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The Hand that Rocks the Cradle…

The United Nations – in existence for over 75 years now – our foremost intergovernmental organization fighting for global harmony in a world that has seen regression in women’s rights in many parts – continues to itself remain a male-dominated forum. The UN General Assembly met in NYC earlier this month. Amongst the 190 speakers (including numerous heads of state) merely 12% were women (23 out of 190). It’s even lower than the low fraction of women parliamentarians across the globe (26%) or the percentage of UN member states with women as the heads of their government (15%).

These are the stats around UNGA delegates. Let’s focus our attention for a minute on the United Nations itself. In over 75 years, the world still awaits the first woman Secretary General. And of the 77 Presidents of the General Assembly till date (each gets to serve a one-year term), a woman has been in the position only 4 times. Not even 5%. In fact, women are grossly under-represented at most levels in the UN, including national delegations and even senior levels of the diplomatic corps.

Many of the countries under female leadership are making a big impact on their national stages with policies focused on gender equity. These countries – though a handful – are doing better addressing their developmental goals and making a difference in their respective regions. They are making big differences both on the domestic front as well as internationally. Yet, there numbers are woefully few and far between. The likes of Denmark, Sweden, Finland, New Zealand, Estonia, Taiwan, Tunisia and Uganda – have all witnessed first-hand how their women leaders are inspiring other women around their countries to recognize their true potential. They have taken many a gender-sensitive policy measures. On average, they have responded better to the pandemic. Many of them have made the world sit up and take notice. I can only imagine how amazing it’ll be to have many more women heads of state.

I talked about the UN and touched upon several other world nations. It’ll be a remiss on my part not to speak of our own nation in the same token. We’ve not elected a single woman President in nearly 250 years since our independence, and merely 1 woman Vice-President. Forget running for the office, we’ve merely allowed women to vote in the U.S for only about a century or so, at this point. After all these years, only 24% of our Senate is comprised of women. The Congress also has similarly disappointing stats with barely 28% of female representation in the House. Sub-20% - only 9 out of 50 – of our state governors are women, as I pen this piece. How appalling are these numbers! Countries we bill as ‘developing’ – think the likes of India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and many others across Asia and Africa and LatAm have had women heads of state for decades. So, what does it mean to be ‘developed’?

There is plentiful data pointing out how women’s leadership in political and public life, benefit one and all. Issues such as economic security, healthcare and education and violence against women receive greater attention under female leadership. Women leaders in all levels of governance puts the spotlight on policies that promote equality, advance rights and better the quality of life of the downtrodden. It’s time we actively seek women in positions at the helm of our public offices. Too many glass ceilings remain unbroken…

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