Saturday, January 14, 2006

A Woman in the White House?

In the Boston Globe today, Laura Bush predicted that there will be a female president.
She made these remarks during a CNN interview where she was discussing being part of a delegation to visit Liberia which just elected its first female president, in fact the first in the entire African continent. I've included the new Liberian President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's profile below:

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (born October 29, 1938) will be the next the President of Liberia. Her victory was formally announced by the Liberian elections commission on 23rd November 2005 following the 2005 election. She is the first elected female President of an African country. Her Vice President will be Joseph Boakai.

Educated at Harvard, Johnson Sirleaf became involved in government when she became Assistant Minister of Finance in President William Tolbert's administration in 1970. While running for Senate in 1985, she spoke out against the military regime, and was sentenced to ten years in prison. Released after a short period, she left in exile and returned in 1997 in the capacity of an economist, working for the World Bank, and Citibank in Africa.

Initially supporting Charles Taylor's rebellion against Sergeant Samuel Doe, she later went on to oppose him, and ran against him in the 1997 presidential elections. She managed only 10% of the votes, as opposed to Taylor's 75%. Taylor charged her with treason. She campaigned for the removal of President Taylor from office, playing an active and supportive role in the transitional government, as the country prepared itself for the 2005 elections. With Taylor's departure, she returned to take over the leadership of the Unity Party.

In the first round of 2005 voting, she came second with 175,520 votes, putting her through to the runoff vote on November 8 against former footballer George Weah. On November 11th, the National Elections Commission of Liberia declared Johnson-Sirleaf to be President-elect of Liberia. On November 23rd they confirmed their decision saying that Johnson Sirleaf had won with a margin of almost 20% of the vote. Weah is currently awaiting the results of the inquiry by the National Elections Commission concerning his allegations of fraud. However, independent international, regional, and domestic observers have all declared the vote to be free, fair and transparent. Ms. Johnson Sirleaf is the mother of four sons and has six grandchildren.

Germany also met its own gender equality milestone when Angela Merket became its first female Chancellor.

Profile: Angela Merkel
Angela Merkel
Mrs Merkel could forge closer ties with Washington

Christian Democratic Union (CDU) leader Angela Merkel has become Germany's first woman chancellor, despite only scraping a victory in the 18 September election.
You can read the entire profile here.

While it remains to be seen what the election of these two women on two separate continents will mean for their own nations, the significance of their elections cannot be missed by Baha'is who view the establishment of the equality of women and men as a fundamental prerequisite for world peace. In the 1985 statement, The Promise of World Peace, the Universal House of Justice which is the international governing body of the Baha'i Faith made the following statement:

The emancipation of women, the achievement of full equality between the sexes, is one of the most important, though less acknowledged prerequisites of peace. The denial of such equality perpetrates an injustice against one half of the world's population and promotes in men harmful attitudes and habits that are carried from the family to the workplace, to political life, and ultimately to international relations. There are no grounds, moral, practical, or biological, upon which such denial can be justified. Only as women are welcomed into full partnership in all fields of human endeavour will the moral and psychological climate be created in which international peace can emerge.

As other nations take steps toward welcoming women into the highest levels of leadership, it will be interesting to see how long it takes the United States to do the same and how this might contribute to the "moral and psychological climate" in which the peace so many of us desire must emerge. Mrs. Bush, I hope your prediction is correct.