The struggles they face in their quest for equal participation
SINCE the inception of parliamentary democracy in 1978, political leadership in Solomon Island has been a men’s domain.
Forty years on and with the tenth parliament in the house, the plights of women in political leadership still remains a contentious dilemma.
Although women make up almost fifty percent of the Population, their push for a fair and equitable representation over the years have proven futile.
Despite the 21st century environment of gender equality and equity and the country’s commitment and ratification of the Convention for Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and its optional protocols, changes and chances for women to climb up the political echelon still remains a distant dream.
Though few women have sporadically found their niche and have broken through the barriers of male dominance, it is far from the principles of equality and fair representation envisaged by women.
Existing laws have given equal rights for political participation for both men and women. Even these laws and legislations have done little to get women into political office.
The fact that the female gender is devoid of equal political involvement is the subject that will be delved into and explored in depth to unearth the impediments that have befallen our women from having a fair share of the political cake.
The first hindrance is rooted in culture and tradition.
Solomon Island is endowed with its own unique and diverse cultures since time immemorial.
These cultures have dictated how the male and female genders see and interact with each other.
Further still, they delineate and determine the leadership structures that govern our way of life from generation to generation.
In most cases, these cultures have recognized and accepted the right of leadership and decision making to males (big man system) and have over time instilled in all adherents the supremacy that men enjoys to this day.
Cultures are the beginning of our being and have a huge bearing on our mental faculties.
Since it is widely practiced, matured and ingrained in our cultural populations, the mentality of male dominance is an inescapable reality that women who aspire for elected political office must overcome.
This is a mountainous of a predicament to pull through and we are not even half way there despite women’s best efforts to change the status quo.
Cultures are changeable and can easily succumbed to a more dominant and influential one.
However, such a turn-around (though happened in other countries) in the case of Solomon Island is simply an illusion and a forgone dream that only time will tell.
This could be attributed to the high illiteracy rate and the heavy concentration of people in the rural areas where cultural practices are prevalent.
The second obstacle is the age old perception that women’s place is in the kitchens, childbearing and rearing responsibilities.
Although there is no strong argument for this school of taught, its impact on the human mind is phenomenal and has affected decision making ever since the Westminster system of democracy is introduced.
Women are physically weak and hence, the imposition of certain practices upon them by men is bound to impact on them tremendously.
Social beings we are, children learn through observation and socialization and have coined their world view around these practices.
In marriage cycles, the men are the big game winners. Hence, women are expected to ensure the family household functions like a well-oiled machine by caring for the well fare of the children and to disseminate teachings they need to be equipped with for future continuity.
The continuous presence of women in the homes provides the ideal and conducive environment within which such paramount cultural responsibility is disseminated.
Culture decrees that women are meant to be seen and not heard.
Accordingly, for women to be making the major decisions in the House of Parliament is an affront to male hegemony that has been the acceptable norm of practice.
The final reason could be the rebellious attitude of women.
The formation of women empowerment organizations have done women more harm than good.
The call for free seats in parliament is sending women in direct collision with men whom are not prepared to barter their democratic right for a simple walkover.
Men’s view of these organizations is that of tipping the balance in favor of women, something men find it difficult to comprehend and accept easily.
Men expected their women folks to work alongside them in a harmonious partnership and to prove their worth of leadership.
Through such partnership, men would slowly relinquish their grip on their dominance and start accepting women to the highest elected office in the land.
Despite these hindrances, women can still make it to the round house at the top of the hill.
This can happen if women cease being rebellious and bumptious but instead unite with the menfolk as partners in nation building.
This includes women’s willingness to take their seats across the table with the men and equally participate and not seen as anti-men.
The formation of women pressure groups is a threat to men hegemony as it divides instead of unifying.
Accordingly, men will do everything possible to minimize the damage such women movements would do to their status.
A suggestion could be that the push for women empowerment agenda be included in the formal curriculum system of the country.
Education is encompassing of the future generations and the prospect of a change of mentality is almost guaranteed.
Everyone would agree that the mind is a strong human faculty to change overnight.
However, having it taught in the schools would help alleviate the plight of women by changing the mindset of Solomon Islanders to start accepting women as partners in nation building.
If this is not done, women’s chances of an equal political participation will still remain elusive and remote.
By SAMSON SADE