Women in politics in the state of misfortune?!


Mr.sc. Nuna Zvizdić, Sarajevo, June, 2020

As I try to use the time in isolation and accept being locked up in a house, abolishing the usual way of life, giving up work, friendly relationships, I think about the valuable contribution of the female experience to public action in impossible conditions. I see this as an important record of the presence of women politicians regarding the changes caused by COVID 19 and very much about the well-being of women.

Women activists and women politicians have always been connected. Even the strictest rules could not prevent actions against oppression, discrimination, neglect of women. They based their cooperation on the promotion of gender equality from a human rights perspective and the political empowerment of women. Knowledge and skills have been constantly developed and passed down through the generations. The female minority in NGOs was able and willing to mobilize the resources of political organizations and institutions to increase the number of women in politics. The gender quota (30%, 40%) defined by law, is only a temporary measure until the realization of parity of candidates on the electoral lists.

The fact is that we faced a threat serious enough that forced us to drastically change our way of life. Social distancing has become a necessity. The crisis caused by the COVID 19 pandemic forced us to a total reset. Almost overnight, life stalled. Work has moved from the office to the home environment. This crisis is not as catastrophic as the war, but it will have far-reaching consequences in all areas of life. Women are particularly hard hit.

There were wars, political crises, protests and natural disasters, but life for many of us was “normal”, it did not stop. We could move in public, take responsibility and initiate change, socialize. Today, when movement is limited and social distancing is mandatory and when women are repeatedly affected by the negative consequences of a pandemic, we must stop walking like eggs and propose and adopt a Strategy to strengthen women’s resilience to cope with these “pandemic” challenges as soon as possible. This is not a new document, but part of the Strategy for the Empowerment of Women for Political and Public Life, which has been implemented in B&H since 1996 and is a mandatory part of education programs and action plans designed and implemented by all actors dealing with women’s rights and gender equality. Including NGOs, political organizations, institutional mechanisms, and international organizations.

Why are the responses of women politicians, expected and conceivable in such situations, still missing

The first thing that comes to my mind is the unwillingness or inability of women politicians to accept the call of activists and to mobilize resources of political organizations, institutions and civil society organizations in a state of emergency and demand drastic changes in both the system and society. I think they are missing two important advantages that are unlikely to reappear soon. The first advantage is to change the behavior of citizens in a very short time. The second concerns the willingness of political leaders to work together and act against the threat posed by coronavirus, despite all the weaknesses, chaos and disagreements between the three national policies. The reasons for the silence or “confusing responses” of most invited women politicians to take part in this small survey may be identified later in this text.

I believed that a “qualitative” change in B&H was possible if the number of women in political organizations increased. When the percentage of women in political organizations exceeded 30% I expected a change in political culture, discourse and public policies. I also had a burning hope that women politicians would be productive and successful in representing the “women’s” issue. I expected that through their work, women would change the political culture of the organization to which they belong, which would change the reaction of men in that political organization towards women in the long run. If that happened, the reaction of the public to a woman politician would change, and more importantly, we would have parity representation on the electoral lists and in the distribution of seats. Gender quotas as a measure of protection against the under-representation of women in politics would not be necessary. Finally, the power of women would increase.

Expectations are one thing and the reality of women’s politics is another. This crisis has shown all the political turmoil in B&H. In political organizations, women make up more than half of the membership, but for a larger number of women, the political process has not improved. “Critical Mass”women could not change political culture, discourse and public policies. Changes are possible when this “critical mass” politically active undertakes a “critical act”, ie. be ready and able to act to improve the situation for themselves and women first in the political organization, then in parliament, the community, the public in general.

Women’s politics in B&H, if it exists at all, suffers from a large gender gap and a chronic lack of political literacy. The entry of women into politics is very fast. The reasons are different and are mainly from the need to survive and not from the interest of political awareness of the situation not only of women but also of men with whom we share both private and public space. The entry of women into power is very slow. It is more of an incident than a rule.

Women’s rights are not yet equal with “human rights”, ie the rights that men have appropriated and are exercising. The consequences of this are underrepresentation in political life, underpayment for the work they do in relation to men, abuse, discrimination, exclusion of women.

