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Governance in Heels

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The under-representation of women constitutes a serious democratic deficit, which undermines the legitimacy of the contemporary democratic ideal. Parity democracy and the promotion of women in decision-making positions are therefore important areas of action for EWL. Parity democracy implies the equal representation of women and men in decision-making positions. It goes a step further than quotas as it is based on the idea that women are not a minority: they represent more than half of humanity – a quantitative dimension – and one of its components – a qualitative dimension.

Research shows that women’s under representation in politics boils down to these 5 Cs:

  • Confidence: women – for a variety of highly rational reasons – have more doubts putting themselves up for election
  • Candidate selection: once women agree to run, it’s often difficult for them to get an electable spot on the election list.
  • Culture: politics is a men’s world. Sexism is rampant and external threats – women – are often not welcome.
  • Cash: when women run for election, their campaigns often receive less funding than their male counterparts)
  • Childcare: across the EU, women spend double the amount of time on childcare compared to men

What can we do to support women in politics?

  • Confidence: Invest in women. Set up ambitious training and mentoring programs.
  • Candidate selection: Establish quota or zipping system in order to ensure gender balanced lists. Head-hunt women candidates.
  • Culture: Establish a zero tolerance to sexism with clear channels for report sexual harassment.
  • Cash: Provide earmarked funding for women candidates until equal representation is reached.
  • Childcare: Change the “long hours” culture in politics. Provide childcare facilities.
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We take a look at some of the facts and figures about women and their political participation

Women in parliaments

  • Only 24 per cent of all national parliamentarians were women as of November 2018, a slow increase from 11.3 per cent in 1995
  • As of January 2019, 11 women are serving as Head of State and 10 are serving as Head of Government.
  • Rwanda has the highest number of women parliamentarians worldwide. Women there have won 61.3 per cent of seats in the lower house
  • Globally, there are 29 States in which women account for less than 10 per cent of parliamentarians in single or lower houses, as of November 2018, including 4 chambers with no women at all.

Across regions

  • Wide variations remain in the average percentages of women parliamentarians in each region. As of November 2018, these were (single, lower and upper houses combined): Nordic countries, 42.3 per cent; Americas, 30 per cent; Europe including Nordic countries, 27.7 per cent; Europe excluding Nordic countries, 26.6 per cent; sub-Saharan Africa, 23.6 per cent; Asia, 19.4 per cent; Arab States, 17.8 per cent; and the Pacific, 17 per cent.

Other domains of government

  • As of January 2017, only 18.3 per cent of government ministers were women; the most commonly held portfolio by women ministers is environment, natural resources, and energy, followed by social sectors, such as social affairs, education and the family.
  • The global proportion of women elected to local government is currently unknown, constituting a major knowledge gap.
  • Women’s representation in local governments can make a difference. Research on panchayats (local councils) in India discovered that the number of drinking water projects in areas with women-led councils was 62 per cent higher than in those with men-led councils. In Norway, a direct causal relationship between the presence of women in municipal councils and childcare coverage was found.

Expanding participation

  • As of November 2018, only 3 countries have 50 per cent or more women in parliament in single or lower houses: Rwanda with 61.3 per cent, Cuba with 53.2 per cent and Bolivia with 53.1 per cent; but a greater number of countries have reached 30 per cent or more. As of November 2018, 49 single or lower houses were composed of 30 per cent or more women, including 21 countries in Europe, 13 in Sub-Saharan Africa, 11 in Latin America and the Caribbean, 2 in the Pacific and 1 each in Asia and Arab States; more than half of these countries have applied some form of quotas – either legislative candidate quotas or reserved seats – opening space for women’s political participation in national parliaments. Gender balance in political participation and decision-making is the internationally agreed target set in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
  • There is established and growing evidence that women’s leadership in political decision-making processes improves them. Women demonstrate political leadership by working across party lines through parliamentary women’s caucuses – even in the most politically combative environments – and by championing issues of gender equality, such as the elimination of gender-based violence, parental leave and childcare, pensions, gender-equality laws and electoral reform.

Culled from the ‘Women Lobby’ and UN.org.

https://www.womenlobby.org/-Women-in-Politics-507-?lang=en

What better way to show someone that something is achievable than to point them in the direction of someone who actually did? Not just anyone but someone with a similar background as their own.

