“Women belong in all places where decisions are being made. It shouldn’t be that women are the exception.”(Ruth Bader Ginsburg,2009)
Being born a woman has been condemned for many centuries, by many cultures and countries. From dress codes to working and voting, we have been constantly oppressed and discriminated by a male-dominated society. Even now, in the 21st century, where so many aspects of our lives have progressed, we still need to fight for our rights. Our right to do as we please with our bodies, to feel safe wherever we go and to have equal opportunities with the opposite sex. Unfortunately, doing so in a world where men make our choices for us and have all the power in their hands, is quite challenging. Thankfully, there are those who tried, and are still trying, to make the world we live in a better place for all women internationally.
In 1869, a group called the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) was founded by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. They began to fight for a universal-suffrage amendment to the U.S. Constitution. They fought for their right to vote, which for some was considered a lost cause, and faced the criticism of their times. Although, a few years later things started to change for the better. In 1893, Australia and New Zealand, driven from the confident approach of the NWSA, gave women the right to vote. In 1918 the UK followed, the US in 1920 and Greece in 1944. Slowly but surely, women started to get more involved into their country’s politics. In 1916, the first woman to be in the House of Representatives was elected. Jeannette Pickering Rankin was an American politician, women’s rights advocate and was also the first woman to hold federal office in the United States. Her voice gave power to many women and she had the laborers as a priority. By 1917, women had been granted some form of voting rights in about forty states and she was set publicly against World War I.
After all this time, women have multiplied in the political field. Their equal presence, their leadership and their perspective in parliaments is essential to ensure greater responsiveness to citizens’ needs. Over the last 20 years, the proportion across the globe increased from 13 percent in 2000, to 25 percent in 2020, with some regions experiencing far greater gains. Despite these gains, women still rarely hold leadership roles. At the start of 2020, women were leading just 20 of 193 nations and occupying a quarter of parliamentary seats globally. Being as it may, women are not a minority and their interests will not be represented by someone who does not know how it is to live without them. Over the last 10 years, 131 countries have passed 274 legal reforms in support of gender equality. These include laws towards eliminating violence against women, childcare and universal healthcare. That kind of representation is important in parliaments due to the fact that it promotes gender equality, a broader spectrum of legislations and has a pivotal role on what issues are being discussed.
In the 20th century, women have had major breakthroughs in the political field. From the controversial Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, to the stern Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, many changes have been made. Even though their gender, those women, and many more, have made an unrelenting progress in their respective countries’ politics, not only focused on women-rights related matters. Mrs. Thatcher was the first woman in Europe to hold the title of prime minister and she was the longest-serving British prime minister of the 20th century. Her Economic Policy and Monetarism & Dealing with a Recession were two quite promising policies, but the outcome was not ideal, in relation with the infamous ‘’poll tax’’. On the other hand, Mrs. Banger Ginsburg dedicated her career to ensuring that marginalized groups received justice and was known for tactfully dissenting in court. She won five landmark cases on gender equality in the US Supreme Court, based on the protections of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, with two of them being ‘’State -funded schools must admit women’’ and ‘’Juries must include women’’.
In recent years, Mrs. Jacinda Ardern, the PM of New Zealand, has manged to accomplish a great deal of achievements. She is the third female prime minister and the youngest one. She settled many legislations on behalf of free healthcare, education and childcare. In her second term, same-sex marriage was legalised, along with abortion. Her plans also involved cooperation with the country’s indigenous people, the Māori. The variety of races and genders in her parliament, makes it one of the most diverse.
Even though all these amazing women have done an outstanding job, there is one thing for certain· female presence in influential and critical positions is still excruciatingly low. According to UN Women and since the adoption of the Beijing platform for Action, 1 in 4 women hold seats in national parliaments. In the United States, only 117 of the 535 members of Congress are women, and the French parliament has 223 female members out of 577. The World Economic Forum notes that the biggest gender gap is in political empowerment. The 2020 review noted that no country has fully achieved gender equality at all levels of political leadership in elected or appointed office. Significant disparities of power continue globally, especially among leaders at the apex of power as Heads of State and Heads of Government.
With all that being said, we need immediate change. It has been proven that when women are in positions of power, the more closely governments represent the composition of society as a whole and the more stable their policies are likely to be. This means that it is not only important to include women in politics, but also to ensure extensive representation. Also, having a broader parliament tends to address a greater variety of concerns that apply exclusively to women. Concerns such as maternity leave, equal pay and discrimination are just a small insight of what needs to be done for the prosperity of almost half the world’s population (49,5%).
After all this time and sacrifices, we must guarantee the female presence in the political field. We owe it to the generations before us, so that their hard work and suffering was not in vain. Most importantly we must ensure a better future for the generations to come. By empowering other women to raise their voices and make the decisions, we are taking a huge leap towards justice for all, gender equality and a brighter future. We need to act, to encourage and to do it like a woman!
*All the sources and articles of this paper were retrieved before the 25th of January 2021*
Συντάκτης: Βασιλική Κολλύρη