Politics is a term that influences various aspects of life, particularly in Parliament where major legislative decisions are made. Decisions that, directly or indirectly, affect all of us, including women.
A few years back, women were not given as many rights as men. Do we all remember when the new bus system was introduced in Malta? One must also remember that, at the time, women drivers made headline news. This was on a par with what happened in Saudi Arabia just last June, when women were given the right to drive a car. Can you imagine anyone in Europe being restricted from driving? Restricted from completing daily errands just because of their gender?
Nowadays, women hold a better position in society by holding several roles including in the business world, in entrepreneurship, in engineering and also in technology, all of which are of a leading nature. Surely, this was once just a dream, especially for those who supported feminism and believed in the possibility that such a line of thinking would be fruitful in these kind of career-oriented jobs.
We should now be focusing on eliminating this unconscious bias and stigma against women, particularly those in leadership positions. We should be the ones that believe in change.
Article 14 of the Constitution of Malta lays down: “The State shall promote the equal right of men and women to enjoy all economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights and for this purpose shall take appropriate measures to eliminate all forms of discrimination between the sexes by any person, organisation or enterprise; the State shall in particular aim at ensuring that women workers enjoy equal rights and the same wages for the same work as men.”
Politics should, therefore, be the starting point to promote inclusion through the use of gender-neutral language. Parliament should go beyond the primitive current safeguards established by Malta’s Interpretation Act. Parliamentarians must keep in mind that their decisions must ultimately take concrete action in order to establish equality among several social sectors.
Us women should be more supportive of one another, even in politics
The increase in female representatives in Parliament will, in time, encourage further women to participate in social and public life. Such participation will surely bring about further policy changes, including in the areas of mandatory parental leave, equal pay and vacation and protection against sexual harassment.
Us women should be more supportive of one another, even in politics. Only in such a way will we be able to change the usual gender stigma associated with several political roles.
Having more women participating in politics should not be seen as an obstacle. Women should be part of the solution, especially by participating in processes leading to legal changes.
A country is made up of both men and women, so we should all greet women leaders, including those in political positions. We should be the ones to support initiatives where young women are empowered through leadership tasks.
I am, myself, a young woman involved in my community, one of the youngest women contesting the Siġġiewi local council elections this year.
I am engaged in reducing the stigma that exists among many other women who hold back from involving themselves just because of their gender. From a young age, women should be encouraged and inspired to participate in activities that enhance leadership skills and improve their self-confidence by stating their opinion in public spaces.
This would lead to a better lifestyle for women who can all unite to implement and empower true equality and enhance their leadership skills, which can also lead to political involvement. As Silvana Koch-Mehrin, president of the Women Political Leaders Global Forum, stated: “To accelerate their political careers, women need communication, connection and community.”
Finally, us women must keep in mind that political involvement should help us achieve our ultimate goals.
Francine Farrugia is a participant in the Future Leaders programme.
This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece
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