Where Women Belong…

Beginning with the suffragettes and continuing with modern-day feminists, women and their allies have battled long and hard for their right to “belong”. Whether it was the right to vote or to occupy public office. As a result, a growing number of nations, like New Zealand (in 1893) and Saudi Arabia (in 2015), have granted the right to vote for women.

However, development has been gradual and unequal. Women continue to be underrepresented in public life, including politics, legislatures, and other fields. Unfilled seats at the decision-making table immediately come to mind when we discuss women’s political involvement, but it is more difficult to convey the numerous obstacles and hurdles that women must face in order to obtain those seats.

Due to discriminatory laws, institutional and cultural impediments, and unequal access to comprehensive education, healthcare, and resources, women continue to be underrepresented in politics across the world. As a result of these institutional roadblocks, women are less interested in politics than men, they are less likely to seek government. This jeopardises democracy as it lacks a representation of half the nation’s population.  Such inequalities put at risk the core values of representative democracy, such as fairness, inclusiveness, and equality. It also has a negative impact on the calibre of policy that comes out of political institutions.

Politics has a long history of gender discrimination that began in our homes and has persisted into adulthood. Some of these roots may be traced back to how young people learn about gender roles and politics in school, how their parents discuss current events with them as well as what is shown about politics in the media. It’s well-documented that children internalise gender norms and behave in ways that are predetermined by their gender. Children imitate a gender-based labour force by, among other things, showing gender preferences in toys, pastimes, career aspirations, and family responsibilities. If we want to see more women in public service we should start at home by raising our kids in a gender-neutral manner so that only women can decide where they “belong”.

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