Women in Politics Face Systematic Challenges

According to the United Nations, women only hold around one-fifth of national legislative seats, and 38 countries have less than 10% female representation in their governments. This is a clear underrepresentation of women in politics. After all, if women make up about half of the world’s population, shouldn’t they also make up about half of its leadership?

Phoolan Devi was an Indian politician who showed the world that women can rise up from violence and oppression to become great leaders. A survivor of violent sexual assault and child marriage, Phoolan refused to give in to her circumstances. Instead, she fought back, and eventually became one of the most well-loved politicians in India.

Her assassination was evidence of the ongoing violence and oppression women in power face. This is true around the world, and something must be done to stop it. We are spreading the story of Phoolan to achieve this goal, so we hope you will support our upcoming film.

Earlier this week, the New York Times published an article on the gender bias and related financial discrimination U.S. women are facing as they run for political office. In it, Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns shared the story of Ms. Chris Giunchigliani.

NYTimes Article Phoolan Jamileh Kharrazi
Image via NYTimes.com

Ms. Giunchigliani is a candidate for Nevada’s gubernatorial race in 2018. Throughout her life, she has proved her qualifications in business and politics. Regardless, however, she has faced ongoing discrimination and attacks from both her male opponents and political financiers.

These attacks included an allegation that she “protected” sexual criminals– despite the fact that Ms. Giunchigliani herself is a survivor of sexual abuse.

 

Gender and Politics – an Ongoing Challenge

Martin and Burns’ article goes on to share similar stories of gender bias against other female gubernatorial candidates. Much of this is due to the fact that there are relatively few female governors to help mentor women seeking the office.

In fact, nearly half of the U.S. states have never had a female governor leading them.

Thus, according to the article, “State capitols remain dominated by self-perpetuating male political networks…” This is partially why there are only two Democratic women governors currently serving in office.

Despite this struggle, there is hope on the horizon. Janet Mills of Maine is currently leading the democratic primary for the governor’s office. Her victory would be historic, since Maine is one of the 22 states that has never elected a woman as governor.

The few women who have held the prestigious office have had to fight hard to get there. But fortunately, American politics is attracting more and more hard-fighting women these days.

Looking Overseas for Inspiration

America is a society that prides itself on equality and freedom for all. These are dearly held values, but many American women face systematic oppression that keeps them from economic and political power.

As a result, the female half of the U.S. population is underrepresented in the political system.

This is true across most of the rest of the world as well, according to data from the United Nations. However, the women who have broken through this glass ceiling are inspiring a new generation of female leaders to do the same.

The surprise defeat of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 U.S. presidential election reflected the substantial challenges women face in U.S. politics. Most of the world’s nations have never had a female leader. But, the handful of women who have held top political offices are inspiring more female politicians to fight hard for recognition.

Indira Gandhi, the only female Prime Minister of India, was just the second woman to ever serve as head of state.

However, she opened the door for others, including Phoolan Devi. Like Ms. Giunchigliani, Phoolan survived physical and sexual abuse to rise to the highest levels of national politics.

Both women serve as examples of the strength that female leaders often must demonstrate, even in the face of threats, violence, and oppression.

Altogether, the many women around the world who are fighting hard for political power are building a better world for all of us.

They refuse to back down, despite the social pressures and individuals who try to force them to do so. In this way, they serve as an inspiration for us all and – hopefully – a sign of the times to come.