Women politicians who are constantly questioning their abilities and possibilities in this uncertain political scene (they are a real rarity, and therefore precious to me), have a critical review and below I bring some of their thoughts: “Although much has been done so far on gender equality and rights women, there is still a lot of room for their progress”. “Legal equality in terms of the right to vote has made it easier for women to enter politics, but the door does not automatically open for their participation in government.” “Women’s political participation is constantly being challenged and difficult to achieve.” “Although various declarations have made women’s rights an integral part of human rights, the reality is different. In order to make progress in the field of women’s rights, women should first be educated in order to become acquainted with the rights guaranteed to them by the Constitution and international law. ”  “I would like our representation to become a necessity, not a legal imperative.” “Unfortunately, women still have subordinate roles in the parties, are placed in secondary positions and are most lacking at the top of the hierarchy.” “It is not enough to launch two or three new faces here and there in the elections and thus” wash your hands “of the issue of women’s representation in politics.” “Women are very interested in politics, in discussions about the quality of life, in solutions that will mean better education for all children, better and cheaper public transport, more funding for NGOs for people with disabilities and others, for better health, social benefits that include maternity benefits, child allowance, protection from domestic violence, for example… ”. “Not every woman in” high “politics brings change for the benefit of women, society in general, just as not every man brings it.” “Parties should stop populist slogans about women when it benefits them and allow women to take the positions they deserve.”

These considerations give hope that parity representation is possible, although the road to it is still very long.

In the new context, it is difficult to hear a polite, caring and common sense response to the virus from ruling politicians and leaders. Every day in their statements, which are often incompetent, disoriented and full of egoism, they spread panic and fear. We are informed by politics, not the profession. Unfortunately, we are not a society that knew how to deal with this crisis. Almost overnight, we faced a “dramatic crisis” that stopped life in all segments.

The consequences are severe, we will be putting together a mosaic of damages for years

B&H is a deeply polarized state, led by weak governments that have not worked in the best interests of their citizens and peoples for the last thirty years. We live in a decade-long fundamentalism of nationalist policies that keeps us constantly in a social and political crisis, on the brink of a new war

There was no cooperation between different levels of government, we conducted tests slowly, and we did not monitor the situation and in time isolated parts of municipalities, cantons and entities affected by the infection. Therefore, we could not even see how quickly the infection would spread, and then we could not even predict timely responses in the field of health and economy.

That humanitarian aid in B&H also has a key to distribution, we were convinced through a text by Jozo Pavković, published on the portal Thebosniatimes:

“Although they themselves are affected by the crisis, America, Russia, Europe, China, Islamic countries and neighbors Croatia and Serbia are sending their shipments to B&H. Some distribute them according to the national, others according to the civil key. A lot of medical supplies arrived. Still, there is a lack of ones to heal society. The invisible enemy has long since destroyed all those good intentions of other states. National bh. the virus is stronger than all world and domestic powers. it even threatens to infect this humanitarian aid with the virus of division, which will cause three B&H people and in the future to have an even greater social (national) distance. The herd immunity to such a disease has long been created. “

Experts point out that the Coronavirus pandemic will affect budgets in B&H at all levels. The report “COVID-19, economic consequences for B&H, measures and solutions” made by economists for the Friedrich Naumann Sarajevo Foundation (the foundation was founded by the German Liberal Party FDP – editor’s note) states that to remedy the negative consequences in 2020 alone, two billion convertible marks (one billion euros) will be needed.

Healthcare, although on the first line of defense against the virus, is facing a lot of problems. It is not known who prescribes the algorithms (clear presentation of the current rights of patients and healthcare professionals in their application) and who is in charge of the correct implementation. It is not known who can procure the necessary medical equipment, so we witness numerous criminal frauds and frauds in the field of public procurement almost every day. WHO recommendations on testing as many citizens as possible are not being followed. The capacity of the public health sector to test for viruses cannot meet real needs. Hospitals have almost stopped providing services to patients who are not infected with the virus.

About 28,000 workers in the Federation of B&H (FB&H) and about 2,000 workers in the Republic Srpska (RS) have lost their jobs since mid-March 2020, when emergency measures were intensified in B&H to prevent the spread of coronavirus infection.

The most endangered is the service industry. Catering, trade, but also processing were particularly affected. The workers of small and medium enterprises were mostly hit. Concrete measures are being delayed, especially in the Federation of B&H entity. Many craft shops, small and medium enterprises, were closed.

Authorities at the time of the coronavirus pandemic want to change the Labor Law and please employers to introduce the institute of waiting and so that employers can unilaterally send workers on vacation or make decisions about reducing working hours. Large companies will recover easier and faster, but small companies and trades will not. Fear of disease will continue to be present, and this will be reflected in caterers, tourism workers, taxi drivers and so on. And a large number of people in our country work on these jobs.

The rate of domestic violence increased during this period of confinement, because it is easiest to divert aggression, to redirect it to those who are innocent, and at the same time powerless. And these are usually family members who either can’t or don’t want to reciprocate. Stress, alcohol consumption and financial difficulties are considered triggers for domestic violence, and the quarantine measures introduced will increase all three. Social distancing and self-isolation are used as weapons of coercion and control of behavior by the perpetrator, thus closing all “exits” to security and support.

What could we learn from others?

