In the words of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize committee, upon awarding that years prize to three women activists and leaders, “We cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace in the world unless women obtain the same opportunities as men.”
On the heels of the First International Day of the Girl Child, the world is one small step closer. A landmark ruling from “Botswana’s High Court on Friday gave women inheritance rights for the first time, up-ending a male-dominated system that had prevailed in the thriving African nation.” This one step is small perhaps, but major nonetheless, especially as it comes from a region of the world stepped in patriarchy.
This ruling brings to mind Paulo Freire, and his Pedagogy of the Oppressed. “Leaders who do not act dialogically, but insist on imposing their decisions, do not organize the people–they manipulate them. They do not liberate, nor are they liberated: they oppress.” This one small ruling is an act of liberation against one policy in a region that allowed for the long-standing, legally sanctioned economic oppression of women.
Leaving personal beliefs at the doorstep when given the authority to lead people is the hallmark of true leadership. True leadership is organizing people toward achieving a common goal. Our common goal, here in the United States, is framed by our constitution and explicitly spelled out in its preamble:
“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
Being invested in personal values and ideas tends to make one blind to the plights, rights, and freedoms, or rather lack thereof, of those subject to authority and outcomes of leadership decisions. How many of our leaders, or those hoping to lead, make decisions based on the tunnel vision of their own wants and needs instead of basing decisions on the “unalienable rights” of the people they are seeking to serve? In failing to see, or acknowledge, or give importance to those with differing opinions or beliefs manipulation reigns supreme. Tunnel vision is not acceptable for elected officials in a free society; it allows for the creation of policy that supports individual goals, and world views sympathetic to the rights of the few, with little regard to the impact on the many, and due to this more self-serving than general welfare nature, doesn’t adequately consider the long-term potential impact. Short-sightedness leaves us with skewed facts, distorted data, and politicians whose values are in a constant state of flux as their minds, and therefore policy positions, changes on major issues for reasons not in keeping with the greater good.
When will our nation take more small steps? When will we achieve democracy and lasting peace? When will all citizens be entitled to equal rights, protections, privileges, and opportunities under the laws of our land? When will we embrace true leadership and tire of manipulations that pit groups of Americans, groups of people, against each other?