frowned upon, interpreted as selfish ambition, not least by people who should know better. This stigma shall remain as long as women are still under-represented in Parliament, political parties and institutions and in most sectors of our society.
Despite talk to the contrary, parental responsibility is still associated with mothers, whereas paternal paid leave provisions are lacking. Although maternity leave has increased over the years, (18 weeks), bringing up an 18+week-old baby in a household where both parents are in employment is a daunting task.
The more obstacles we face, the more determined we are to fight for change. But it’s no mean feat. Admittedly, we do have our moments of guilt and doubt. There are days when equality and equal rights seem like an ideal that will never happen.
Electing more women requires a collective effort in addressing cultural and invisible hurdles
There are positive moments too. Women who, despite the odds, succeeded in their career and family life and who inspire us to work harder. Unfortunately, we encounter hardships and grief too.
Home visits reveal the silent wounds of our society: women who have suffered domestic violence for several years in silence with no help at hand. Others are made to feel useless because they could not bear children; women who spent their lives caring for their family at home but their work is not appreciated; mothers who left hospital empty handed and feel that no one can understand their hidden grief; single mothers who feel hurt when they hear people labelling them as abusers of our social services system while doing their very best to provide for their children; young couples whose marriage failed and feel helpless; promising young women whose dreams for a successful career are ruined by an employer who, in this day and age, still views woman in employment as a long-term risk.
These are but a few of the everyday realities that we encounter as politicians. Unfortunately, very few politicians write about these experiences.
As female candidates, we strive to be the voice of many women who remain unrepresented in Parliament and in policymaking institutions. Many, unfortunately, do not question this and, when voting, hardly think about how a more gender-balanced and diverse Parliament could change their lives for the better.
As young mothers, we are committed towards ensuring that our children shall have equal opportunities irrespective of their gender.
Research conducted by the United Nations reveals that, as of August 2015, only 22 per cent of all national parliamentarians were female, a slight increase from 11.3 per cent in 1995.
Recent initiatives taken by the Nationalist Party have increased the participation of women in its structures but electing more women requires a collective effort in addressing the cultural and invisible hurdles that keep us from breaking through the glass ceiling.
Roselyn Borg and Alessia Psaila Zammit are lawyers and PN general election candidates.
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