It was interesting to read this in an online US newspaper called Sp Times. Talking about Hillary Rodham Clinton as a future President the paper noted:
But in this area at least, the United States is behind the times. Britain, Pakistan and many other countries have had female presidents or prime ministers.
I am sure that there are others in the United States who are thinking along these lines. I know that in India some people think this way. After all, this is one aspect where we in India are miles ahead of America. We may have a poor record where womens’ rights are concerned, but if a woman is capable and strong then she can rise to great heights, at least in politics! In American politics, even if the woman is capable, she hits a glass ceiling…finally. Becoming President in America has been a pipe dream for women…until now.
Now, that is not my view…just a brief account of the conversation I overheard today as we sat in a restaurant. While I too would just love to pat my own country on the back, I know I can’t. The truth is too glaring for me to ignore.
Let us see who these women leaders from India and her neighbouring countries really are and how they got there:
India: We all know who our Indira was. The daughter of Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister. And Sonia Gandhi, from India’s ‘first family’ almost became a Prime Minister too! She would indeed have become one if she had not been an Italian Indian. Nehru’s grand-daughter-in-law lost her chance because of her ethnicity.
Sri Lanka: The world’s first woman Prime Minister, Sirimavo Ratwatte Dias Bandaranaike, also happened to be the wife of an ex-Sri Lankan Prime Minister (Solomon Bandaranaike) and the mom of Sri Lanka’s third President Chandrika Kumaratunga.
Bangladesh: The late dictator of this country Zia ur Rahman left behind a widow called Khaleda Zia and she got her chance to rule the country. And Hasina Wajed? She became the Prime Minister of Bangladesh because she was the daughter of Mujibur Rahman, the first president of the country.
Pakistan: Benazir Bhutto was the daughter of the Prime Minister of Pakistan.
Not an exhaustive list by any means. I can think of more home-grown women like Laloo’s wife who governed Bihar after her husband and MGR’s (ex-Chief Minister) protege Jayalalitha…but well, I just wanted to make a point. Which is that these women didn’t get to where they were on their own. Sure, they might be highly capable women, in fact I am quite sure they were, but would they have got to these positions unless they came from a family where their husbands and fathers were political leaders? The truth is that they never had to try and break the glass ceiling. They were already above it. It is possible to argue that men too benefit from a political pedigree (like Rajiv Gandhi did) but there are certainly more men who have become political leaders without their wives and mothers being so.
The question is: Even if we talk of just the political arena, how many women in India who are not political princesses can even hope to becoming the Prime Minister? Ironically, when it comes to Hillary, we can ask ourselves: Would she have got to where she was if it wasn’t for Bill Clinton? I feel she may not have…but Margaret Thatcher of the UK got to where she was entirely on her own…so I guess Britian has something to be proud of.