Giving women a voice in the citadels of the world

Guyana Chronicle
February 26, 2001

IF NOTHING else is positive about this wretched season preceding Guyana's general elections, the marked numerical increase of women on electoral lists of the major political parties comes as a refreshing breath of air.

The People's Progressive Party/Civic announced last week that there are 116 women candidates on its list and while no specific number was readily available from the People's National Congress/Reform, a quick glance at its categories of candidates for the upcoming poll reveals a liberal sprinkling of females from humble housewives and farmers to career professionals of some note.

Although some wag wrote over the weekend that there was no female Presidential or Prime Ministerial candidate on the lists submitted on Nomination Day, we choose to take comfort in the fact that our political parties are heeding the new breeze of `affirmative action' which suggests that approximately one-third of their nominations to political offices must comprise the feminine gender.

The backlash that some totally unsuitable women could be elected to important public offices and the possibility of tokenism must be considered when and where they manifest themselves.

Suffice it to say we sincerely believe that women could hardly be more counter-productive than men in the workings of governance, given the fact that we have witnessed recently some irrational decisions that negatively and directly affect the livelihoods of people in some areas of this country.

On the whole, it is a sad commentary on the state of women in today's world when a conscious decision has to be made that a percentage of nominees to public office must comprise the female gender. Yet the facts of the inequities of gender relations scream at us from several areas of human relations.

Women professionals still take home less in pay and emoluments than their male counterparts. At several levels of the job market, women earn less per hour, per day, or per week than men; women workers are less likely than men to be chosen for higher training or for promotion; and the on-the-job perquisites that are routinely accorded men are withheld from women. Employers, when confronted with evidence of inequities, tend to trot out the tired old arguments that women are more prone to report sick, or cannot be relied upon for certain jobs because of recurrent pregnancies.

In the realm of national and international politics, there is still an overwhelming domination by the male principle. We concede that over the last 30 years there have been several women who have acquitted themselves superbly as Presidents, Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers of their nations. But when compared to the sweeping male leadership that prevails, these are but a proverbial `drop in the bucket' in the councils of the world.

No lesser body than the United Nations has concluded after a series of studies that at the current rate of social progress, it would take some 450 years for women to be proportionately represented as heads of state or government and as parliamentary officials. And since it would be manifestly unfair and unjust for women to wait that long for political emancipation, there is a concerted movement internationally to nominate more women for public offices beginning at the community and municipal levels.

Let us hope that the numerous women candidates in next month's poll represent more than just political correctness and a show of numbers, and that in due season they will introduce a more humane quality of governance and make our nation `a kinder, gentler' people.

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