I came across a very interesting picture in a prominent English daily the other day. It showed a woman, seven months pregnant, walking along a line of men with a determined look on her face. Some will say that there is nothing extraordinary about the photograph. However, what I found engrossing was the fact that the woman in the picture was the new Defence Minister of Spain, Carme Chacon, and she was walking along while inspecting the military troops.
It is the first time that Spain has had a woman in the important position of the Defence Minister. National security and Defence are traditionally considered as male domains. So, it comes across as inspiring that Ms. Chacon has been appointed to take charge of the country’s defence troops and military establishment, a fact that many men brought up in a parochial environment will automatically resent. However, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero created history of sorts as he named nine women for his 17-strong Cabinet. Ms. Chacon is married to a socialist politician and is an emerging force in the Socialist Party in Spain. She began her political career nine years ago, became a parliamentary deputy in 2000, and was named the Housing Minister in 2006. Her appointment created much interest and sparked debate throughout the political world, not just in Spain but also in the international arena. A woman is generally considered to be physically weak and taking care of the country’s army establishments is something most will put beyond her. Yet, watching Ms. Chacon inspecting the troops with a baby bump, dressed smartly in fashionable maternity clothes, gave me a sudden jolt. Why couldn’t this woman lead the country? Why did her gender have to stand in the way of her intellect or her achievements? Being a woman did not in any way put a check on her mental faculties. And being pregnant most certainly would not. So why is it that many people are raising questions on her veracity and efficacy? I discard these self-important claims as plain rubbish. The Supreme Commander of the Indian Armed Forces is a woman, Ms. Pratibha Patil, a plain-looking, frail, bespectacled old lady. But, she carries herself with great dignity and aplomb, characteristic of the august office she belongs to.
There are other ‘ministras’ in Spain’s new cabinet as well. Beatriz Corredor was appointed the Housing Minister. She is married and is a mother of two children. Cristina Garmendia is the new Minister for Science and Investigation. She founded her own biotechnology company, Genetrix, in 2000 and has a background in industry. She is highly respected in the Socialist Party. Bibiana Aido Almagro is the Minister for Equality, and at the age of 31, she is the youngest person ever to occupy a Cabinet post. Spain will look to its new ministers, or rather its ‘ministras’ to carry on the good work and help the Prime Minister in raising the electoral prospects of the Socialists.
[Image courtesy: http://s.wsj.net/media/juggle_chacon_art_400_20080415103929.jpg]