Women in Leadership

A Womans Voice

Bobbi Miller-Moro asked:

“Her voice was ever low, gentle and soft—an excellent thing in woman.” – King Lear.

In history, a women’s voice has been revered in poetry and song. “It is a woman’s voice, sire, which dares to utter what many yearn for in silence.” (unsent letter to Napoleon III re: Victor Hugo) by poet Aurora Leigh.

We know that every culture brings a different set of standards for how women are considered or related to. The United States has been known to lead the way in Women’s Rights. However, in Europe there is also a long history of powerful women creating the road map for the civility of women.

Women have Presidents in developing countries around the world for years, and more are taking the lead in becoming powerful political leaders such as Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf who has been sworn in as Africa’s first elected female leader in Liberia. In Ireland, a little boy asks his mother, “Do you think a man could ever be President?” All his life he has only seen women presidents.

It is inspiring to see how far we have come. However, we still have a ways to go. Women being president in Unites States is not really an issue of women’s rights, but character. When it comes to Hilary Clinton we will be voting on her character and her ability to lead after the election in November 2008. Creating a unified, strong voice and courage, is what our future needs.

Coming from a Danish background, the women in Copenhagen, Denmark are at the fore front, leading the impact of women’s rights. For instance, International Women’s Day, ‘On March 8, 1857, women working in clothing and textile factories in New York City, staged a protest. On March 8, 1908, 15,000 women marched through the streets of New York City demanding shorter work hours, better pay, voting rights to end child labor. Following the declaration of the Socialist Party of America, the first ever National Woman’s Day was celebrated in the United States on February 28, 1909. Women continued to celebrate it on the last Sunday of that month through 1913.

An international conference, held by socialist organizations from around the world, met in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1910. The conference of the Socialist International proposed a Women’s Day which was designed to be international in character. The proposal initially came from Clara Zetkin, a German socialist, who suggested an International Day to mark the strike of garment workers in the United States; as sited on United Nations Cyber School Bus.

The proposal was greeted with unanimous approval by the conference of over 100 women from 17 countries, including the first three women elected to the parliament of Finland. The Day was established to honor the movement for women’s rights, including the right to vote. At that time no fixed date was selected for the observance. Since those early years, International Women’s Day has assumed a new global dimension for women in developed and developing countries alike.

*side refrence?(In December 1977 the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace. Four global United Nations women’s conferences have helped make the demand for women’s rights and participation in the political and economic process a growing reality.

In 1975 the UN drew global attention by having the first conference on women in Mexico City. Another convention was held in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1980. In 1985, the UN convened a third conference on women in Nairobi, Kenya, to look at what had been achieved at the end of the decade. In 1995, Beijing hosted the Fourth World Conference on Women. Representatives from 189 different countries agreed that ‘inequalities between women and men has serious consequences for the well-being of all people.’ (1) )

Finding your voice.

As we mourn for Benazir Bhutto, 54 after her recent horrific assassination on December 27,2007, we reflect on the impact women have in the world right now. Her message was clear, she refused to be quiet and allow extremism to continue to destroy her beloved country, Pakistan. Her heroic stand for democracy has become her legacy. Not all voices have to die and I am here to present a radical yet simple, approach to how to uncover your voice-and be heard, in honor of Bhutto. No matter what country, or what culture, your voice can make a difference.

If it is in your belief that your voice cannot speak for you, or for your children, or the belief that your voice cannot make a difference, this is the heart of the suffrage you may be facing.

Your passions are clear, but do you speak them? Your opinions are valuable, but do you sing them from the roof tops? It is your ‘holding back’, where the change you want to see will not take place. The change you want to see in your life, and in the world around you.

As we remember Bhutto, we remember a valiant, passionate and loving mother. A mother of three children who loved her country of Pakistan so much, she became Prime Minister twice. Bhutto’s persecution began after the dismissal of her father, Prime Minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1977 and his execution by hanging in the city of Rawalpindi. She intensified her denunciations of Zia and sought to organize a powerful political movement against him.

After the hanging of her father, her mission was clear, “I told him on my oath in his death cell, I would carry on his work”, to free the people of Pakistan; once and for all; from the communist and extremist violence that has plagued her country.

Bhutto was born June 21, 1953, in Karachi, Pakistan. Her name means “one without equal.” She was educated at Harvard’s Radcliffe, College in the United States at 16 years old, and at the University of Oxford in England, where she excelled in studies as well as other activities. She was the first Asian woman to be elected president of the Oxford Union, an elite debating society.

In a country which women’s rights, are almost non-existent, and neighboring countries follow cultural and religious beliefs that woman are not supposed to be educated, or work, She has said, “What I really need to ask myself is: do I give up, do I let the militants determine the agenda?”

