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Saturday, 2 April 2011

Why do we have few women in Parliament? 2nd Edition

Seize the Moment answers the question we posed last week - Why do we have few women in Parliament? The question is largely approached from a "solutions" front, rather than the diagnosis aspect which we were interested in. However, these bits caught my eye :
Conditioning : For the most part women aren’t conditioned to consider the political arena as a viable means to effect meaningful change. Our socialisation still runs towards men in politics and women in civil society. You can see a microcosm of this in our schools where student government structure (if it exists) is mostly male dominated, and females are directed towards more genteel activities such as theatre or school fundraising. Being bold and assertive is not something that ‘good girls’ do....

Attitudes / Behaviour : The attitudes and behaviour of male politicians often run counter to what they say in campaign speeches or on Women’s Day. I have personally witnessed latent verbal abuse of female parliamentarians that has no basis in ideological differences but with sexism. More emphasis needs to be placed on gender sensitisation. We’ve had enough male chauvinism that still treats women as mere children out of their depth!
Both points emphasise the "cultural" aspect as the driving reason and men essentially as responsible. But it does beg the question: why can't women form parties where they are respected and make a case to the nation? We must remember that 51% of the population is female - a pro-women party stands a good chance. One suspects the problem must be more structural  than cultural.  Ruth Henson commenting on the constitutional proposals related to gender perhaps is onto something :
Having better representation needs to start further back. Better education for girls. Fairer employment conditions. More equality in the home. More effective systems in government. Smaller families. If these are achieved, more women will be willing and able to serve as representatives. As it is, the best women are busy; working all hours, supporting families, carrying the role of wife and mother as well as their work roles. They are also disillusioned with current government systems where elected representatives have very little power to effect meaningful change.

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