Despite the efforts of the women’s movement across the globe women are still largely marginalized in terms of their participation in political, economic and social processes that affect them the most. The 21st-century woman has found her voice yet the percentage of women having a powerful role in different sectors is not reflective of her efforts. She is still not paid enough and there are still sectors she is nervous to approach and this is partly because she has believed that certain goals are not possible to achieve.  At the same time venturing into a certain profession with no real guidance, no known success stories, no knowledge of what is required to succeed and no real motivation is a challenge for many young women. This is where role models such as Michelle Obama come in yet one of the biggest obstacles young women face is their absence.

What is a role model? A sociologist Robert K. Merton was the one who coined the term to describe the ways that people model sets of behaviours they admire in others. A role model is a person whose behaviour, example, or success can be emulated by others, especially younger people.

So why should women have female role models?  Research has led to the conclusion that women benefit more from same-gender role models as compared to men. These are the people whom young women use to define their own identities, gauge their own potential and whose behaviour they will emulate. Let’s explore this idea in greater detail.

Confidence. It often feels intimidating to venture into new territory that no one (you know) has ventured before. It is easier to believe in the possibility of positive change if it happens to someone who had circumstances that are similar to your own. Female role models are important because they instill confidence in young women. Evidence has shown that exposure to female role models may be an effective way to induce more women to major in male-dominated fields. Accomplishments of women such as Barbara Askins – (an American chemist, known for her invention of a method to enhance underexposed photographic negatives, an invention used by NASA and the medical industry) in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) have instilled confidence in young women that they can successfully venture into the same field. A woman needs to see confidence, leadership, and accomplishment in other women in order to envision herself ad finally attain those qualities from these powerful, positive role models (Meier 2018). Jenny Willott; a British Member of Parliament was quoted by the Chartered Management Institute (2014) saying: “Role models encourage women to believe in their own abilities – from girls at school making decisions about their future, to young women starting their careers wondering how far they can get.” Hence female role models are important because they instill confidence in young women in that they quench the need these women have to see people like themselves succeeding in similar fields.

Inspiration through the provision of practical knowledge. “It is achievable. It is not too late for me.” This and similar positive outlooks are born from the inspiration that comes with female role models for young women. Hope is what keeps us alive. It is what drives us and determines our goals, plans subsequently our actions. Female role models such as Oprah Winfrey who rose above major hardships to become very influential are giving young women hope for a better future in different sectors. In the Lockwood and Kunda’s research (2006) demonstrated that an important part of the value of role models is that they are symbols of possibility and offering inspiration. Without female figures such as Serena Williams in the field of sports to look up to, girls miss out on the encouragement, inspiration, and exhilaration that can come from looking up to, and cheering for, a sports idol. (Huggins and Randell 2007) Examples of success stories provide young women with more easily imaginable visions of the success experienced by the role models hence in their minds it becomes attainable and replicable.

Learning from experiences. Female role models also provide the methodology towards success. Their experiences can answer the “How did you get there?” question. Young women can draw a lot of lessons through hearing how their role models came to face challenges and found the right solutions. These are the women who have successfully navigated the career these young women eventually hope to achieve. Looking at role models such as Thai Lee – the Korean American billionaire businesswoman, and president of SHI International, one can learn a lot from her life story and deduce lessons as to how she found herself at the top.

Enforce a positive view of women. Female role models are important in the changing of societal perceptions of women. With the birth of influential female role models, there has been a favourable shift in the societal perception of the role of women, which has led to increased participation in the formal labour employment and other economic activities. Female role models have often been the catalysts that challenge gender stereotypes. For example, through their achievements, elite female athletes dispel the misconception that sport is not biologically or socially appropriate for females. When more and more women are seen in the top of organizations and running high growth technology businesses, the more this will be regarded as the standard and a perfectly normal, and logical, path to choose.

Work beyond inspiring. Michelle Obama kick-started health, education, and other programs as soon as she got into the white house. This is but one of the examples of how female role models have been directly having a positive influence on the fight against poverty, exploitation, and oppression through their advocacy efforts. Nowadays most female role models advocate for opportunities for girls and other women.

