By Rhonda Campbell
Despite what naysayers might think, women are qualified and capable to lead masses of people. They have been doing so for years. January 25, 2011, the world looked on in amazement as hundreds of people marched through the streets of Cairo in Egypt. By February, the numbers of people that filled the streets of Egypt had swelled into the thousands. A key issue that had called people forth into the streets, demanding their response to critical, local situations, was leadership.
Egypt Home to Some of History’s First Women Leaders
Despite misgivings regarding the country’s long-time administration, what many protestors and onlookers might not know or might have forgotten is that, amid its unrest and social and political upheavals, Egypt stands as one of the country’s that placed women in positions of leadership first.
One has to dig for signs of this yesteryear in the region today. However, in 3000 BCE (Before Common Era) Egyptian Queens governed in the country. According to Worldwide Guide to Women in Leadership, the Egyptian woman widely known as a “leader” was Ku-Baba. She (Ku-Baba) is also known as the first queen in history who governed. Her dynasty expanded across a century. It is estimated that she governed the Mesopotamian City-State of Ur around 2500 BCE.
Then women like Ku-Baba were hushed. It was as if a shift had occurred, stripping women of leadership positions. Centuries would pass before women would lead at national levels. Religious beliefs, gender inequities, violence against women and misunderstandings about the role of women in society, erased many of the political roles women were allowed to fill. It was as though water had been shut off, forced to stop running, because many people feared the water’s power. Yet, plugging up water holes also causes draught, disease and stagnation.
Women Leaders from the Native Past
Native American women like Awashonks of the Wampanoag, Nancy Ward and Lozen governed from the 1600s through the 1800s. Awashonks of the Wampanoag became a Sachem (Chief) in the 1600s. She governed in the area that is now known as Little Compton, Rhode Island. Her signature remains on the Plymouth Agreement of 1671.
According to Pow Wow.com, Nancy Ward fought in the Battle of Taliwa in 1755 when she was only 18 years old. Her people, the Cherokee Wolf clan, won the battle that was fought in what today is known as Ball Ground, Georgia against the Creek people, another Native American clan.
Struggles Women Face
Although women had proven themselves in and out of the home, many cultures refused to allow women to lead; some feared that to do so would incite the wrath of God. It wasn’t long before women were regulated to the status of second class citizens. The effects were, and remain, startling. For example, today approximately one in four American women is a victim of domestic violence, while nearly one in three women around the world are beaten in their homes.
Add to this the fact that nearly one in six women in the United States have been sexually abused. Seventy-three percent of women in Zimbabwe surveyed in The Musasa Project said they were forced to have sexual intercourse with a boyfriend or husband against their will. Scores of women and girls have been sexually and physically abused in Haiti, post the 2010 earthquake that shook the country and left 1.5 million people without a home. It is evident that women are not afforded the same human rights as men. These and other gender inequities hamper the growth of states, countries and the entire global community.
The United Nations, through its Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women initiative, states that “all human development and human rights issues have gender dimensions.” To address issues related to gender inequality and as set forth by the United Nations, key stakeholders in Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women are focusing on improving global peace and security, leadership and participation in governing affairs among women. Members of the organization are also focusing on creating economic empowerment for women as well as finding ways to eradicate violence against women.
Education may play a key role in achieving both goals.
As reported in UNESCO’s “International Literacy Prizes 2010,” in the Republic of Malawi, a country located in Southeast Africa, women provide the bulk of the agricultural labor. However, men own the bulk of the land. This disparity creates wide economic gaps between men and women as it is akin to the sharecropping business model that operated throughout the Southern part of the United States post-Civil War era. Sharecroppers worked tirelessly for 18 or more hours a day, yet they always only had enough to provide food for their families and they remained in debt to the land owners. Some business models simply do not work, regardless of where, why or when they are implemented.
Yet, people often do not realize the disparity in pay systems, land ownership policies, etc. when they continue to operate in the dark, uneducated and unaware of injustices happening in their communities, sometimes in their own families. Hence, the call for greater literacy and access to information.
These are some of the challenges women face, some challenges causing them to expend the total sum of their energy on avoiding or surviving abuse and raising children in bleak conditions. But there are breakthroughs, achievements made by women that demand to be lifted up as beacons of hope, as great lights.
Despite roadblocks placed in their path, women around the world, women who spring from diverse cultures, nationalities, colors and ethnicities have made strides forward. For example, in 1987, and in keeping tradition with her ancestors who governed, Wilma Mankiller was elected Chief of the Cherokee Nation, making her the first woman in history to govern at that level. She would go on to receive a Medal of Freedom, the highest honor paid to an American civilian.
Modern Day Women Leaders
As of 2011, more than a dozen women governed as presidents or heads of state. Dilma Vana Linhares Rousseff was sworn in as Brazil’s first woman president in January 2011. Paula Cox serves as the Premiere of Bermuda and has served in that capacity since 2010. Sarah Westcott-Williams has served as the Prime Minister of the Netherlands’, Sint Maarten since 2010. Other Prime Ministers include Slovakia’s Iveta Radicova; Australia’s Julia Gilliard; Finland’s Mari Kiviniemi and Trinidad and Tobago’s Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
In 2006 Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf became the first women president in Africa when she won elections to govern in Liberia. Argentina’s president is Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner; when she was sworn into office in 2007 she became the country’s 55th president. She went on to win her re-election in 2011 by a landslide. Furthermore, Borjana Kristo serves as President of the Federation of Bosnia, while Roza Otunbayeva serves as President of Kyrgyzstan and Laura Chinchilla Miranda serves as President of Costa Rica. The good news is that globally nearly 30 women govern as Prime Minister, President, Governor or Queen.
Yet, despite these welcomed strides forward, more work remains . . . work that is well worth the effort. United States Secretary of State Hillary Rodman Clinton stated it well when she said, as recorded at the National Network to End Domestic Violence website, “Investing in the potential of the world’s women and girls is one of the surest ways to achieve global economic progress, political stability, and greater prosperity for women — and men — the world over.”
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Get Your Copy of Spiral at https://www.ebookit.com/books/0000000841/Spiral.html
http://www.guide2womenleaders.com/Current-Women-Leaders.htm (Worldwide Guide to Women in Leadership)
http://www.unwomen.org (United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women)
http://www.powwows.com/articles/?p=514 (Pow Wows: Native American Women Leaders)
http://www.musc.edu/vawprevention/advocacy/internat.shtml (National Violence Against Women Prevention Research Center)
http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0018/001891/189122E.pdf (UNESCO: The Winners of the UNESCO International Literacy Prizes)
http://www.worldshelterconference.org/en/info.html (World Conference of Women’s Shelters)
http://www.nnedv.org (National Network to End Domestic Violence)