Women in Leadership!
The nation state of Grenada has seen increasing moves away from a society based solely on male leadership by the emergence of more and more women at every level and in every sphere of functioning – politics, law and order, education, public service, commerce, sports, media etc.
And, for the writer, this has been good for the nation. Humanity has two wings, male and female, and both wings are needed to bring about balance, wisdom and sustainability.
I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all eleven (11) of the female candidates who participated in this year’s general elections; and to specifically congratulate all seven (7) of my sisters who won seats and have now taken their places in the Cabinet and the Parliament of our country.
While I want this short commentary to serve as a congratulatory note for their brave and bold stance, in spite of the personal challenges of family, fear and finance when entering this arena, I also want to sound a warning to my colleague sisters. I speak as one who has been on “the road less travelled”.
I speak, not for the first time, less some label it “sour grapes” – my thoughts have been translated into words in two books that I have authored, “Memoirs of a Woman in Politics” (2007) and “Vision of Change” (2011). I speak again because I sense a dangerous trend….
I would like to use two authoritative voices from the Caribbean to add to my voice. The first one being, Dr. Peggy Antrobus, activist, scholar and writer, who noted: “…many women in formal positions of leadership are constrained in their ability to act in the interests of the majority of people, and in particular women… .Most of the women in political leadership owe their position to their conformity with male models of leadership and their acceptance of the status quo. They can be trusted to play the game according to the rules, trusted not to rock the boat”.
The other is Dr. Errol Miller, educator, writer and international speaker, sees patriarchy (entrenched male leadership) preserving itself by promoting and pursuing women who genuinely want to make a contribution.
He observed, “…women (now) liberated will be almost totally dependent on their powerful male sponsors and will be fully aware that their continued survival depends on being loyal to them. Women granted upward educational and occupational mobility are perceived by their powerful sponsors as relatively safe. They are not considered threats.”
I’d like to say to my sisters in leadership, stand up for what you believe in. Make a difference. Let your numbers count. Be the change in the midst of the ugliness of today’s politics. Bring to politics what only a woman can bring because of the way we were made by God – nurturing, caring, relational service.
Do not go along with patriarchy’s agenda in the consolidation of power. Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique need real “Deborahs”, who will be dignified stateswomen fighting alongside their trustworthy “Baraks” to provide responsible, competent leadership to our nation state.
In closing, I’d like to share some important lessons from my own experience in politics:
The world of power is a frightening world, more destructive as it exists than creative. It is imperative that women understand power in all its complexity and contradiction, and learn how to use it creatively.
Women as well as men can use power destructively. We need not just more women in politics. We need women who are just, compassionate, courageous and competent – people of integrity who understand the nature of patriarchy and are prepared to work at replacing it with healthy partnership.
There is an urgent need to develop alternative models of politics and economics. Our politics and economics must focus on community-building and result in real empowerment of people. The politics of patronage and expediency must be replaced by a politics of self-reliance and sustainability.
Political leadership, today, is in crisis, characterised by concentration of power, bankruptcy of ideas, organised chaos and a constant fight for more power. At the same time the masses of our youth are “at risk”., alienated, apathetic, unemployed and underemployed; our children are exposed, abused, neglected and extremely vulnerable.
As women who desire change, it is necessary to examine what we are passing on to the next generation, and to commit to leave as a legacy the beginnings of a vision being worked out in concrete ways, in collaboration with other sectors of our society, leading to empowering of our people, protecting our children and youth, providing for the underserved, and building of a nation based on justice, truth and good stewardship.
A clarion call is issued for redeemed women and men, men and women to change the face and spirit of today’s politics and to offer good governance to Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.
Our children are watching!
(Joan Purcell is a former member of the 1983/84 Interim Government and ex-Cabinet Minister of the 1990-95 National Democratic Congress administration)