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Global issue 20

Global Insight Women Argentinian President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner Indira Ghandi and Margaret Thatcher It seems harder for women to garner popular votes in presidential elections, whether this is due to personal shortcomings or the entrenchment of men as leaders that exists in many countries, including the USA. “When women do vie for presidential offices, they rarely secure more than five per cent of the vote. Most victorious women presidential candidates did not garner electoral majorities but were elected through pluralities or second round run-offs,” says Jalalzai. “In nearly all cases, triumphant women did not have to spar against incumbents (almost universally male).” Dilma Rousseff, currently serving as president of Brazil, won her first term in a run-off and her second in a narrow second-round victory. Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, on the other hand, won both her first and second term in office without going to a second round or a run-off, becoming the first directly elected female president of Argentina. However, she is also the widow of former president Néstor Kirchner, and critics of her administration have accused it of corruption and censorship. The World Economic Forum Gender Gap Report 2014 ranks India 114th out of 142 countries for gender equality. Despite having had a female head of state for 21 of the past 50 years, and ranking first in the report for this variable, women’s political empowerment for India averages at 0.214, where one represents equality and zero inequality. This is down to women holding fewer than ten per cent of ministerial positions in the country and approximately 13 per cent of parliamentary seats, with scores similarly low for women’s economic participation and opportunity, particularly when it comes to positions as legislators, senior officials and managers. Further to this, the Reuters Foundation named India the worst place in the world for women in 2011, with statistics showing that a woman is raped every 22 minutes and a child every hour. France, on the other hand, comes in 16th out of 142 countries in the report. Women hold nearly half of the country’s ministerial positions and approximately a quarter of seats in parliament. Women’s educational attainment has met or surpassed that of men, and their economic participation and opportunity ranks 57th in the report, with positions as legislators, senior officials and managers as well as wage equality figures dragging down the score. Overall, France comes in 98 places ahead of India – and yet France has had a female head of state for just one of the past 50 years. “I was born in France, I often work in Belgium, Germany, the UK, etc, and I really love living in Europe, where values, human rights and women’s rights are mostly respected,” says Benoît Firmin, a translator based in Lille, France. “I am quite surprised France has only had one female head of state over the past 50 years. That’s disappointing, to say the least. I remember being particularly excited about Ms Royal’s campaign during the 2007 presidential elections. She lost, unfortunately, but I think she would have been a decent president, and a good role model for women. “In France, the situation is not critical but there is still work to be done as far as gender equity is concerned: wages, taxes, discrimination and even that stupid law on the wearing of pants that it is about time they abolish. A female leader sounds like a great idea, provided it is not Mrs Lepen, who is valuing patriotism over women’s rights and dignity,” says Firmin, adding: “Yes to female leaders, but not at any price.” www.global global f i rst quar ter 2015 -br ief ing.org l 21 © UN Photo / Marco Castro Viewpoint “I guess if you suppress or discriminate against a minority or a group that is perceived to be weaker, or have had their rights taken away, you inevitably produce headstrong individuals and groups that are passionate about standing up for human rights.” Vladimir Gusev, a Russian-British doctor working in the north-east of England “Women in positions of power have to do so much more to prove themselves as worthy than many men in politics. And, having got to the top position of power, if they used that influence to make things better for women they’d be inundated with a barrage of ‘bloody women, only ever doing things for themselves’.” Zoë Foster, Kent, UK


Global issue 20
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