In follow-up to yesterday's posting to challenge women to think about running for office, I've found a great interview with Ruby Dhalla who became a member of the Canadian Parliament, despite overcoming obstacle that would have deterred many from even trying.
For further inspiration, please join me tonight for "Big Strides, Diverse Paths: Women’s Journeys to Political Leadership", a panel discussion with some of today's leading ladies in elected office and leadership. Details below:
"Big Strides, Diverse Paths: Women’s Journeys to Political Leadership"
Thursday, March 5
William G. McGowan Theater
(Enter via the Special Events Entrance on 7th and Constitution)
Eleanor Clift, weekly panelist on The McLaughlin Group and author of
Madam President, moderates a panel of women who have come from a
variety of backgrounds, represent different levels of political
activity, and have played leadership roles in politics.
Mazie Hirono, U.S. Congresswoman, D-HI
Grace Napolitano, U.S. Congresswoman, D-CA
Madeleine Kunin, former Governor of Vermont and author of Pearls, Politics, and Power
Jennette Bradley, former Lieutenant Governor of Ohio
Marsha Blackburn, U.S. Congresswoman, R-TN
Presented in partnership with the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts Boston’s McCormack Graduate School. Generously supported by the William G. McGowan Charitable Fund, Inc.
Q&A: "Women Leaders Have to Be Tougher and Stronger Than Men"
Nergui Manalsuren interviews RUBY DHALLA, Canadian MP Ruby Dhalla
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 5 (IPS) - Ruby Dhalla, a Liberal member of Canada's Parliament, is also a community activist, doctor, and one of the leading progressive voices in North American politics today.
Born and raised in Winnipeg to a family originally from Punjab, India, she has championed the causes of women, young people, immigrants and Native Canadians, as well as her country's role in the global arena for democracy, peace and humanitarian relief efforts.
Dhalla is part of the International Knowledge Network of Women in Politics (iKNOW Politics), a joint project by the U.N. and other international agencies with the aim of increasing the participation and effectiveness of women in political life by creating an online workspace where women connect with one another.
"iKNOW is an incredible forum to bring together women from throughout the world to share experiences, to share knowledge, to be able to identify, to mentor, and recruit women, and, I hope through this network women can connect with each other, and continue to believe, to achieve, and to succeed in their goals," Dhalla said in an interview with IPS correspondent Nergui Manalsuren at U.N. headquarters, where she is attending the 53rd session of the two-week Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).
Excerpts from the interview follow.
IPS: You’re the first South Asian woman to be elected to federal parliament in the western world and were subsequently re-elected twice. What does that mean for you?
RD: I was very blessed to have a great generation of women leaders and men that have broken many barriers for someone like me. There are many challenges that one continues to encounter. There are many struggles and sacrifices, many other barriers that I know are broken down every day.
When I see a young six-year-old girl from a cultural community, a young girl of colour, I look at her when she says to me that she wants to be a prime minister one day, I know that all the barriers, struggles, hardships that I happened to go through are worth it and the most glorifying experience is to be able to hear and to see these young children believing in themselves.
IPS: What obstacles have you faced as a woman?
RD: In my case, being a young woman, being a female, and being from my cultural community are fitting into three minority groups. Women’s participation in politics traditionally is not something that a woman of culture, a woman of colour is brought up to believe in.
I was very blessed to have a very supportive mother who really encouraged me to break down those types of traditional stereotypes that people have of what women should and should not do. I really hope moving forward that the issues that impact women are no longer going to be marginalised, every issue whether in regards to foreign policy, the economy, and strategies on how to deal with violence and terrorism, these are issues that are important to women just as issues of child care and health care. The issues, challenges and barriers that women face in politics are many, but you must be strong, you must have a vision, and you must always have a thick skin.
IPS: In your opinion, how does sexism affect women leaders’ performance? And how should they deal with it?
RD: Women have to be tougher, women have to be stronger, and women have to believe a lot harder in their vision, and it is incredibly important to surround yourself with pillars of strength whether it’s your family or close friends. Also, to really have that belief and confidence in yourself that if you have a dream regardless of whatever the barriers are that we going to go out there and you’re going to do it because if there is a will, there’s always a way.
IPS: Based on your experience, what is the best way to get ahead in politics for women?
RD: Work hard, work hard, work hard. Make sure you have a great team. The benchmark of women achieving is a lot higher than it is for men, that’s why you put your nose to the ground, and work hard from the bottom up.
IPS: What do you think the United Nations should do to bridge the gap between men and women on decision-making positions?
RD: I would hope that moving forward, the U.N. has a tremendous role to play in bringing women together throughout the world because even though women from different parts of the world, different communities, villages may share different journeys, may have different stories, there’s a common vision and a common goal and hope to strive for equality.
And to empower women, empower those who are struggling to be heard. And, it is incredibly important to unite the common sense of purpose to establish mentorship programmes, to establish programmes that will bring women together, but also to identify, train, and recruit, and to mentor women.
And to ensure that political parties do the same as well, to get more women candidates, to get more women elected, because when women are at the table - whether you’re elected or not - I can tell you it raises the level of debate and the outcome of the decisions.