by student contributor Laura Kilbury
On July 30 at The Elliott School, women and men rose early in the morning to be a part of the Empowering Women through Political Participation & Empowering Politics through Women’s Participation conference hosted by The Global Gender Program.
The panelists who spoke at the conference were leaders in their field of academia and practice. The conference was honored to host panelists: Homa Hoodfar from the University of Concordia, Rosalyn Cooperman from the University of Mary Washington, Theresa Reidy from University College Cork, Maryam Batool from Lahore College for Women University, Mona Tajali from University of Oxford, Loubna H. Skalli from American University, Gretchen Bauer from University of Delaware, Uzma Ashiq Khan from Lahore College for University Women, Katsuo Nishikawa Chaves from Trinity University, Toni Michelle C. Travis from George Mason University, Kanisha Bond from University of Maryland, Zille Zahra Naqvi from Lahore College for Women University, and Jane Henrici from George
The conference concerned a wide variety of topics and several different contexts and point of views. The panelists discussed politics in a broad and gendered lens rather than that of its narrow tunnel of “power” relations. All the panelists brought ideas and conclusions to the table that gave breath to the trends, histories, present realities, and futures of women in political activity at all levels and platforms. With diverse topics that ranged from there were many channels of thought in the conference, however, all panelists came to the same end of “What did work?”
The conference provided a forum for questions. And just as the presentations were thought provoking the questions were a mirror to that continuum. “Why…”
Why are we not there? How can we get there? Raising the better question as to what is there and exactly how far away it is?
Questions such as, “Giving the barriers in sub Saharan Africa- why do you think those countries have overcome those barriers and in the United States- why have we not had a female president?” or “We want men to support women- how do we get men to be more supportive?”
In response to the question on male support, Mona Tajali, who presented, Feminist Party Ideology and Women’s Political Representation: The Case of Turkey’s People’s Democratic Party (HDP), shared Selahattin Demirtas’s quote during a national when asked who the woman, Figen Yoksedat, (Turkish official co- chair) was standing next to him. “She does not stand next to me, but I stand next to her.” Statements like this, are vital for keeping the dialogue alive and thriving on the importance of women empowerment in the realm of politics.
Homa Hoodfar, the Keynote Address speaker, said it best, “Even if the picture is not pretty we cannot afford to be discouraged.”
The day’s event was brought to a close by Susan Markham, Senior Coordinator for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment at USAID. This was Markham’s second year providing closing thoughts on GGP’s summer conference. Markham briefly detailed her path into politics and her continued focus on women and gender. There is no country that has finished improving women’s empowerment and gender equality, rather all countries still have work to do to ensure a level playing field.
The Global Gender Program would like to thank all the panelists and participants in the conference. Your ideas and questions from presenter to the questioner provided a space of ideas and discussion that is vital for the continuation of empowering women.