The “Times” and the “Australian Magazine” (May 4, 1996) have drawn up a list of 100 most powerful women and have included Benazir Bhutto as one of them. This magnetic women, who came out of exile in London after repeatedly being put under house arrest, was finally imprisoned under solitary confinement in a desert cell in Sindh province during the summer of 1981. Released in 1984, she went into exile in Britain until 1986, when martial law was lifted in Pakistan. Bhutto returned with a huge crowd numbering in the hundreds of thousands.

Her supporters turned out on the streets to greet her, when she returned from exile in Britain to Lahore in April of 1986. She was greeted by such large crowds that it took her motorcade 9 ½ hours to travel the 8 miles from the airport to a rally site in Lahore. Formally elected chair in the following month, Bhutto lost no time in organizing mass protests and civil disobedience campaigns to pressure Zia to relinquish office and call national elections.

In an interview with Ann Curry in Feb 22, 2007 for the Today show she so passionately reveals her reasons for coming back. “I have a choice to keep silent, and allow the extremist to do what they are doing or I could stand up and say this is wrong, and I am going to try to save my country. And I have taken the second choice.”

On Oct 2007 Bhutto returns to Pakistan to run for Presidency to free 165 million people from terrorism. On the declaration of a state of emergency in Pakistan on Nov 3rd 2007, she said,

“I believe the solution lies in breaking the nexus, and that m
eans bringing democracy.”

Her followers were in the hundred’s of thousands. Mostly the down trodden and poor, the forgotten and the
severely abused and harassed, Bhutto’s platform has been for the leftist. Including campaigning for food for the hungry, health care, jobs, slum clearance and a monthly minimum wage, she has been opposed by Islamic fundamentalists.

Her voice gave hope where no hope existed. Her words, and her actions pulled generations of Pakistani closer to freedom than they ever seen in history. In the spirit of her not holding back her voice, look to your own power, your own voice, your own ability to make a difference, and let’s explore what does it really take to be heard, and make an impact in the world?

Begin with distinguishing what really matters to you? If anyone messed with what really matters to you, would you let them? Would you stand by and watch? You would probably take a stand, standing up for that someone or that something that you believe in. You would end up doing the right thing…even when it is the toughest thing to do.

Now, even though this article is directed towards women, and their voice…men play close attention. This is for you too. The day to day circumstances of our life keep on happening. How we respond to these circumstances, the words we choose, and coupled with the actions we take, starts with us. No one can do that for you. You can understand your life perfectly by looking at your past, but you can only really live your life by looking forward. Look towards your future, is it one that inspires you?

For Bhutto, the future she saw for herself, her children and the children of Pakistan; she resisted warnings against campaigning, knew and believed she was the best hope to restore democracy. She ultimately sacrificed herself for her country. Madame Albright eloquently spoke of her, “She was a remarkable human being. She knew she was in grave danger when she went back…a great tragedy.”

Bhutto was assassinated in Rawalpindi, the city in which her father was hanged in 1979. The combined bombing and shooting attack that killed her as she left a political rally, standing through the sunroof of her armored car to greet millions of supporters, came as Bhutto organized a series of mass meetings across Pakistan. The majority of her followers saw hope in her, but their hope was taken with her in her assassination in the same town her father was killed in.

Her voice rings loud and clear, especially in the ears of her children. She brought her children up to their teenage years, and before her death; she undoubtedly taught them about the importance of not being silent, not sitting back, and allowing inhuman actions to persist around them. Her first-born son speaks out (from the New York Times, Dec 31st 2007) Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, 19, states; “My mother always said democracy is the best revenge.” After he was chosen to succeed his mother, as leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party.

Powerful Communication

Leaders agree that in their desire to be heard, they would have to listen first. By listening to the points of views of others it is a critical competency for success. Listening to others, and asking for their input, we enhance our leadership abilities. Our effectiveness goes the roof. Why? When we listen to others first, we often discover they are also more open to listen to us. Not to mention, understanding and appreciating other people’s points of view.

Communication in relationships is a skillful art that begins with listening. Listening, and not talking immediately first, will usually have the person you want to make an impact with know that they have been heard. Then, when you speak to that person will be more apt to listen profoundly to you.

When we choose our response, instead of a blind reaction to our circumstances, we gain freedom and power. Our choices may not always be the one’s we like or that we are comfortable with, but at the end of the day we are always learning, growing and expanding.

You will notice that once you start being accountable, and start taking responsibility you are no longer a victim. You are no longer at the mercy of others. Think to yourself, “What part did I play or could have I played to make a difference in this situation?” Really owning your actions or lack of, will not only have you live your life more powerfully, but it is a gift of freedom for yourself and others.

Some simple changes can make the world of a difference. Instead of using the word ‘problem’, for example; try using the word ‘challenge’, or ‘circumstance’ in it’s place. See what happens. I noticed immediately that the ‘problem’ I thought I was having became less daunting and easier to solve when I saw it as an opportunity.

You will start to notice your power in your life. Another great tool is being accountable. It is the greatest freedom that we can create for ourselves.

“Those who enjoy accountability usually get it; those who merely like exercising authority usually lose it.”

– Malcolm Forbes

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