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Opinion & Analysis

Women must claim their rightful role as decision-makers

By Marlene Hassan Nahon

This year’s International Women’s Day theme seems designed to be transposed into the multiple realities facing women around the world.

Despite there being a growing sense of unity and sorority in the plight for women’s rights around the world, #choosingtochallenge means something completely different in indigenous communities in central America, nomad tribes in western Africa or wealthy European city suburbs.

This recognition that sociocultural and economic factors are inextricably linked to equality should also be taken as an opportunity for women around the world to communicate more, tighten bonds and share their struggles for equal rights.

Also, this is a recognition that there can be no “one-size-fits-all” campaign for the achievement of equality goals, and that maybe the best way to challenge inequality, call out bias, question stereotypes, and help forge an inclusive world, is to do so one issue at a time, one community at a time.

In the western world, one of the most important issues we need to challenge is our lack of presence at the forefront of decision-making bodies.

The numbers of women in positions of power, both in the public and private sectors, reflects an extremely pervasive element of inequality.

The World Ranking of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) each year ranks the number of women in national politics.

Their latest study, from October 2020 showed that only 14 of the 193 United Nations (UN) members have a woman in the highest position of executive power, which is less than 10% of the men in power.

Currently 24.9% of women are elected in parliaments, which is more than double that of 1995 (11.3%), but still shockingly unequal. Rwanda is still the striking leader of this change., with Its national parliament consisting of more than 60% women. Other countries who have been at the top are Cuba, Bolivia, and the United Arab Emirates with a participation of 50%.

At just over 11%, Gibraltar stands right down there with some of the most discriminatory jurisdictions in the world. Believe me when I tell you that standing up for equal rights and being a woman in Gibraltar politics is an extremely solitary affair.

The private sector also paints a pretty desolate, yet slowly improving picture. Findings from the “Women on Boards 2020” study showed that women now represent 20.8% of board directors on Fortune 1000 companies. It is also rare to see women at the forefront of social and political activism, or even spearheading NGO’s.

Until women claim their rightful place at the helm of the decision-making entities that shape the world we live in, the world will continue to be shaped in a male-centric way.

It is for this reason that I was particularly proud to see the beaming, powerful face of our very own Meenal Viz, profoundly feminised in her glorious pregnant state, fighting for more and better protection for frontline medical workers in the UK. Doctor Viz became the poster child for the campaign to protect the NHS, fiercely standing up to Government and Governmental institutions in defence of her suffering colleagues and co-workers. Her militant resolve, and the idealistic and hopeful way in which she carries out her activism have been an inspiration to many young women around the world, and will surely pave the way not only for more courageous and dedicated medical professionals, but will also inspire many girls and women to become activists and try to make the world a better place.

Now that we have her back, I have no doubt she will be fighting side by side with us in what is no doubt the most pressing and dramatic issue of inequality facing Gibraltarian women: our lack of reproductive freedom. Women with unwanted pregnancies have found themselves completely abandoned by the system throughout the lockdown and beyond (since the cowardly and illegitimate referendum was postponed). It is likely that many have had to keep unwanted pregnancies, or have had to embark on all sorts of risky procedures to access what is considered a human right by the UN human rights committee. Every day that this legislation is not passed is a day that we put out women at risk and we violate our very own constitution.

We have waited enough already. If the wheels are not set in motion in the coming weeks, Government will have to face the growing number empowered women of our community #choosingtochallenge yet again this burning injustice.

Marlene Hassan Nahon is an MP and the Leader of Together Gibraltar

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