LEAD participants urged to prove critics of gender quotas wrong

70 women are taking part in the LEAD programme spearheaded by the Labour Party: participants urged to show how ‘positive discrimination’ will open the door for more female politicians and women in leading roles

Labour Party leader Joseph Muscat flanked by Labour MEP Miriam Dalli and Deborah Schembri
Labour Party leader Joseph Muscat flanked by Labour MEP Miriam Dalli and Deborah Schembri

The 70 women taking part in the Labour Party’s LEAD programme have been urged to prove how positive discrimination is what will pave the way for the increased participation of women in politics.

Coordinated by Labour MEP Miriam Dalli and Deborah Schembri, the PL’s programme offers a mentoring course to women who aspire to become politicians.

Addressing the programme’s first session, Prime Minister and Labour leader Joseph Muscat stressed the importance of changing the mentality that surrounds the participation of women in politics.

“In the majority of interviews, you all spoke of the desire of doing political work but you felt barriers were up all around you. Our campaign, and your participation, just proves how much we need to be proactive. This increases my resolve to take the campaign nationwide and see that there are more opportunities for women in decision-making roles,” Muscat said.

Describing Dalli and Schembri as role models, Muscat told participants that likewise, they will become role models for others to follow.

The Labour leader admitted that he did not know 80% of the participants – which for him is positive.

“This confirms that our programme is not a fake exercise, or that the same people have applied.”

Muscat spoke of the need to battle critics of gender quotas, not by antagonising them but by showing how such “positive measures” are temporary until it becomes the norm – in a typically conservative society – that women are elected on their own steam.

He relayed the experience of the Labour Party, where quotas were no longer required because the experience of having leading women in the party’s structures had now become enough to get more women voted for.

Whilst the party had to battle the concept of quotas in the past, this was no longer the case.

“But shock therapy is always needed to make the first step. We can no longer live in mediocrity. The country needs a wider participation where decision-making is shared.”

Muscat described the participants as the “trailblazers of the future”.

“You will be amongst the first women joining a system of positive measures,” he said, refusing to use the phrase “positive discrimination”.

“Because you will be elected [to parliament] through the quota system, you will be criticised. Your performance will be crucial to show the difference your participation will make.”

Notwithstanding, Muscat said that the concept did not mean that women “will be the favoured ones”.

“The choice between a woman and a man will be down to merit. We need to destroy the misconception that quotas are needed because women do not have the drive to do it on their own.”