Promotion of Ethical Leadership. Recently there has been a focus on the creation of ethical young leaders as part of developmental efforts with special attention being given to efforts in encouraging ethnic leadership in young women. Female role models are commonly expected to behave in an ethically extraordinary manner. It is often assumed that SRMs must be moral exemplars worthy of emulation.

Increased participation of women. Ultimately female role models lead to increased participation of young women. It is argued that ‘The use of high-profile female sports ambassadors and role models can [also] be effective in promoting female participation. More visible women as decision-makers as well as displayed female leadership skills may motivate women and girls, thus increasing female participation at all levels in sport (UN 2007).

Not all role models have a positive influence. Unfortunately, however, the term role model does not always entail positive influence. Young women encounter both positive and negative role models. Success does not necessarily translate into being a role model. Young women are then faced with a task to evaluate virtues, values, and expectations when looking at potential role models. 

The importance of female role models indeed cannot be undervalued. Female role models are important in the context of achieving gender equality and generally in the context of positive social change in society. In the end, there is nothing more powerful than the impact of a woman’s effort to uplift another.

By Karen Whitney Maturure
Harare, Zimbabwe

The next United States Congress will have at least 123 women in the House and Senate, including two Muslim-American women, two Native American women and two 29-year-olds. Ten more women could still win in midterm races that remain too close to call.

Starting in 2019, women will make up nearly a quarter of the 435-member House of Representatives – a record high. Currently, there are 84 women in the House.

The female newcomers’ women will make waves in government – and not just because women legislators often bring greater attention to wage gaps, family leave policy, sexual harassment, child abuse and other critical issues that disproportionately affect women.

As scholars who study political leadership, we believe more women will be also good for Congress for a more fundamental reason: They may just get a broken system working again.

Women try to collaborate.

Washington has been ferociously polarized since the 2016 presidential election, but Republicans and Democrats across the nation have been moving further apart ideologically since the 1990s.

There used to be overlap between the views of Democrats and Republicans, at least on some issues. Now, there is almost none. Ninety-two percent of Republicans now sit to the right of the median Democrat, while 94 percent of Democrats sit to the left of the median Republican, the nonpartisan Pew Research Center reports.

In Congress, the two parties thwart each other’s legislation and demonize their political opponents as unpatriotic or untruthful.

Americans now see the conflicts between Democrats and Republicans as more extreme than those dividing urban and rural residents or black and white people, Pew surveys show.

The 123 women elected to both houses of Congress – 103 Democrats and 20 Republicans – have the potential to work across the partisan divide.

Numerous studies on gender and problem-solving show that women are often bridge builders, collaborating to find the solutions to tricky problems. Research confirms these findings. In one 2017 study on leadership styles, we found that women are more likely to use inclusive “both/and” thinking, meaning they see conflict and tensions as opportunities for input rather than problems.

Men are more likely to adopt “either/or” thinking – attitudes that advance their own agendas and denigrate those of the other side.

Women build bridges

Women have played this role in Congress before.

When the federal government shut down for 16 days in 2013 over a budget impasse, for example, it was a group of five female senators – three Republicans and two Democrats – who broke the stalemate. Together, they launched a bipartisan effort and negotiated a deal to end the budget showdown.

“The women are taking over,” joked the late Arizona Sen. John McCain.

These days, it seems, McCain’s commentary is less of a joke than a political need.

Numerous studies on teamwork show that groups with women in them function better, in part because women are more likely than men to build social connections that enable conflict resolution.

In other words, female workers in organizations become friends, mentors and helpful colleagues, which builds the trust necessary for solving problems.

Women are not the only people who work like this. In large organizations, minorities tend to seek each other out and form support networks that span hierarchy, job description and even political divides.

Men can build bridges too, of course. Gender does not dictate personality or decision-making style.

McCain, for example, was known for his bipartisan legislative efforts.

But research and history show that women leaders collaborate more often – and better.

A human rights system based on consensus

Eleanor Roosevelt, an outspoken human rights advocate and wife of U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt, offers a classic example of such behavior.

She led the United Nations working group that drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights after World War II. That landmark 1948 document recognized, for the first time in history, that all people on the planet are guaranteed certain rights, regardless of religion, race or political creed.

