Political Participation of Women: The Need and Challenges
Over the past decades, women have been under represented in the political field of the government or even a local political community in most of the countries. One of the major concern in today’s politics is the introduction and empowerment of female politician in the field, directly or indirectly. Women’s political participation is needed in the modern era. It is mentioned in the study made by Dhiblawe (2018) in his ‘Women Political Participation and Decision-making in Somalia’ that politics is an integral part of human life stating that:
Mostly it is imperative for the existence of statehood and the way in which people interact-how they make decisions and settle disputes The study of politics is the study of the how such decisions are made. It may also be the study of how such decisions should be made. Thus, we can define politics in two ways; first politics can be considered as the study of power and secondly as the study of the conflicts resolutions (p.1).
By the fact that people live collectively, by groups, it is needed to have ground where authority, power and resources are formed to be shared in order to resolve conflicts within the society.
In the contemporary world, many countries have already initiated to empower female politicians by providing them the foundations of effective political figure and by giving them the fundamentals of what an aspiring politician should possess in terms of education, skills, experiences, support et cetera. The effort made by those developed countries is a great beginning to look upon on how they managed to succeed in this kind of idea.
However, as mentioned earlier, leadership and governance still remain restricted for women despite the reality that men and women are almost equal in physical, intellectual, social and many other aspects that constitute leadership and affects the manner of governance. Their capability of leading has always been underrated by the society. According to the survey made by Inter-Parliamentary Union as of November 2018 that globally, there are still 29 States in which less than 10 percent of women parliamentarians are in the single or lower houses, including 4 chambers with no women at all. Only 24 percent of women are in the national parliamentary. As a result, there is still an imbalance of political decision in countries with very least amount of female politicians thus issues regarding women are not addressed accordingly and less development in health, education and social welfares are made. Countries that are run by men believe that women are not politically fit to be the leader of the nation, claiming that they are not physically and mentally strong enough to face and solve the consequences of the world. On the other hand, one of the major reason in the lack of female politician is the religious belief that women are not suitable to lead the world including those traditional and cultural beliefs of patriarchy as well as the still existing marginalization of women telling that they are politically weak and has nothing to contribute for the people.
Nevertheless, the argument made by those who oppose political engagement of women in their states is not supported by the modern political world. There are lots of proofs and evidences that can be shown regarding the strength and advantages of having female politicians in both local and national seats. UN Women’s executive director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka observes: “Where there are more women in decision–making positions, we see more inclusive decisions, and we find different solutions to long-standing problems.” (n.p)
Hence, there is need to empower women in the society and have a balance political association with diversity of gender to address both party’s necessities and to strengthen the current weak involvement of women in leadership and governance, to have strong position and voice in decision making, and to achieve greater form of democracy, social and political equality, and societal development.
Develop Political Leadership and Skills for Women
One of the major reasons why the current situation of women’s political and leadership skills and participation must be looked into is to nurture and develop women’s inner capabilities of leading the way. Women’s political leadership has been restricted and underestimated because of poor experiences and skills. According to the current survey as of November 2018, there are only around 24% of women around the world who are directly involved in parliament- which, fortunately, has had a slight increase. It is unlikely to know that in this modern era, vast discrimination still exists among people and a wide stereotyping can still be seen in the reality despite of the educated outlook of the world.
There are several factors that affect the female political and leadership skills and participation. One of the primary factor, and is believed to be the major reason why women lack in political and leadership skills, is the social marginalization by preventing them from serving in leadership roles, and by an inability to pass their legislation. “Marginalization is conceptually distinct from women’s substantive representation, which is usually defined as policy making on behalf of women as a group’’ (Franceschet, Krook & Piscopo 2012, p.232). According to Zulu (2011), party leadership remains under the supervision of men and women are not given the full power to hold and govern. The traditional social belief that men should be heads of political leadership which is a negative paternal culture suggests that women should only follow men’s leadership.
Secondly, educational background is believed to be a major criterion for the public and government on choosing legislatures. Education acts as the reflection of somebody’s capabilities on how he/she take part in decision making as well as governing the country. Fortunately, the number of educated women has risen in many developed countries, however there is a huge amount of women who suffer from lack of education in many poor countries. In the article written by Matera (2015) she stated that there is only around 30 percent of girls globally who have made it into secondary education while more than 66 percent of men pursue university level. The lack of priorities in women’s education plus poverty plays a big role in the poor leadership and political participation of women. Women’s chances to develop their personality, skills and abilities were lessen by the absence of knowledge and experiences which can be found in schools.
Lastly, poor policies that support women in developing their strength and potential leadership remain wide. There are not enough organizations, communities and policies that are directly or indirectly upholding the voice of women in the society, enhancing their knowledge about the world of leadership and politics, and activities that provide them experiences. Even though the government itself does not actually discriminate the capabilities of women in leadership, but they tend to prefer men than women to hold higher seats.
