International Women’s Month

The Global Policy Institute at Loyola Marymount University welcomes guest blogs and encourages our friends and supporters to submit them to the President of the GPI. In an effort to stimulate the conversation relating to global issues and problems, some of the submitted essays will be published on our website. Thank you.

We are pleased to publish this guest blog written by Irene Fowler, a lawyer based in Lagos, Nigeria. Ms. Fowler has a degree from the Harvard Law School, and her work appears in The Hill and other publications.

Michael A. Genovese
President of the GPI

International Women’s Month

‘Veni, vidi, vici’ (They came, they saw, they conquered). This message attributed to Julius Caesar was sent to the Roman Senate after he won a battle. The recent Congressional elections marked a victory for women in the byzantine U.S. political landscape, witnessing the emergence of the most historically varied Congress on the side of the Democratic Party, which swept into power, on a glorious rainbow of diversity. Among the number of the one hundred and two women who now serve in the House of Representatives are several young, intrepid and sharp-as-a-whip Democratic Party women of colour-unjaded, unapologetic neophytes, untethered from lobbyists, unsullied by dark money and at liberty to follow the dictates of their conscience and speak their truth in pursuance of the common good. Their ascent to power is nothing short of revolutionary. Due to this development, the 116th Congress is more representative of the racial potpourri, socio-economic strata, age-range and genders of the general electorate. In stark contrast, the Republican Party is out-of-touch with the heart-beat and plight of majority of their compatriots, as they doggedly hold fast to calcified tenets of a bygone era. The current turn of events has left them panicked and sorely discomfited.

After a brief but spirited internecine struggle within the Democratic Party, to determine the leadership trajectory, veteran Congress woman Nancy Pelosi, was elected as the Speaker of the House of Representatives and is now second in succession to the U.S. Presidency. Her selection proved to be inspired as shortly thereafter, she locked horns with Donald Trump, causing him to blink and re-open the U.S. government, which he had petulantly shut down during the 2018 Christmas season over his failed campaign promise to build his doomed border wall. Pelosi is the first woman to be Speaker of the House of Representatives and the first woman to be re-elected to the position. If there were any doubts that she has the wiliness, smarts and grit left in her after many political skirmishes and battles they were quickly dispelled. Even her most ardent detractors declared her victorious. Her ‘political offspring’ are not far behind her on the hunt for success, seeking to match the ‘lioness’ in boldness and prowess and equally adept in aiming for the jugular. Fully cognizant of the legitimacy and inevitability of their quest to assuage their yearnings, Pelosi rewarded Congress woman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a stellar member of the afore-mentioned cadre, with a position on the House Oversight Committee. In recent Congressional testimony by Michael Cohen, erstwhile Trump-whisperer now turned ‘rat’ in the latter’s estimation, Ocasio-Cortez’s line of questions unearthed a mother-lode of potential financial wrong-doing by Trump and his cohorts. This may be of probative value in ensuring his accountability for his conduct.

Ocasio-Cortez is a force of nature, taking on the cosmos in an ever-advancing battle against the devastating ravages of climate change, which has the potential to cause the extinction of plant and animal species. This phenomenon could increase the risk of an ‘extinction domino effect’ that could annihilate all life on earth, according to a study by the Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia. ‘AOC’ as she has come to be known, has promulgated a ‘bare bones’ strategy to tackle climate change, called the ‘Green New Deal.’ Her vision has come under unrelenting attack and derision from the top leadership of the Republican Party, who while being in hock to the fossil fuel industry have ‘distinguished’ themselves as climate science deniers, thereby garnering worldwide opprobrium. AOC is a modern day David taking on Goliath- in all his ferocity and intimidation. Instead of a sling shot and a few armour-piercing stones, she is armed with her Congressional mandate, intrepidity and unabashed zeal. She seeks to make a difference which will not only affect the U.S. but will of necessity skyrocket around the world, with ramifications that pool efforts to address the ‘monster behind the door’ – climate change. The Green New Deal initiative, the details of which obviously need to be clearly and carefully crafted by the Democratic Party caucus will be a corner stone of the 2020 Presidential battle. The Republican Party no doubt intends to sandwich the Green New Deal into their ploy of portraying the Democratic Party as Soviet-style socialists. The impending battle-royale will also serve as the cap stone of Trump’s withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris climate accord, as it will solidify his and his Party’s card-carrying credentials as ‘climate skeptics’. At the time of Trump’s announcement to renege from the Paris climate accord, the U.S. joined Syria and Nicaragua as the only countries outside the agreement. Since then war-torn Syria has signed on. Whereas, in 2013 the World Bank called Nicaragua a ‘renewable energy paradise’, their reason for opting out was because the agreement did not go far enough.

The audacity and tenacity of the new breed of U.S. law makers as exemplified by AOC, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressely, Jahana Hayes, Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland is a testimony of their resolve to rise above the din and dross in order to stamp their brand on the sands of time, in the midst of multi-faceted political maelstroms. They are national and global role models by any metric or standard and they are also icons of the modern women’s movement. This is especially true as their antecedents are unremarkable. In essence, these newly minted law makers hail from humble origins and are able to identify with everyday struggles and pitfalls confronting the silent masses, in a system that is heavily weighted against their dreams and aspirations. These icons espouse values antithetical to the canons of Trumpism, which in itself, is a radical and dastardly departure from traditional Republican Party values, so much so as to render the Party in its present incarnation, unrecognizable and to alter its nomenclature to the “Party of Trump.” In as much as racism, misogyny, cruelty, divisiveness and religious discrimination are core canons of Trumpism, the outpouring and scale of sheer horror and repudiation after every outrage, spawned and galvanized this crop of women to run for high political office, in full recognition and acceptance of the fact they would be prime targets of attack. These courageous women are giving women and girls around the world a world-class tutorial in swimming with sharks in real time. It is a lesson that should not be lost on women in countries where human rights abuses and gender-based discrimination are endemic and crippling. The worst of which consigns women and the girl-child to unimaginable horrors and relegates too many to the status of chattel and slaves.

In a recent address, entitled ‘An important international women’s day message,’ the President of the National Democratic Institute, Washington DC., Ambassador Derek Mitchell, said the following: ‘NDI once again celebrates women leaders around the world who are stepping up to overcome the challenges that face democracy…Despite the significant progress made in women’s political participation, there remains substantial resistance to women assuming positions of political power… NDI supports the efforts of women all over the world to overcome barriers to political involvement. This includes stopping the gender-based violence that targets politically active women which may come in the form of discrimination and psychological abuse – as well as physical and sexual attacks…When women participate in politics, the result can be socially and economically transformative.’