The declaration, which was approved by 48 of the 58 countries then in the United Nations, launched the contemporary human rights movement that overcame dictatorship in Latin America, isolated apartheid-era South Africa, enshrined the rights of LGBTQ people worldwide and, today, works to protect refugees and asylum-seekers.

These lasting achievements did not come about because Roosevelt strong-armed other countries.

Instead, the American first lady famously worked to keep her UN colleagues focused on the urgency of devising and passing the declaration, despite criticism, doubt, cultural difference, ego trips and distractions.

After the agreement, Roosevelt insisted that her leadership subcommittee elect a new chair to show the world what effective democratic process looks like.

Women craft better deals.

Women typically adopt more democratic leadership styles, seeking out more participation from everyone in a group. The evidence shows that solutions crafted that way are longer-lasting.

The Council on Foreign Relations has found, for example, that peace talks with women at the negotiating table were more likely to reach an agreement – and that the deals passed were more likely to endure over time.

That kind of inclusive deal-making could change the House of Representatives.

Congress often swings wildly on major policy issues as political winds change, with the new majority party shredding the partisan advances of a previous administration.

Collaborative, bipartisan legislation allows for more durable progress on issues like health care, immigration and the economy – all sure to be a focus for the next Congress.

California Republican Young Kim won in a very tight race against Democratic philanthropist Gil Cisneros. AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Women in a polarized government.

But Congress may not work any better with 123 women than it does with the 84 who serve there now.

Lawmakers are elected to represent their constituents’ interests. And with American society so extremely polarized, a two-party system discourages collaboration.

Many of the newly elected women in Congress additionally came to power on strong, oppositional platforms – promises to fight fiercely against the problems they see in American society.

If Congress’s newest members really want to make an impact – passing laws that aren’t undone after the next election – they will have to do more than push their own agendas. They can work together.

Given what research shows about female leadership, more women could push Washington in that direction.

Authors:
Wendy K. Smith
Professor of Business and Leadership, University of Delaware

Terry Babcock-Lumish
Visiting Scholar in Public Policy, University of Delaware

“Female Candidates Face Violence and Abuse Ahead of Kenyan Elections”

This was one of the headlines that graced the pages of Huffington Post in July 2017 prior to the last Kenya general elections. It was a case of bullying women out of governance yet we see leaders of the world hold conferences with elaborate themes pointing towards the strengthening of women’s participation in governance. Is the world truly ready to accommodate women in governance, or is it a finely orchestrated ploy to make women mere spectators?

The Community of Democracies (CoD); a global intergovernmental coalition composed of the Governing Council Member States that support adherence to common democratic values and standards outlined in the Warsaw Declaration, in 2017, compiled several reports geared towards analyzing methods through which continents of the world can strengthen the participation of women in governance and other socio-economic activities. Excerpts from some of these reports will be reviewed in this article with a focus on developing nations.

AFRICA

The opening paragraph largely explains the African situation as regards women and their political ambitions. The African structure promotes male-dominated political party leadership which deters women. Gender stereotypes, religious factors, and sociocultural norms are barriers the African woman encounters.

Only a few women dare run for office because they feel they will not have the support of their family or community. Vocal women or female community leaders are often labeled as “troublemakers” in a society where men and elders have the right to speak or act, not women or youngsters.

Other women do not even trust the abilities of other women because of long-standing social and cultural beliefs. In the political scene, women are often marginalized and, as a consequence, they lose confidence in themselves.

ASIA

In 2017, Halimah Yacob became the President of Singapore after running unopposed in the country’s presidential election. This has been seen by many as an inroad for women who wish to be active in governance. Despite this edge, many countries in Asia still lack solid democratic structures, comprehensive electoral laws, and other instruments necessary for healthy democratic governance. Other barriers Asian women are faced with include gender stereotypes – The idea that women should be relegated to the household and family duties; cultural attitudes and gender bias against women in public life; great difficulties in being nominated as candidates; lack of resources and inadequate support from political parties for women candidates, compared to support for male candidates; fear of potential loss of income for the family; reluctance to expose themselves to increased public scrutiny as public figures; and a strong and prevailing cultural mindsets that holding political office is a man’s job.

