Female mayors want clean sweep
At a time when Europe and even the world are reeling from the U.K’s exit from the E.U, and our political worlds are dominated by self-serving male egos, there was a small light at the end of a dark tunnel. Joining another two recently elected female mayors in Paris (Anne Hildago) and Madrid (Manuela Carmena,) Rome has elected its first female mayor in more than two-and-a-half millennia. Virginia Raggi, who entered the political scene less than five years ago, won 67.2% of the vote.
Ms Raggi pledged to launch “new era of transparency and legality“, attributing her victory as a win for the citizens of Rome. Critics have said with the city facing bankrupt she will have a huge challenge. Romans are notorious for flouting rules and legislation as well as tax evasion, even to the point of not buying bus tickets!
The U.S.A. has a longer tradition of female mayors. In 2016 , 1391 mayors of U.S. cities with populations over 30,000, 262, or 18.8%, were women. Africa also has a healthier representation of female mayors. The National Democratic Institute suggests when women are involved in city politics, women experience higher standards of living, with developments can be seen in education, infrastructure and health. Their focus is on quality of life and the environment. Women also “suffer disproportionately from the effects of climate change and natural disasters and can often advocate most strongly for more inclusive adaptation, recovery, and reconstruction.“
A growing tradition of female mayors
Raggi joined the ranks of Naomi Koshi, Otsu, Japan, who in 2012 became the youngest woman to be elected mayor of a Japanese city. In Japan only 1% of Japan’s mayors, 11% of national parliamentarians and 7% of corporate executives are women so this is a real achievement especially as 60% of Japanese women leave the workforce after having their first child. Koshi has introduced a series of initiatives to help women stay in the workforce, including improving access to childcare and changing men’s attitudes to taking parental leave. She aims to impact gender balance overall.
Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, Warsaw, Poland is a 3 time elected winner. Also known for her passion for environmental issues she has criticized the Polish government’s opposition to European clean-energy goals. Her focus is also the city’s economy, launching the Innovation in Warsaw 2020 programme, which encourages entrepreneurship and research and helping attract new companies such as Google to Warsaw.
Elected mayor of the southern Italian island of Lampedusa in 2012, Giusi Nicolini is a passionate human rights advocate. She has persistently called on European leaders to support the humanitarian crisis created by illegal immigrants arriving from Northern Africa. Earlier this year she won 36th Peace Prize of Anue (United Nations Association of Spain).
Celia Wade-Brown, Wellington, New Zealand known for her bike ride to meet Hillary Clinton at the airport on her visit to New Zealand in 2010. A passionate cyclist she has transformed the city to make it safer for bike users and improve air pollution. She has also contributed to economic development in Wellington supporting projects in the tech sector an improving air links with the U.S. and Asia.
And more recently Tokyo elected its first female governor Yuriko Koike, Tokyo Japan In her victory speech she would pursue policies that would mean that “both women and men can shine in Tokyo”. After a campaign of “misogyny and mud-slinging” when the outgoing governor resigned in a scandal over expense corruption.
This is an exciting time for female leadership and female mayors. Hillary Clinton is taking on one of the world’s greatest misogynist and Theresa May is tackling one of the worst economic and political messes in history. Let’s support them to see what difference they can make.
Marcella Simona is an Italian marketing executive based (for now) in London.
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