By Nita Chicooree-Mercier
Independence Day in March is a key event at national level, and Women’s International Day is undoubtedly of paramount importance to assess the emancipation of women from the shackles of underdevelopment and male overlordship.
Feminists and pen-pushers in the Mauritian press hint at gender-based violence as one of the main scourges undermining society, and for reasons best known to themselves in recent years, browse the internet and pick on mediatized cases in India to illustrate their points on crimes against women. True enough, the biggest democracy in the world does not get hysterical over the dark side of its ‘image’ projected by feminists and journalists in small countries, and is far too tolerant and mature to utter threats to all and sundry.
Women in Politics. Pic -B.Pac
As things stand, several young women lost their lives in horrendous circumstances in crimes committed by husbands and male partners during the last year in Mauritius. Plenty of subject matter to ponder on and assess the causes, an in-depth time-consuming analysis which sociologists and specialists in the behavioural pattern of male-female relationships are certainly working upon.
We should not focus on half-full glasses, should we? Women are doing remarkably well in several areas ranging from aeronautics and medicine to the highest spheres of international finance. A female scientist from an eastern European country played a pivotal role in the development of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine in the US two years ago. Right now, an Indian-origin woman is posted at the top of the IMF and decides which bankrupt failed state can be bailed out or not in south Asia.
Women in politics
Undeniably, there are too few of them in a highly male-dominated sphere of power struggle across the world. The Prime Ministers of New Zealand and South Korea were lauded for the management of the Covid pandemic in 2020. Rightly so, to some extent, so was the Mauritian government’s handling of Covid, by the way. However, the South Korean PM was accused of being involved in a corruption scam. In the long run, the kiwi PM resigned because on her own admission she felt that she had no more by way of ideas to tackle the various issues facing the country. Breast-feeding in Parliament and the hugging and kissing at tragic events may reap positive image in the media, but it requires much more competence and backbone to lead a country.
The point is that the public should be equally demanding as regards the leadership qualities of both women and men in the efficient and responsible governance of a country’s affairs. The core issue cannot be a matter of gender or woke-inspired choice of minorities and all to please populist politicians of all hues and noisy voices rising from the populace on social media. Rishi Sunak was not chosen by his peers because of his handsome face or his foreign origin; he was chosen because he was the only one who could handle the steering wheel of the UK at that time and save the seats of the Tories in the process.
We certainly do not need a doll-like politician like Liz Truss to head the government of Mauritius, only to be finally told off that you do not rule a country with fairy tales or friendly smiles, or media-fabricated close-to-the-people image. We certainly need female politicians like Suella Braverman (though we may not agree with her admiration for the Brutish Empire!), Priti Patel and like-minded counterparts in Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, to name a few, women with a backbone and strong ideas for conducting policies.
Adding female mediocrity to male mediocrity just enhances general mediocracy in Parliament. Giving 30-year-old inexperienced men and women MPs brand new cars with personified plate numbers and drivers is totally insane, indecent and irresponsible. It is an insult to the intelligence of the public and the struggles of more than half of the population to live decently. Some MPs half-listen to whoever is holding the floor, one female MP was seen consulting her mobile phone all the time while the Assembly was in session.
Are we looking at the half-full glass? There were and there still are bright politicians who have been holding key posts in successive governments alongside their less gifted peers. A fairly smart female politician in the pre-2014 team was assigned to secretarial duties and an overall insignificant part by her leader. Conversely, a few years back, a female minister had the backbone to carry out reforms in the field of education, which former ministers kept dithering about.
All in all, the doom and gloom predicted by a British economist and V.S. Naipaul did not happen. Mauritius is still overcrowded, but had the highest literacy rate at the time of Independence compared to all of Africa. Amid despair, folks harboured hope for the future. Despite being rich in natural resources, post-colonial African countries lagged behind for many reasons: foreign intervention and lobbies in controlling African resources, puppet dictators propped up by former colonial powers, corrupt leaders and low motivation to work for the general welfare of the population.
Progressive post-colonial countries have been led by patriotic leaders with long-term vision for their country and lofty ambitions for the general upliftment of the population. Alas some of them helped themselves along the way with kickbacks and hefty ‘commissions’ which they thought they deserved as reward for paving the way to economic progress.
Where does Mauritius stand? Should we rather compare with smart islands like Singapore and Hong Kong?
Over several decades Mauritius has changed beyond recognition. The 1999 social unrest led to a more inclusive policy to bring marginalized sections of the public into the mainstream economy. Living conditions have greatly improved for the population. despite the Covid pandemic and Ukraine war, which have significantly impacted negatively the economy, tourism is now back on the right track and the export industry is picking up.
However the issue of talented young adults in technology, science and engineering not obtaining the right jobs locally appears to be of scant interest to political parties and the media. They are much more engaged in a permanent political campaign, speculating and betting on future political alliances.
Political science is taught at the University of Mauritius, but there are no degree holders in this field in politics. Why do doctors and lawyers take to politics instead of doing their jobs should be a relevant topic of discussion. Economic power is still in the hands of the 1% who reigned in colonial times. Can the media raise the issue?
Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 10 March 2023
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