After being let down successively by one government after another, I decided to run for politics to show that things can and should be different. The recent discussion and the parliamentary vote on the so-called gender corrective mechanism has shown how shallow the discussion about women’s rights really is, and how PL and PN only have their own interests at heart. It is for this reason that I am running against them, not with them, even though the gender corrective mechanism puts me at a major disadvantage, since ‘gender’ for PLPN means Nationalist and Labourite women (or men) only. I am doing it on a point of principle, and I will explain why.
First of all, we need women in politics who are actually going to fight for women’s issues and the common interest, and to do so with integrity. Due to the current uneven situation, any woman who is elected has a huge responsibility to set a good example for other women to follow them into politics. It is therefore unfortunate that when you look at our current crop of female politicians, few can serve as role models in Maltese politics today. We can only hang our heads in shame as the behaviour or blatant incompetence of many has made the life of any future female candidate twice as hard as it needs to be. We need women with vision and drive, and who can put their foot down in the face of wrongdoing, and not continue to be led by their male colleagues. Our country is rocked by one scandal after another, and a large part of the problem is the cowardice of those who refuse to speak out, regardless of gender.
So what is the point of encouraging women who cannot think for themselves to enter politics? We need to look at quality and principle, too, not just gender. Right now, the political system encourages and trains women to be subservient to a system which does not work for them. Our broken political system encourages learned helplessness, which reduces women to nothing more than a number, and a target for shallow, condescending policies. For example, the so-called gender corrective mechanism would supposedly balance out the lack of women in politics, but it would only do so in the most superficial way possible. The women who have a shot at power from this mechanism are just going to be a small group of handpicked party loyalists, invited to contest so as to improve the tired, dirty image of the two-party system. Would they really change anything, or just give women a warm, fuzzy feeling because they feel more included?
How can this corrective mechanism be about empowering women, when the only way for them to succeed is to play by the rules of corrupt, unprincipled men? When it is designed to bloat our Parliament by 12 additional MPs and keep the PLPN men, already there, happy and safe? Why are candidates from outside the two-party system excluded? We need to send a message to stop using women as tokens to reaffirm the grip of PLPN on our Parliament, leaving no room for fresh or clear-minded opinions. How are we going to address issues relevant to women, if those women in Parliament today are bowing to the party line and are ignoring the real issues affecting women? With this mechanism, no room is left for any divergent thought. We do not need more yes-women or indeed yes-men in Parliament.
If you want more women in politics, first address the real problems facing female parliamentarians. Make sure that parliamentary meetings are held at family friendly hours, and all Members of Parliament should have serve as full-timers. After all, this is a job which needs the total commitment of the person and they should therefore be paid accordingly. Working remotely could also be an option for all those, of whatever gender, with very young kids. A system of funding should be used to push parties to have gender-balanced candidate lists, or else risk losing funding. Like this, the parties would show that they actually promote female candidates without trampling over the will of the people via mechanisms which only favour the usual parties’ usual suspects. We do not need women taking top-up seats, which seats lack the legitimacy of genuine public support, least of all in a system which discourages candidates with independent thoughts in their heads from contesting. I appeal to my female colleagues in politics to stand up and be counted instead of going along with this charade. Voting for a consistent and progressive third party – ADPD, will send a clear message, because the mechanism will not even take effect if one of us is elected. A vote for us will show PLPN that we are not in awe and afraid of their arrogance, that we do not need their favours and can stand on our own two feet.
ADPD Executive Member