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On the issue of young women in politics

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Fri, May 28, 2010

Editor: In 1995, the 4th World Conference on Women adopted the Beijing Platform for Action which declared that “Without the active participation of women and the incorporation of women’s perspective at all levels of decision-making, the goals of equality, development and peace cannot be achieved.”{{more}}

Furthermore, in 2000 the United Nations adopted the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) which embraced a comprehensive strategy to eradicate poverty by 2015. One of these MDGs to achieve this is to “promote gender equality and empower women.”

More specifically, the World Programme of Action for Youth adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1995 called for participation of young women and men in the life of their societies. It proposes that action be taken to “Promote the social, political, developmental and environmental participation of young people, and remove obstacles that affect their full contribution to society.”

Yet still in recent times, assertions and statements are being made against the involvement of women in politics during their childbearing and childrearing years. I am completely appalled that these types of statements are made in the presence of young women and men. How irresponsible to suggest that women would be negligent to enter politics at that time of their lives! What is this saying to young women like Vynette Frederick and Michelle Fife? Why shouldn’t these or any other young woman participate equally in the political process like their male counterparts? The effect of this unequal treatment only serves to keep the political playing field uneven and dominated by men.

This is why such statements should be denounced by all women’s organizations and all human rights loving people in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Not only are such comments discriminatory, but they are also loaded with age-old chauvinistic sentiments that have kept women bound to the home and out of the formal workplace and the halls of politics. Instead of perpetuating these age-old prejudices, what should be offered are solutions such as better childcare accommodations for young women entering politics, and other creative solutions. But to suggest that women cannot balance their involvement in politics with their responsibilities to the family is utterly reckless and is more aligned to the colonial governmental policy that once required women to resign from the public service when they gave birth to a child.

The truth of the matter is that women’s involvement in politics, like other career endeavors, is manageable with the right amount of care and planning. Politics is not somehow superior to other professions, therefore making it more difficult for young women involved in it to be successful. If women should be excluded from politics during the twelve year period between their 28th and 40th birthday, the same should hold true for women who are nurses, doctors, lawyers, teachers, civil servants and businesswomen. Only in this way would families be properly cared for and nurtured. The reality, though, is that women have always been very adept at multitasking and have successfully balanced family, work and community activities.

Equally repulsive is the implication that men are somehow free from sharing the responsibilities of caring for the family and a home between ages 28-40. This type of thinking reinforces the perception that a woman’s place is in the home, while a man is free to roam. It also undermines the decades of struggle by women and men to promote gender equality. Silence on these matters is equal to acceptance of these out-dated positions and a slap in the face of all women. When such statements go unchallenged, our society will be socially poorer. So let’s not choose silence.

Sherrill-Ann Mason

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