I've been reading on blogs about the absence of women and their small contribution to the body politic in Northern Ireland.
I have my own thoughts as to why this is so, there are a few fundamental things I believe have been overlooked, and why despite being in some societies fifty one percent of the populace - women are underrepresented in politics generally. Fundamentally I believe that the caring role of women prohibits rather than encourages involvement in politics. Until of course that caring role is affected in some way, then women can come forward and speak out in a way that can touch the body politic better than a male counterpart.
I watched Panorama a few weeks back, the programme was called A Very British Hero, in which the widow of an explosives expert did a programme on the task of British servicemen diffusing
IED's in Afghanistan. At one point, Christina Schmid the war widow of one of Britains top four explosives experts told how the bomb squad was understrength and her husband like others was tired while going about diffusing IED's and that this tiredness coupled along with the taliban laying so many IED's was a significant reason for her husbands death.
Mrs Schmid was shown a photo of her husband and simply by looking at it and noticing the shadow was able to determine that the time was quite late in the day, which confirmed her opinion of tiredness, and a good example of the British army failing in its duty of care toward her husband.
I think the caring role also affects our vote on policies and as the issues here become more normalised and away from the constitutional question women here will vote along the traditional gender patterns that women else where vote along. Supporting policies that favour compassion and social justice. I also think that Northern Ireland will keep its 'conservativism' due to women.
By conservativisim, I mean that women as we grow older become more 'traditional' in our political attitudes.
Some words have been hijacked in Northern Ireland and traditional is one of them. That doesn't mean we want loyal orders walking traditional routes, but that traditional things like family and social mores are important to us and that we want to 'conserve' them. That doesn't mean women don't want change, it simply means that in many instances change has come very fast and our traditional 'norn iron' way of life is changing in ways that are not always good.
Another factor in womens lack of contribution to politics is that maybe we feel we are not wanted. That politics is seen as a male preserve and that men are quite happy with womens under representation despite their protestations to the contrary. Oneonly has to look back at the fate of the womens coalition to support this view. Even I cringe at the memory of them.
We do and did have the odd good female politician like Brid Rodgers who was able for the job and got on with it. Gender, like sexuality doesn't have to be a factor, it is simply the presence of female voices that women can relate to and feel what that gal says resonates with me too.
In short I believe that the contribution of women will come of its own accord as the issue changes from the constitutional question to everyday issues. It may not increase to fifty fifty but it will increase as the political issues begin to affect us especially now that we have local accountability.