MIDDLE EAST

About the most hit in this array of marginalization cases, would be the Middle Eastern women. Political Islam has, in many countries across the region, served to exclude women from the public and political spheres. Due to this reason, political parties have hesitated to recruit and nominate women as political candidates, even among those women who are already party members. Sectarianism has similarly contributed to weak levels of women’s political participation in Lebanon.

The security situation in many states across the MENA region has affected freedom of movement, especially for women who in turn lack public spaces for meeting and discussion.

In a patriarchal country like Afghanistan, women are limited by barriers such as restricted movement during elections. Afghanistan’s women still face high levels of discrimination due to traditional, socio-religious or tribal factors; rights to self-determination and active participation in the development of public life are still extremely limited. Few women are able to influence the political and economic development of their country or community in order to ensure that political measures are designed for the benefit of all. On the whole, most women still feel ashamed to be seen in socioeconomic and political meetings.

SOUTH AMERICA

According to the International Institute for Democracy & Electoral Assistance (IDEA), gender-based inequities are clearly present in the organization and structures of political parties, as shown in studies conducted by International IDEA and the IADB. The studies conducted between 2009 and 2015 show that there remain gender gaps in the political parties which have not yet been closed and which persist over time. The pattern is constant: in terms of militancy, the presence of men and women is very similar, but in decision-making spaces and levels, women’s participation is decreasing. In other words, there is a “power pyramid” in which “the greater the power, the lower women’s presence”.

Year after year, women are told how to encourage other women to take up positions of governance and go a step further by supporting the cause, the few who have been able to break through the stereotype are asked to serve as mentors to others, these seem to be beside the point because without fair play all of these steps are meaningless as long as women who resolve to be supportive to candidates are harassed for doing so.

Strengthening women’s rights and addressing barriers to political participation are critical to achieving gender equality and female empowerment. This is why one of the pillars of UN Women’s work is advancing women’s political participation and good governance, to ensure that decision-making processes are participatory, responsive, equitable and inclusive.

The findings from these reports make the clamour to strengthen women’s participation in governance seem like a losing battle despite several obvious successes achieved in the last few years. Nevertheless, every woman must join in the advocacy and continuously push these issues to the fore.

In making a case as women, we must understand that attaining complete gender equality across the globe will be a tedious task. It may require a consistent push for several years, or it may be a case of “we win some, we lose some”. Whichever way it turns out in the near future, women must remember that they are indispensable parts of their society, country, and the world.

By Eruke Ojuederie

Ambassador Amina Mohamed is a committed international civil servant who has a distinguished career in both public and foreign service. She has served in strategic government positions and been elected to key international positions. Her work experience in over twenty-six years covers a broad spectrum of domestic and international assignments. She rose through the ranks in Kenya’s diplomatic service to the highest level of Ambassador/Permanent Representative Kenya.

Mission to the UN at Geneva from 2000-2006. She served as Director, Europe and the Commonwealth and Director Diaspora from mid-2006-2007 and was Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice, National Cohesion and Constitutional Affairs in 2008. Since July 2011 she has served as United Nations Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) at Nairobi. She is an excellent strategist and visionary anticipating the management needs of every organization she has been involved with. With her profound knowledge of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and her strong managerial skills, Ambassador Amina Mohamed has all the required competencies to lead the WTO into the future.

Early/Personal Life

Amina Chawahir Jibril Mohamed was born on 5th October 1961 in Kakamega, Kenya, to an ethnic Somali family. She is the eighth of nine siblings. Her family belongs to the Dhulbahante Harti Darod clan and hails from the northern SSC region of Somalia. Mohamed spent her childhood in a modest household in Amalemba, Kakamega, where she passed much of her time reading Sherlock Holmes stories and other detective fiction. She later developed a taste for international affairs.

During her elementary education, she attended the Township Primary School in Kakamega and later Butere Girls and Highlands Academy. Her mother believed strongly in the importance of education, and would frequently drop by her classes to monitor her performance. Upon graduation, Mohamed moved to Ukraine on a scholarship to study at the University of Kiev. She completed the institution’s courses, earning a Master of Laws (LLM) in International Law. Mohamed later obtained a Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip) in International Relations from the University of Oxford. Through a Fellowship at the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), she also followed several training courses on international law. In 2002, Amina married Khalid Ahmed, a fellow Somali to whom she credits a lot of her success. The couple has two children and also cares for four orphans.