Many developed countries in Europe and the world have observed the crises so far from a distance, and participated in them only remotely, through appeals, donations and declarations. Now the crisis is in their states as well and is changing their lives. The coronavirus has shown the best and the worst in political leaders. They were all facing the same test, and each performed it in their own way. The best results were shown by countries (New Zealand, Taiwan, Germany, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Norway) in which women were in the leading positions. Instead of aggressive messages from their male counterparts, women simultaneously controlled the spread of the coronavirus and maintained peace and security guided by scientific indicators, empathy, and cooperation.

Why are women better, and men worse in crisis solving?

There is currently no such sociopolitical research, but there are some earlier study conclusions. Abigail Post, a professor of national security and political science at Indiana University, said women are better at resolving the crisis because it is difficult for them to reach a leadership position in the beginning, and once they reach it they have to constantly prove themselves. It is seen as soft and weak during the crisis, which makes them stronger and more determined, ” she said.

Women, once in power, seek more expert advice and act with empathy. Mc Kinsey’s study confirmed that men in power are more confident in their own abilities. This does not mean that women have less self-confidence but they develop a wide network of counselors to help them succeed.

Dr. Abbie Griffith Oliver, an assistant professor at the University of Georgia who researches how men react to women leaders, assumes that the public is more willing to accept women as leaders in the context of health and caring for people.

There have also been studies of cortisol levels in men and women in stressful situations. They are significantly higher in men, which means that women will make less risky decisions during the crisis, and more often those thoughtful and data-based ones.

A recent Forbes report divided women’s leadership techniques during the crisis into four categories. Among them are: truth, determination, technology and love. All the leaders had in common a clear and truthful presentation of facts and data, which developed trust. At the very beginning, Merkel calmly said that this was a serious disease that would infect 70 percent of the population: “take it seriously.” The prime minister of the small Caribbean country of Saint Martin, Silveria Jacobs, also immediately told her citizens to “stop moving” and prepare for the arrival of a hurricane. The leaders decisively, clearly and quickly took the necessary isolation measures. Love and empathy is something that everyone had in common. Solberg, for example, held a press conference for children only, explaining why it was “okay to feel scared.”

What can we do after the pandemic?

As much as this crisis is global and long-lasting, economic and medical, it also offers an opportunity or opportunities.

The UN Agency for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment has drawn attention to the great vulnerability of women in the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the media reported. She called on governments to take a gender perspective into account when planning a response to the crisis and to enable strategies to strengthen women’s resilience in a situation where they are repeatedly affected by the negative consequences of a pandemic. Globally, 70 percent of women work in the health and social sectors, which is why they are repeatedly exposed to the infection and the negative consequences of the pandemic.

“As world stock markets fall, schools and universities close, we stockpile at home, and our homes become a space where there is additional pressure, it is clear that it is a matter of health and much more. This pandemic is a big shock to our societies and economy, but it also reveals to us the weaknesses of our business and private relationships that only work when women have multiple and unpaid roles in them, ”Mlambo-Ngcuka, UNWOMEN’s executive director, said.

We need to start political literacy urgently. More than 80% of the population is politically illiterate. Political illiteracy has infected almost everyone.

Bertol Brecht said: “The worst of all illiteracy is political illiteracy. A politically illiterate person does not hear, does not speak, does not participate in political events. It does not know that the cost of living: the price of beans, fish, flour, rent, shoes, medicine, depends on political decisions. A politically illiterate person is so blinded that proudly says he hates politics. That person does not know that prostitution, abandoned children and worst of all thieves are born out of his political ignorance — bad politicians, corrupt and bribed by local and multinational companies.”

Encourage journalists to put their texts under scrutiny and examine gender equality in their texts, in order to determine that they themselves contribute to a system in which a woman’s voice is less valuable.

“I believe that the task of journalists is not just to convey what is happening in the world. Journalists also have a special kind of responsibility, because they shape society, ”says Jong.

This could be the first pandemic to include gender and gender differences in all research, taking into account respondents, researchers and policy makers. Policymakers still embrace a gender-neutral approach to pandemics. For too long, politicians have accepted that caring for children and the elderly can be “done” by unemployed citizens, mostly women. The true extent of that female unpaid work, this pandemic should finally reveal.

Opportunities for collecting high-quality data that will be useful for the future should also not be missed. For example, we have little data on how coronavirus-like viruses affect pregnant women, women with cancer and mental illness, poor women, unemployed women, women who have lost their jobs.

If we do not have an immediate response to solidarity, a “worsening virus of selfish indifference” awaits us, threatening to exclude and isolate from recovery many social groups such as migrants, the homeless, the Roma, the LGB.

The virus, which is both pathogenic and political, can lead us to conflict, hatred, vulnerability and disenfranchisement in these emergencies if we do not deny policymakers the “opportunity” to determine our identities and not ourselves, we learned that lesson in the war .

The narrative of seduction, naive, gullible, manipulated people, that is, peoples, is an integral part of a patriarchal, collectivist culture that does not recognize personal responsibility.

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