“To have a Black and Asian woman serve as vice president inspires me with feelings of hope and trues possibilities”

“The inauguration of Kamala Harris means progress is happening for women. It allows people to see race, gender and equality at the same time”

“There has never been a better time to feel empowered and respected as a female leader than now” 

These are some of the words that have continued to echo in the voice of women around the globe. Not only has the inauguration of Harris as the vice-president of the United States brought about renewed hope and assurance for women in leadership and the girl child, but is has paved a way for the that little girl to see and believe that she can be it. 

Kamala Harris has cemented a place in history by becoming America’s first woman, and the first Black and South Asian person, to be elected vice president. As she steps into the White House on Jan. 20, one of the country’s highest “concrete ceilings” will be broken – a term often used to describe the insurmountable barriers that black women in particular face. Nonetheless, Harris has an impressive track record of overcoming them. As daughter of immigrants from Jamaica and India, Harris became the first woman and person of colour to serve as the district attorney of San Francisco – firsts she achieved again later when she became the attorney general for California. She also made history as the Golden State’s first Black senator and then as the first Black and South Asian woman to be nominated vice president by a major political party in the US.

Her achievement and new role is undeniably historic, but – when Joe Biden announced Harris as his second-in-command back in August 2020 – it brought into question the disputed views of Black women in leadership and whether or not her nomination was a strategic political ploy to gain votes.

In the pinnacle of yarns for more women in leadership positions in Africa and other parts of the world, Kamala Harris could not have arrived at a better time. As the child of immigrants from Jamaica and India, her background has been an unarguable talking point both prior to her new job and now; she could well be ‘the bridge’ that is needed in increasing gender diversity in leadership. 

Her victory has once again heightened the necessity of enlisting great woman leaders in the role and the euphoria surrounding her appointment highlights the absence of women representation in leadership and politics around the world.  Well, it may be said that Harris’ nomination on the onset may have been in part a political play, but Black women in politics need better representation – and she is an excellent candidate, with the required skills and experience, and a vital understanding of the views of the Black community.

When women are accorded seats at a table, while we can acknowledge the added intersectionality that comes with their appointment, the conversation needs to go beyond gender. Doing so detracts from their skill and competency; instead we must recognize their genuine contributions while celebrating achievements. We may never be able to agree when it comes to politics, but highlighting the achievements and abilities of Black women is a mark towards equity and fairer representation, and this is exactly what Kamala Harris signifies. The Director, Center for South Asia; Jisha Menon stated after Harris win: 

“The historic appointment of Kamala Harris to the second-highest office in the nation is momentous and will inspire generations of young girls, and especially Black and Brown girls, to aspire to positions of leadership in the nation’s highest echelons of power”.

Multiple constituencies, including Black, South Asian, Asian American, have all claimed her. Her presence augurs the possibility of new connections across gender and racial formations, a horizon of Black-Brown solidarities, of African American and Asian American affiliations, and an affirmation of South Asian Americans within the larger group of Asian Americans. 

To suggest that white women have been the voices of all women in leadership is no understatement. Harris’ appointment represents an opportunity for Africa women to have someone in power that they at least take inspiration from for their experiences. Great women leaders do more than create diverse leadership; they provide inclusion in policy-making processes, from micro to macro levels. Just as Harris herself put it: 

“You have to see and smell and feel the circumstances of people to really understand them. As a Black woman who began my career in politics and international development, I never felt that I belonged. I never felt understood because no one tried to”

Joe Biden has made a very decisive statement in recognising the need for women in leadership and most importantly, Black women; in Harris, he has anointed an heir. At 77, he is the oldest president elect in US history and has described himself as a transitional figure. Harris is the person he wants to succeed him in office. Her election must be taken as more than political strategy, and a reminder of the wealth of experience that Black women possess. Black women in all their diverse, nuanced, individual identities are qualified, capable, and have every reason to be ambitious.

Harris carries with her the history of named and nameless women who have paved the way for Black women and have continue to do so. In a speech at Essence, when she herself was running for the Democratic presidential candidate, she said: 

“The fight of Black women has always been grounded in faith and belief in what’s possible… That’s why Sojourner spoke. It’s why Mae flew. It’s why Rosa and Claudette sat. It’s why Maya wrote. It’s why Fannie organised. It’s why Shirley ran. And why I stand here as a candidate for President of the United States.”

“While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last, because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.”

Her victory will not only live as a historic moment history of American politics, but also a stepping stone for other women to follow in the quest to attain leadership positions. 

“While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last, because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.”

The historic election of Harris to the second-highest office in US is crucial and will inspire generations of young girls aspiring leadership positions. 

Reference 

Kat Stafford and Christine Fernando (November 2020). Kamala Harris Win Inspires Women and Girls retrieved from: Nationwide. https:/www.usnews.com

Averi Harper (November 2020). What Kamala Harris means to a new generation of Black female leaders. Retrieved from: https://www.google.com/amabcnews.go.com

Daniel De Simone (November 9, 2020). What the Election of Kamala Harris Means to the Future of Women in Politics. Retrieved from: https://www.rutgers.edu

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