An Impeccable African Diplomat

Ambassador Amina Mohamed has a great diplomatic career since 1986 and rising through the ranks to become Ambassador/Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission to the Republic of Kenya at Geneva in 2000. As the Permanent Representative, she represented Kenya in the UN system and the World Trade Organization (WTO) among other international organizations.

Her strong interpersonal skills in negotiations, developed during her career in the multilateral fora, enabled her to effectively articulate Kenya’s interests in the WTO. She participated in the drafting and interpretation of International Trade Treaties.

A Great Public Servant and Reformer

She was instrumental in restructuring, reforming and rationalizing Kenya’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Missions abroad. Ambassador Mohamed chaired the team that drafted Kenya’s foreign trade policy focusing on economic and commercial diplomacy. As Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice, National Cohesion and Constitutional Affairs, she supervised the drafting, negotiation, national referendum, and promulgation of the new Constitution of Kenya 2008-2010, including institutional reforms on elections, ethics and integrity, access to justice and the development of a national cohesion policy.

At United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), Ambassador Mohamed spearheaded the implementation of UNEP’s Medium-Term Strategy and Program as well as on-going reforms. Most recently she has been actively engaged with intergovernmental processes in implementing the RIO+20 outcomes and support efforts to enhance the funding base of the organization.

Legal Practitioner of Awesome Repute

With her experience in the international engagements, she has provided legal advice during Kenya’s tenure in the Security Council, negotiations in the WTO, particularly in launching the Doha trade talks and contributed texts in Kenya’s constitution where foreign trade has been integrated with Foreign Affairs.

A visionary Team Leader

Ambassador Amina Mohamed throughout her career has demonstrated solid Leadership and proven negotiations skills. She chaired three key WTO bodies: The Dispute Settlement Body, the Trade Policy Review Body and the General Council during her tenure in Geneva during which important decisions and recommendations were made. Under her leadership as the General Council Chair, the accession of Saudi Arabia was concluded; she guided the negotiations and preparation for the 2005 Hong Kong Ministerial Conference where substantial progress was made on Doha Development Agenda; the LDC’s waiver on market access was successfully concluded and members agreed to amend the TRIPS agreement to legally allow WTO members without the capacity to produce pharmaceutical products to import and address public health concerns. At UNEP she has been instrumental in enhancing the capacity of the institution and seeking additional resources to initiate new goals and action plans.

Important Positions she has Held

Ambassador Amina Mohamed has served in lots of prominent positions which include;

  • February 2018 till date: Cabinet Secretary for Education (Kenya).
  • May 2013- February 2018: Cabinet Secretary for Foreign affairs (Kenya).
  • 2011-2013: United Nations Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director, UNEP.
  • 2008- 2011: Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice, National Cohesion and Constitutional Affairs.
  • 2010-2011; President of the United Nations Conference on Transnational Crime, Vienna
  • 2006- 2007: Director, Europe and Commonwealth Countries and Director for Diaspora matters
  • Chairman the Task Force Sub – Committee on Strengthening and restructuring of the Department of Foreign Trade and Economic Affairs
  • 2000- 2006: Ambassador Permanent Representative, Kenya Mission to the UN and other International Organizations at Geneva.
  • Chairman, Coordinator and the Spokesperson for the African Group in the WTO, Human Right Commission.
  • Served as President of the Conference on Disarmament in 2002.
  • Chairman the International Organization for Migration in 2002.
  • Chairman of the Trade Policy Review Body in 2003.
  • Chairman Dispute Settlement Body in 2004.
  • Chairman General Council in 2005.
  • Member of the Executive Boards and Committees of the WHO, UNHCR, WIPO, ILO, UNCTAD AND UNAIDS 2001-2005.
  • 1990-2000: Kenya’s Legal Advisor in various Missions abroad, including the 6th Committee of the UN
  • 1986-1990: Legal Advisor in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Honors

Received honors include:

  • National Award of Chief of Burning Spear (CBS)
  • Knight of the Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity (Cav. O.S.S.I.)
  • Life Member, Red Cross Society
  • Member of the Life and Peace Institute International Advisory Council, Sweden.
  • Member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Arctic.
  • Member of the Strathmore Law School Advisory Board, Kenya.
  • Honorary Doctorate from KCA University.
  • Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun (2017)
  • An elder of the Order of the Golden Heart of Kenya (EGH)

Ambassador Amina Mohamed has proven herself to a great representative of women both in national and international service. Her prowess has attracted praise from far and wide. Margret Kenyatta described her as a symbol of nationalism and patriotism.

