27 April 2008

The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at
http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com/ Please.

Wednesday April 23, 2008
Glass ceilings of reinforced concrete

Separation by gender and age are these days outdated to say the least. It leads to ghettoizing of concerns, rather than mainstreaming them.

GIVEN the grumbling and rumbling among many women in the last general election about the number of female candidates, perhaps it is now time to think in ways more in keeping with the times.

The fact remains that while there are separated groups of people representing different interests in the main political parties in government, there can never be a truly fair way of selecting candidates.

In many countries in the world these days, political parties are not, like they are in some of ours, divided into Main, Wanita and Youth divisions. Nor are these divisions even further divided into Puteri and Putera divisions.

These separations by gender and age are these days outdated to say the least. It leads to ghettoizing of concerns, rather than mainstreaming them.

For instance, as long as women’s concerns are debated only within Wanita circles, they will remain forever isolated and marginalised. Rarely will they become mainstreamed in debates in the main body of the party.

That special slots have to be given to these concerns in this day and age smacks of condescension, as if women’s issues are unimportant and not also national concerns.

The way it currently works is that women are given seats on supreme councils only by virtue of holding a post within their own wings. Generally, that means they have to be heads of their wings. This means that the representation of women on supreme councils will never exceed two or three at best.

What this ensures is that these women will never feel able to voice out the issues that are important to their women constituents, even though women make up a substantial proportion of overall membership numbers.

When one is a minority on important decision-making bodies, one tends to be meek on gender issues because there is rarely much space allowed to discuss them.

The feeling is that one is entering a boys’ club and therefore must play by boys’ rules. And talking about the plight of women who are discriminated against in the courts by male judges, for instance, doesn’t play well in that club.

The solution would be to do away with these reserved spots for women heads and allow for any woman member to stand for elections for any post directly. Not only will this allow more talent into the pool but will also reflect a party more in sync with the world.

What’s more, because there are more women members, the chances of women winning these seats are higher. Even better, the men will also have to woo the women’s votes and therefore have to display some concern for women’s issues.

We should no longer tolerate the type of gender and age apartheid that occurs in our main political parties. The separation of members by age is even more laughable than the gender one, especially since definitions of youth are elastic to say the least.

While young people may need more experience to lead, that’s not to say that the young have no leadership qualities. And why not have a woman leading all the youth members? Or indeed, the entire party?

When our politicians interact with other politicians from elsewhere, they often find themselves facing very different set-ups. The male president of the party may find himself meeting with his counterpart from another country; but who may be female and young.

Does that make discussions any less important or different? If other people are putting their best people up front, why can’t we do the same? And who’s to say that our best leaders are necessarily men?

At the moment, the way our political parties are set up, they are not only unattractive to the young but also to the most dynamic types of women. We already have glass ceilings in the workplace, but in political parties the ceilings are made of reinforced concrete if you are female.

Just look at the recent discussions as to who might stand for presidential and vice-presidential posts. Not a single female name among them. Does it really say anywhere that women are excluded from these posts?

If our largest political parties truly want to reinvent themselves and attract the young, they have to re-look at their own structures.

They have to erase the lines that separate their members by gender and age and focus on talent. Only then will they bear some resemblance to real life, where every day women are breaking new ground in many different occupations.

We have women nowadays who are heading central banks, securities commissions and supervising the building of large buildings, leading men and women.

Yet, if they were members of these political parties, they can only lead their own sex and no more. How ironic!