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Feminising local politics

Last month the Labour Party celebrated a great victory but unfortunately, we were still faced with a disappointing result in the number of female representatives in the Maltese Parliament.

Over the past four years, Malta has made strides forward in increasing female participation in the labour market. The Labour government successfully put forward feminist proposals, such as free childcare services to incentivise women to re-enter the workforce, as well as the Maternity Leave Fund aimed at eliminating discrimination against women in the workplace.

However, this was just a start, and the Labour Party’s next journey will be towards feminising Maltese politics. During the electoral campaign for the general election the Labour Party said it would be discussing positive measures that could be taken to increase the number of women representatives in Parliament. This is why we are proposing LEAD, an initiative with a strategic focus to increase the number of female candidates contesting elections at all levels, from local councils to the European and Maltese parliaments.

Low representation of women in politics is not only a Maltese issue, it is a global issue.

In 2017, there were still only 11 female heads of government and 11 female heads of State in the world, that is, a total of 5.7 per cent and 7.2 per cent respectively.

It is problematic when you compare the number of female high achievers leaving education in Malta that is then not reflected in leadership positions. It becomes more imperative to take action when facts are showing that there are potential female leaders out there, but no one is engaging them or they are not engaging with politics. Which begs the question, why?

This is for women who know their own ability but have not yet gained the confidence to share it

Leadership skills are learnt through experience, and most leaders have a natural ability towards it; however, it does not mean that they do not need an extra nudge to reach their ambitions. This is what LEAD is about; it is the first step to changing women’s attitude towards leadership and politics by empowering them throughout the process.

LEAD is a 10-year plan, which aims to have women make up 50 per cent of the Labour Party’s candidature by the 2027 general election. LEAD will be recruiting girls and women from the age of 16 and over to participate in the initiative with one very simple commitment: to contest the general election with the Labour Party. The first call for candidates will take place this September because we are eager to get going and start working with these ambitious and driven women.

The initiative will be split into four phases, increasing the percentage of the female candidature by every election: aiming first for 40 per cent of European Parliament candidates and 35 per cent of the local council candidates, and then seeing a 35 per cent minimum of female candidates for the 2022 general election. LEAD will make use of both activism and traditional poli­tics to reach its goal, meaning that the main areas will include on-the-ground experience, such as door-to-door canvassing and media exposure, as well as a nationwide awareness campaign led by the candidates themselves.

Mentoring will be another area that will be key during the initiative, as learning from others’ experiences will provide invaluable knowledge to the new candidates. We will be taking steps to ensure the success and longevity of the initiative by setting up a board with the purpose of pairing mentors and candidates as well as monitoring the progress through reports submitted by the mentors.

Of course, politics is a lot about networks, and we will ensure that chosen candidates will get as many opportunities to network through their mentors as possible, from specific networking events to meeting with constituents. The empowerment through networking, and exposing women to other women’s experiences, as well as the media exposure and support in their campaigns should provide a holistic approach to the candidates’ progression in their political careers.

LEAD has been described as the most feminist initiative from a Maltese political party and we are proud to have started it. As a party we are proud that we are yet again leading on this front; we have gone from strength to strength on equality measures. Equality is a value the Labour Party truly believes in, and through this initiative we will be working hard to ensure this is translated in practice. We are faced with a situation where women in leadership positions are the exception, not the norm. This is why the PL is promoting LEAD.

This is for women who have ambition but have been taught not to have too much; for those women who know their own ability but have not yet gained the confidence to share it with others. This is the first step towards creating a more representative voice in the institutions that represent us.

Joseph Muscat is Prime Minister and Miriam Dalli is a Labour MEP.

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