BY EMEKPO CHARLES.

I find it really intriguing that there is a systematic campaign to get more women into global politics and leadership positions across the world by women but the question rattling my mind is how ready they are to handle what comes with leadership and global politics.

Angela Merkel the Chancellor of Germany and an eight-time winner of Forbes’ most powerful women once said “it seems to me that the fact that I am a woman is a bigger issue than the fact that I’m from the East. For me, it isn’t really important. I’ve only ever known myself as a woman.”  While she was on a state visit to the United Kingdom; expressing these concerns about women in global politics.

We could have seen an unprecedented shift in the dynamics of global leadership, if Secretary Clinton, the presidential candidate for the Democratic Party had won the US 2015 election and shattered the imagery glass ceiling. We would have had three strong global economies (Germany, United States & United Kingdom) controlled by women, it only leaves one to wonder if the world would have been less chaotic, following the intensity the world has witnessed since the emergence of President Trump, not to say that he has not achieved much, but the world has not been in such a chaotic stage in many years.

Following these global attentions on the need for greater participation by women in politics which is encouraging, and while organizations like the Council of Women World Leaders, a network for female prime ministers and presidents, set up by Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, the former president of Iceland is actively campaigning to close the gender gap in global leadership, the possibility of a gender balance still looks slims and although there is a sign of hope, with the 2018 International Women’s March creating a huge impact on the importance of women’s involvement in leadership and the Me too Movement shading light on the plight of women as a prey in both the political and business spheres, as there seems to be a wakeup call within the gender corridors for more female participation in decision making across the life spectrum.

“You could certainly say that I’ve never underestimated myself, there’s nothing wrong with being ambitious.”  Angela Merkel speaking to TIME magazine in an interview in 2010, while reiterating her commitment to women in global leadership. The ability of the female folks to pull off a surprise like the wave of populism across the west is something we will have to wait and see.

The challenge:

Statistics have shown that Hillary Clinton’s loss in the presidential race points to her party’s inability to influence the women’s vote. While she did garner majority of female voters—54%, according to exit polling—she lost some key constituencies, including white women, 53% of who cast their ballots for Trump.

But here is the challenge the commodious gap between male and female Clinton voters. According to the Associated Press, Clinton’s gender gap—the difference between the number of men who voted for her and the number of women who voted for her—hit 13 percentage points. That’s the single largest such gap since the exit poll surveys began in 1972.

 “There is nothing worse than sweeping a threat under the mat and just living from day to day.” This is a quote from Angela Merkel on tackling your challenges and very much applies to what women leadership is facing across the globe.

Women are faced with a cultural problem “The motherhood myth” being a mother and a politician at the same time. The fight between women with a family and women without a family is something that we women will have to change, if they ever stand a chance to achieve equality then Women’s solidarity must be something they will collective fight for, “but it’s hardly always there.”

SIMON UGWU

The role and contributions of women in the affairs of their nation, especially developing countries, for several years, have been neglected and relegated to the background. However, the tide is changing and the mountains are giving ground. Singapore is a good example of one of such countries where women are participating actively in the position of governance and leadership. It can be positively argued that it is not just a significant progress that has been made by women in the Singaporean politics but dominance has been ensured considering the fact that it is a developing country.

The Peak: Women in Singapore have served in lots of high positions but on the 13th of September 2017, they set a milestone in the politics of Singapore when Halima Binti Yacob became the first female president of the country. A feat she achieved without opposition. In a statement posited by Professor Tan,” this outcome should prompt more eligible women from all races to step forward and run, whether in an open or reserved election”

At the PAP (People’s Action Party) Women’s Wing 3rd Annual Conference on the 18th of April 2015, Grace Fu, the first female House leader, Community and Youth minister and full minister of a ministry, stated that “Women in Singapore have equal opportunities for education and support to pursue their career and family aspirations; they enjoy peace and security and have also contributed to all aspects of Singapore’s development.

