Challenges facing women 128 years after winning the right to vote
Women voting at a polling booth (Anadolu Photo)

New Zealand Ambassador to Turkey: Giving my country the right to vote for the first time was a leap in political empowerment

Many challenges still face women today

  • Malaysian Senator Fazlina Siddik: Empowering women is the only path that leads to a world where everyone is equal

Positive measures and policies must be adopted to ensure the participation of women at all levels of decision-making

  • Former Pakistani legislator Samia Raheel Qazi: Islam gave women their rights 1400 years ago.

Women do not receive sufficient support from the family or society to take an active role in politics.

  • Ahmadiyya Muslim cleric from Qadian, India, Mahmood Fani: First time in history it’s only Islam that protected the rights of women in society. In the pre-Islamic era, women were not treated as a human too. Today, the western world claims its superiority in securing women’s rights but Islam 1400 years ago gave them a path, and hence it’s only Islam that championed women’s rights in society.

Even as the world celebrates the 128th anniversary of women’s first suffrage, some experts and leaders believe that most countries are not yet on track to achieve gender equality in politics.

On September 19, 1893, New Zealand became the first self-governing country in the world to grant women the right to vote in parliamentary elections.

In this regard, New Zealand Ambassador to Turkey Wendy Hinton told The Eastern Herald that “this leap in political empowerment came after one in five women in her country signed a petition demanding their rights.”

“But we know that many challenges still face women today, in New Zealand and around the world,” she added.

It was New Zealand’s first step in writing history to grant suffrage to half the world’s population.

Women’s Empowerment

“A world with balanced gender representation is a better, safer and more prosperous world,” said Hinton, adding: “This topic will remain vital in a world where many people still assume that people in high-ranking positions (even ambassadors) should be men”.

In this context, Malaysian Senator Fazelina, said that empowering women is “the only path that leads towards a world where everyone is equal.”

“Voting is a necessary step to make sure that our voices are heard, especially in vulnerable, marginalized and discriminated communities,” added Siddiq, who is also a lawyer and activist in the field of women’s and children’s rights.

And she considered that “it is wrong to say that women were given the right to vote, but that women won this right, went out in marches, starved, and fought, and it took decades before they got the right to vote.”

Leadership positions

“All ages and genders have benefited from having women in leadership positions, with both genders being represented in parliament, the workplace, universities, boards of directors, and in all decision-making bodies,” Hinton said.

“Women’s participation has helped enact better laws, produce more enduring art, literature and music, create more sustainable peace agreements, provide more accurate media coverage, and provide medical advice and scientific research,” she added.

“This means greater protection for women, children and families, which is essential in the fight against gender-based violence,” Hinton added.

Representation of women in Parliament

Last March, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, a global organization of national parliaments, noted in its latest annual report on women in politics that “the world is not on track to achieve gender equality in politics by 2030.”

However, the report added that the number of women in parliament was “steadily increasing”.

“The global rate of women in parliament is now 25.5 percent, reaching more than a quarter for the first time in history,” said Martin Chogung, Secretary-General of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, according to the report.

However, Chogong lamented that the current pace of women entering parliaments is “slow and arduous,” adding, “At this rate, it will take another 50 years before we can achieve gender parity in parliament, and of course this is unacceptable.”

In this context, Hinton said, “Achieving equal representation of women and men can lead to equality in all other areas of life,” adding: “This is important not only for women but for everyone.”

The New Zealand ambassador stated that her country “has so far had 3 women as prime ministers, including the current prime minister, Jacinda Ardern.

The ambassador noted that the three female prime ministers “belong to different political parties, but they played pioneering roles in building a more equal society among New Zealanders.”

The small African nation of Rwanda is currently leading the way for the proper representation of women in Parliament.

Islam and women

Samia Rahil Qazi, a former Pakistani legislator, told The Eastern Herald that “Islam gave women these rights 1,400 years ago.”

However, challenges remain in many societies, including Pakistan, where “women do not receive sufficient support from the family or society to take an active role in politics or economic progress,” according to Qazi.

“My religion has given me this right 1,400 years ago,” added Qazi, who represented the Jamaat-e-Islami, the largest social, political and religious organization in Pakistan, under the dome of Parliament from 2002 to 2007.

She stated that she “has never been excluded or discriminated against in Parliament or her party because she is a woman MP.”

Qazi said her party “presented to Parliament a detailed agenda consisting of 5 points for the Charter of Women’s Rights”.

And she continued, “In addition to women’s rights, security and protection, the party has also lobbied for education, health and justice, and those rights that Islam gives but society does not grant to women.”

However, she noted, “Pakistani women are still weak, and this is the biggest challenge in empowering them.”

Representation at all levels

Siddiq pointed out that “women’s voices in Malaysia are still not heard, and their contributions are often marginalized.”

“All levels of government, and cross-sectoral ministries need to adopt positive measures and policies to ensure women’s participation in all levels of decision-making,” she added.

For her part, Hinton emphasized that “significant transformations and new solutions are still needed to remove structural barriers, and ensure that no woman or girl is left behind.”

She noted that there is a need to “examine ways in which we can remove barriers and accelerate progress toward gender equality, with the participation of leaders, entrepreneurs, and equality activists.”


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