Our History

Colombian Women Zoom Ahead in Politics

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Unlike U.S. women, Colombian women have made great strides in the political arena in a short period of time, says Barbara Frechette in the book "Sharing Power." In this excerpt, she compares this progression to the one in the United States.

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22 Demands

The Colombian Women's Union's first demand was for a peaceful resolution of Colombia's internal war between its Liberal and Conservative parties. Its second demand was for women's voting rights. The next 20 demands are many of the rights the world's feminists sought, and are still seeking today.

When Arboleda returned to Colombia in 1957, she was just in time to witness the success of efforts she had spearheaded to win voting rights for women. Soon after, she became her country's first national senator.

Meanwhile in the United States, women were beginning to feel trapped and stifled in restrictive domestic roles and their resentment found voice in Betty Friedan's 1963 book, "The Feminine Mystique." The resultant National Organization of Women was created to fight for rights that were equal to those enjoyed by males in the United States, and from it, U.S. women's-rights feminism was born.

Many U.S. women believed they had been pushed backward into patriarchal, Victorian roles and they determined escape from patriarchy depended on women's economic progress in the labor market.

Focusing on paid employment as their equalizer, the majority of U.S. women joined the labor force and steadily narrowed the salary gap in wide sectors of the labor market. By focusing most of their attention on economic equality, they greatly increased their economic power in the United States, but by not paying enough attention to bridging their cultural, political and religious differences, they have slowed their political empowerment.

Should U.S. women unite to solve problems that affect them all, leaving out religious, ideological and political issues (that divide them and can never be solved politically), they would eliminate the roadblocks that prohibit the development of the strong female voting bloc they need to elect women as presidents as often as they elect men.

Barbara Frechette has a bachelor's degree in journalism from Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., and advanced studies in economics and journalism from American University and the University of Maryland. Accompanying her husband in his 35-year foreign service career, she was editor of the American Foreign Service Women's Newsletter and published an article about the role of the foreign service spouse in the American Foreign Service Journal.

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For more information:

Buy the book, "Sharing Power: Colombia's Dramatic Surge of Women Leaders":
http://www.powells.com/partner/34289/biblio/9781462010974?p_ti

Barbara Frechette's site:
http://barbarafrechette.authorsxpress.com/

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Very interesting article, but I was dismayed to read this sentence:

"In the 1940s, even though U.S. women successfully assumed jobs
normally held by men during World War II, they happily returned to
their domestic roles at the end of the war."

There were many U.S. women who were not happy to go home. The Rosie the Riveter documentary shows the major public relations campaign the U.S. government embarked on to get women to go home so their factory jobs could be taken over by the returning men. I'll never forget the film clip in that documentary in which a white-coated female psychologist is dictating an article about how truly femine women will want to go home and make babies. As if she would leave her own job!

African -American women particularly did not want to leave the factories because they had few options apart from domestic service jobs. And there were women in the military who simply refused to leave, despite major efforts to get them out, because those were the best paying jobs they ever had. Their refusal to leave was the origin of DACOWITS, the Defense Department Committee on Women in the Services, created in the 1950s to figure out what to do with the women who wouldn't leave.

Lynn Hecht Schafran
Director
National Judicial Education Program
Legal Momentum

Thank you. A profound and comprehensive insight into the long-range challenges and what to target for success. Very nice work, and very inspiring!
-- Vermont

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