It is now needed to have a better and balance political opportunities for all citizens by providing all what they need to enhance themselves and plan for their future careers. Studies prove that a government who has a balanced number of female politicians tend to develop and flourish certain policies related to equality, human rights, health and education. In an article written by Quillen (2018) she said that “women in the senate are better at working with people of different viewpoints and opinions to get things done than their male counterparts” (n.p)
Strengthen Decision-Making Power
The next reason why the current world needs more empowerment of women in the field of higher politics is to strengthen their decision making influence for the sake of the country, especially for women’s welfare and also to have more power in addressing certain issues regarding women. It is defined in the Empowering Women in Political Participation and Leadership (2015) that:
Women’s political participation is the actual and equal involvement of women in the governance of the communities they belong to whether via elective, appointive or merited positions. Decision-making becomes beneficial to the entire country when it reflects the collaborative inputs from all members of the community without discrimination (n.p).
It clarifies that in order to attain the greatest benefits of the decision making for the country, there has to be a collaborative participation among all the members of the community without marginalization and it has to be a direct or actual involvement of both genders in governance like in the parliament or cabinet.
In order to resolve this issue, one should know the reasons and obstacles that prevent women from direct involvement in politics. It is mentioned in one of the dialogues in ‘Empowering Women in Political Participation and Leadership’ that “The obvious obstacles are traditional and cultural barriers that are entrenched and social norms and attitudes against women as leaders and decision makers” (2015). Here, it is relevant to have a social and family support to enhance the confidence and self-esteem of women and educate the people regarding the benefits and highlight the proven contribution of female politicians to the government like The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development noted that “participation of women in politics is essential for advancing issues of importance to women on national agendas, which in turn benefits both women and men” (Bijlani, 2017, n.p). By doing this, it will boost the desire of women to be in the field of politics to do more contributions and show the world the power of women in governing the society without any exclusion of genders or age but for the benefit of all in addition to the capabilities of women to compete fairly for the welfare of the society.
A powerful statement has been given by DiLanzo (2018) stating that “addressing the needs of girls and women is impossible without representation of their interests in top decision-making positions. Evidence shows that an increase in the participation of women in politics affects how their needs are prioritized in policymaking” (p.4). These words are directly attacking the core of decision making believing that claims of equal welfare for all is not existing and will not happen unless there is a someone who will handle and fight for their rights, issues and common good. And there is actual proof available that can be referred to in supporting the essentiality of women’s involvement in politics as per decision making.
Two scholars Patnaik & Goraya (2016) described empowerment as the increase of economic, political, social, educational or spiritual strength of an entity that leads to the process of change by which people or individuals gain power and authority to decide for themselves. They added that women empowerment refers to the capabilities of women to gain authority that will make them self-reliant and giving them the information and knowledge to take decisions independently. However, in this case, the subject matter that has to be signified is the necessity in the decision making cabinet a fair division of member that has coordination and cooperation with other participants. By doing this, the best possible outcome will be achieved in the decision making process and for the common good of the society.
Promotes Greater Democracy, Equality and Development
Let us not forget that necessity of female politicians is needed in the better implementation of democracy, gender equality, political freedom and social rights. In regards to this, it is mentioned in an article ‘South Africa: Nelson Mandela – Champion of Women’s Right’ that “former South African president Nelson Mandela said that freedom cannot be achieved unless the women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression…and that they have been empowered to intervene in all aspects of life equal with any other member of the society” (2013, n.p). Simply by reading and comprehending his words, it must be realized that the reality- claiming to have a democratic society- is not actually being implemented and institutionalized it as it is because of existing wide oppression of women in many social aspects of life as well as economic. Freedom can’t be attained until there is a wide marginalization of women in the society which is considered common and normal. In order to acquire gender equality, freedom and democracy, importance of empowerment of women must be signified in all aspects of society the way men are enjoying the social privileges.
