Tuesday, April 23, 2024

EDITORIAL – Women qualified to lead

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As far as female prime ministers go, the recent appointment of Miss Julia Gillard as prime minister of Australia is not only a first, but in academic language, it is a starred first. In the macho testosterone driven land down under, Miss Gillard, is single, childless and has a publicly identified boyfriend with whom she lives, who is a hairdresser. She is a lawyer and was deputy prime minister to Kevin Rudd, whom she replaces.And to cap it all off, she refuses to be identified as a kitchen person, unlike Margaret Thatcher who was photographed in her kitchen. Nor is she given to reminding the press as, Hillary Clinton once did, that she could have “stayed at home baking cookies and having teas”, but chose instead to follow her profession. Instead she simply does it her way.Miss Gillard probably means many things to many people, but above all she is another star to those millions of young women in the world who by deliberate choice refuse to be buttonholed by nature and convention into the traditional role of wife and mother and homemaker, doing the school run with the young family and greeting their career driven husbands who reach home in the evening after “another hard day at the office”.She now joins 18 other women who are leaders of their country’s political systems, as prime ministers, with our own Trinidad and Tobago being the latest country to choose a female as prime minister, just before Australia did.It is of course politically correct that women should be able to participate fully in the political life of their country, but traditionally they have had to travel a much harder and more emotionally taxing road, and have had to develop what has been called thicker skins to traverse the highways and by ways of the political process. In fact, one of the barbs thrown at Miss Gillard, three years ago, by an opposition senator, was that she was “deliberately barren” by choice and as such unqualified to be a leader.This unrepentant senator also added that “one of the great understandings of a community is family and the relationship between mum, dads and a bucket of nappies”.Unfortunately, this attitude still exists in some political arenas and finds its way into other areas of public life where single, intelligent women have chosen careers over the demands of family life. For example, Elena Kagan, President Obama’s nominee for the vacant seat on the United States Supreme Court has come up against the usual canards. Another highly successful unmarried lawyer, Miss Kagan has become the butt of insinuation and innuendoes about her personal life, with her accusers pointing to her unmarried childless status as some kind of default disqualification.In an enlightened atmosphere where non discrimination in particular and human rights in general principles are the order of the day, it is difficult to understand how some leaders in politics and in society can continue to question the suitability of anyone, man or woman, solely on the basis of that person’s choices as to whether he or she should marry and have children.The men and women in the Australian Labour Party and its cabinet who have chosen Miss Gillard to replace Kevin Rudd have signalled their renunciation of this ancient view of women that they are to be child bearers and wives first, before they qualify for political and other public office.We applaud their enlightened approach, because it cannot be right that females who chose not to follow the path of being housewives and mothers, should thereby be socially or otherwise disqualified from the highest political or public offices for which their talents qualify them. In Barbados, our women have shown themselves to be as capable as men of leading our societies, and social attitudes should rapidly imitate the law by discouraging even the subtlest discrimination against them!

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