Active participants: In 2009, Lim Hwee Hua became Singapore’s first female Cabinet minister. In January 2013, Halimah Yacob followed suit in January 2013 to become Singapore’s first female Speaker of Parliament.

One of the women that later became a strong pillar in the politics of the country even till date, Grace Fu was appointed as the Culture, Community and Youth Minister, making her the first female full minister to head a ministry. She also became the first woman to be appointed Leader of the House.

In her statement “With more women coming on board the political landscape, we hope to have a greater voice for women,” said Ms. Fu. “There are issues that women can probably relate to better, for example; when it comes to childcare issues, balancing family as well as career. Also, specific issues such as children’s education, somehow as a mother, women have a stronger voice or certain opinions that may be slightly different from the fathers.”

She also stated some undeniable challenges that female leaders face, especially in politics. According to her, being a woman in politics oftentimes unfairly attracts some challenges such as How does she look? How does she perform? I think sometimes women can’t deal with those public criticisms as well as the men. They will have to get over it, build up the resilience to criticism like that and just do their very best.

As at September 2015, there was up to 22 women in Parliament out of a total of 92 seats – making up nearly 24 percent of the House. Though this is lower than what the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, ratified by the Singapore Government in 1995, recommends. It says that women political representation should be at least 30 percent to form the ‘critical mass’ that will have a real impact on political style and content of decisions. But this 24% is certainly a sign of the good beginning of good things to come for Singaporean women.

Another emerging Amazon in Singapore, Associate Professor Paulin Straughan of the Department of Sociology at the National University of Singapore in addressing the role of women in politics stated “we have to be careful that we don’t come across as arguing for quota representation. Rather, it should come from skill, value-add perspective such as- Is a woman different from a man in the boardroom? Will a woman bring a different perspective into the political arena?”

Apart from policymaking, it is argued that possessing male-like attributes is key for female leaders to succeed. In the words of Yacob Halima “Whether they have attributes that are male-like is really not relevant. “If we assume that just because they possess those attributes, they will automatically be able to be better leaders, I think those are really quite simplistic.”

She added that when women are chosen for leadership positions, not just in politics but other types of leadership positions, it is important that they are chosen based on whether they can make the positive mark to the development of the countries politics and add value to the decision-making process for the general good of all.

Yacob Halima who was the first female speaker of the parliament believes she will not be the last female to attain that position. She further stated that “Willingness must be on the part of the women that are aspiring to reach greater heights in Singaporean politics to understand themselves and recognize that their voice matters. Also that their place at the table is important and that they can contribute by making policy-making more accommodating to the people

 

Even though it was tough being a woman in politics, Dr. Wong proved her worth, along with other pioneering women leaders like Chan Choy Siong, Dr. Dixie Tan, Yu-Foo Yee Shoon and Seet Ai Mee.

These women set the pace for other women to also strive to carve their name on the political legacies of the country.

In the Education sector, women in Singapore have defied the perception that women’s education is a waste of resources and time by producing a lot of educated ones who have attained high societal status in the country. In September 2015, the country appointed its first female chancellor in the educational sector. This was a big achievement for women in the country.

In expressing her delight, Dr. Aline Wong said her appointment as SIM University’s Chancellor came as a surprise. In an interview, she expressed happiness that yet another leadership avenue has been opened up for women. “Everywhere in the world, it is not that common yet for women to be in the leading positions in universities,” said Dr. Wong. “Over the last 50 years in Singapore, you can see we have made tremendous progress, not only in terms of educational opportunities, job opportunities but also in politics”.

Dr. Aline Wong was no stranger to the leadership role in the country. She became an active politician in 1984 and was subsequently elected Member of Parliament in four consecutive general elections.  She was also a senior minister of state before she retired in active politics in 2001.

According to her, politics in Singapore before the active role of women was sheer discrimination which was not so in some other countries of the world. She also stated that “Structural barriers have been removed for women. The society has been accepting women’s leadership roles in more and more domains.”

The economy of Singapore has equally enjoyed the contribution of women. Owing to the increase in the number of women in the Singaporean workforce as well as the good working environment, in 2005, Singapore had an influx of women from Japan who sought to work freely as women. This was as a result of the pace that was set in Singapore by their women.