Mao Zedong was right when he said that women made up half of the sky, but there still seems to be such few women playing in the political realm throughout the world. However, in South Asia, there is an interesting paradox of South Asian women as political leaders of their country. Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan, Indira Gandhi of India and Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma, have ( or had) followers around the world, supporting their every move. Many of their followers are men.
These women prove to be paradoxes; in a world where women do not hold the same level as men, these women are leaders of their countries- proven to beat their male counterparts in leadership and fan support. How can this be so?
A person is defined by their gender in many parts of the world; one sees them through their characteristics of femininity and masculinity. Men are often described to be dominant in the public domain where as women are viewed to be the leaders of the private sphere. If a woman shows dominance and power in the public sphere, her acts are described as unfeminine. ( Ex: When Hillary Clinton ran for office in the 2008 Elections , people and the media viewed her outspoken as unconventional, unfeminine and often times a ” bitch”.)
South Asian Women in Power
Although South Asia is considered to be very traditional and conservative, there is a paradox of South Asian women in politics.
So how did these women come to power? And why are so many men behind them supporting their every move?
Well most of the South Asian women leaders came to power through fate. They had close family members that had passed the throne on to them. It was an unusual dynasty, some can say. This proves to be true in the cases of Indira Gandhi, Benazir Bhutto and Aung San Suu Kyi.
Indira Gandhi was the granddaughter of a famous nationalist leader, Motilal Nehru, and she was also the daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru who was the first Prime Minister of independent India.
After Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hung by the Pakistani military, Benazir Bhutto took the place of her father and assumed the place of her father in the Pakistan People’s Party.
Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister, Chandrika Kumaratunga and Bangladesh’s Khaleda Zia- both lost their husbands to assassination; after their deaths, they both took interest in politics.
Bangladesh’s Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina Wajed’s father was the founder of Bangladesh, and he was the first prime minister of Bangladesh. Not long after he came into power, he was assassinated. After her father was shot dead, Sheikh Hasina took office as the Prime Minister of the opposition group. Wajed’s story is very similar to that of the Burmese leader, Aung San Suu Kyi’s.
Aung San Suu Kyi, the lady of Burma, is also the daughter of Burma’s General Aung San. He was a nationalist and the founder of the Union of Burma. He was responsible for getting Burma’s independence- in getting British colonial rule out of the country. After his assassination, Aung San Suu Kyi came back to Burma from Oxford and led the pro democracy movement.
Aung San Suu Kyi remains distinct from the other leaders. She was never prime minister of Burma, although her party, the National League of Democracy won the 1990 elections. The military nullified the elections. Today, she is still under house arrest- still fighting for Burma’s freedom. It has been said time and time again that Aung San Suu Kyi is the people’s hope for freedom and she is loved by so many.
What are your perceptions about Asian Women, making it to the top as political leaders? Do you think they make good leaders? Furthermore…do you think it was fate that had gotten them up there rather than determination and hard work? What do you think about the dynasty effect?