Democracy is not democracy until women’s voices are amplified in legislation, political institutions and processes. Democracy is not democracy without the inclusion of women in politics. One of the key factors of democracy is the freedom to participate in public and political affairs of the country. The real context of democracy will not come into reality unless there is an equal opportunity for all the citizens to hold an office in the higher position of the government and in the decision making process. Kassa (2015) stated that:
The possibility for all citizens to participate in the management of public affairs is at the very heart of democracy. At the same time full and equal participation of both women and men in political decision making provides a balance that more accurately reflects the composition of society, and may as such enhance the legitimacy of political processes by making them more democratic and responsive to the concerns and perspectives of all segments of society. (p.1)
Based on the statement, in order to make sure that democracy is well implemented and followed, there has to be a full and equal participation opportunities and involvement of both genders in the decision making committee thus it provides control and balance along the way of creation and formation of the decisions. As it is the core and heart of modern democracy, the significance of women’s political participation should be addressed. And it matches what Albright (2013) said about the significance of women in democracy, stating that “Success without democracy is improbable, democracy without women is impossible.” (n.p)
In Islam, women’s participation and direct involvement in politics went through and still under heavy arguments and controversies because of the hadith narrated by Abu Bakra that tells “Never will succeed such a nation as makes a woman their ruler” (Sahih al-Bukhari, 7099). Based on this hadith, many Islamic scholars argued that it is not allowed for women to govern the country as the superior legislator, however, there are also scholars who deeply explain that this hadith refers to ‘Dawlah Islamiyyah’ or Islamic Nation which is composed of several united countries just like in the time of Prophet Muhammad and the immediate companions. This would clarify that the modern countries and government is different from what the hadith refers to. Additionally, there is a verse in the Quran that signifies the legitimacy and success of women’s governance of state as the Holy Quran mentioned:
I found a woman ruling them, who is blessed with everything, and possesses a tremendous palace…She was told, “Go inside the palace.” When she saw its interior, she thought it was a pool of water, and she (pulled up her dress,) exposing her legs. He said, “This interior is now paved with crystal.” She said, “My Lord, I have wronged my soul. I now submit with Solomon to God, Lord of the universe. (Quran 27:23/24)
This is the story of Queen Balqees of the nation of Sheba, whose leadership brought prosperity and wealth despite of being a female leader. The fact that when Balqees, the Queen of Sheba, is mentioned in the Quran, no negative expressions are used and the fact that there were in the past and there are now strong states ruled by women but survived for a long time shows that the hadith of the Prophet regarding the issue does not contain a general judgment. Therefore, there is not a definite and binding verse or hadith that prohibits a woman from working for the public. Thus, it is religiously permissible for a woman who has sufficient qualifications and abilities to work as an administrator including a president. Additionally, Caliph Umar Ibn Al-Khattab appointed Shifa bint Abdullah as a supervisor in the Madinah market and almost all of the scholars agree on it.
The Quran, Sunnah, and Islamic history provide ample evidence of women undertaking various forms of political involvement from the bai’ah(oath) to fighting in battles to influencing political decisions. Ignoring the contributions of Muslim women deprives Islamic heritage of valuable role models while continuing the stagnation of Islamic thought.
In conclusion, it is clear that there are lots of advantages and benefits of women’s political participation, not only for the women but also for the whole society as it is in terms of leadership, equality, democracy and healthy government without any severe marginalization of gender and for the sake of public. It will also provide a great impact in the decision-making processes in the current and future laws, rules and regulations. Involvement of female politicians also constitute to the attainment of balance and better system of government. Due to these reasons, women’s political participation should be given significance and discussed about to bring awareness and change. The major concern is the empowerment of women and equality in the society. Since the population of the world keeps on growing and women is a big portion of it, it is a necessity to educate the public regarding the need of female politicians thus will promote women leadership skill programs, prioritize proper education and sincerity to serve the people which are prerequisite to achieve and qualify in political leadership and be part of the future decision makers and take part in the big development of the real world and human behaviour.
In order to resolve this existing issue of balance political collaboration of both genders, first, it is essential to educate the people to increase their public awareness in accordance with the significance of balance engagement of people in the field of politics. In the modern era, we all have to be open-minded in the reality that all should have be given a chance to contribute for the society and all these political matters are within the will of God.
Furthermore, to make the balance association of public in politics, there are lots of efforts that need to be looked upon. The traditional patriarchy mentality needs to be neutralized and make those who keep believing in it to understand the reality of the modern world and realize the importance of women’s involvement in leadership and policy making. For example, show them the evidence and records of development, advantages and benefits of female politician’s proper engagement in government in some region of the world. This is a logical and strong proof to capture their understanding and belief. Imbalance of political diversity in the government leads to many consequences that worsen the existing and current condition of the society and women. Simply by looking at the situation of women in the society, it can be seen that they are still marginalized and unpreferable in the political battle. Basically, by doing so- public awareness-, it significantly create and promote remarkable changes that will shape the present and future.
The religious issue regarding female engagement in the field of politics and governance, in the context of Islam which is greatly debatable saying that women are not advised, and even not allowed, to get involved in the political area. Empowerment of women in politics doesn’t mean that we want to turn the world up-side-down, instead we urge the public to realize the need of women in the political section of the society which still abides the guidelines and limitations of Muslim women. It is also explained by other Islamic scholars that one of the possible meaning of the hadith “Never will succeed such a nation as makes a woman their ruler” (Sahih al-Bukhari, 7099) is the leadership of women in the great Muslim nation or so called ‘Dawlah Islamiyyah’ which can’t be found nowadays. Getting involved in politics doesn’t mean that they are the ones who lead the world, instead they will take part in the governmental politics, issues, decision-making and equality to further achieve the greater benefits for all. Therefore, balance political participation of women is needed and proven effective in bringing success to the society, democracy, equality and leadership without any exclusion and discrimination.
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