Monday, June 11, 2007
One less glass ceiling...
Benazir Bhutto is a controversial figure, and one whom I must admit I don't know much about. I've just started reading her autobiography and was inspired and moved by the stories she recounts in the preface. I do know that there are many dimensions to her story and to her life. Still, I cannot help but respect Bhutto for her courage and determination. Read with an open mind:
"I am a woman proud of my cultural and religious heritage. I feel a special personal obligation to contrast the true Islam - the religion of tolerance and pluralism - with the caricature of my faith that terrorists have hijacked. I know that I am a symbol of what the so-called 'Jihadists', Taliban and al-Qaeda, most fear. I am a female political leader fighting to bring modernity, communication, education, and technology to Pakistan. I believe that a democratic Pakistan can become a symbol of hope to more than one billion Muslims around the world who must choose between the forces of the past and the forces of the future."
"The political battles that I fought were always for an end. The goals centered on liberty and social justice. And those values are definitely worth fighting for. But I do believe my career has been more challenging because I am a woman. Clearly it's not easy for women in modern society, no matter where we live. We still have the extra mile to prove that we are equal to men. We have to work longer hours and make more sacrifices"
" Once the political opposition learned I was pregnant, all hell broke loose. They called on the President and the military to overthrow me. They argued that Pakistan's rules did not provide for a pregnant Prime Minister going on maternity leave. "
" I rejected the opposition's demands, noting that maternity rules existed in the law for working women (my father had legislated maternity leave)."
" Hardly mollified, the opposition drew up a plan of strikes to pressure the President into sacking the government. I had to make my own plans. My father had taught me that in politics timing is very important. I consulted my doctor who assured me that my child was full term and, with his permission, decided to have a Cesarean delivery on the eve of the call for strike action."
"I received thousands of messages of congratulations from all over the world. Heads of government and ordinary people wrote to me, sharing the joy. Especially for young women it was a defining moment, proving a woman could work and have a baby in the highest and most challenging leadership positions. The next day I was back on the job, reading government papers and signing government files. Only later did I learn that I was the only head of government in recorded history to actually give birth while in office. That's one less glass ceiling for women Prime Ministers in the future to have to break."
From preface of Benazir Bhutto's autobiography Daughter of The East, May 2007