It had appeared that the year 2016 would go down in history for witnessing the highest glass ceilings in the US as well as the UN being shattered but the election of Donald Trump and Antonio Guterres has now ensured they will remain intact for several more years.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had scripted history when she won the nomination of the Democratic party to be the presidential candidate, the first woman to win the nomination of a major political party. Her nomination had brought a woman closer than ever to be the first female Commander-in-Chief of the most powerful nation in the world.
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In the UN, hopes were building for a woman to succeed Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, whose two-term tenure as the world’s top diplomat will end on December 31. With no woman ever leading the world body in its 70-year old history, hopes were high and lobbying intense to elect a female successor to Ban.
However, the election of Clinton’s rival Republican candidate Donald Trump as the 45th President of the US and of Portugal’s former premier Antonio Guterres as the ninth UN Secretary General dashed hopes for women shattering the highest glass ceilings in both the US government and the UN.
Trump’s first term as US president will end in 2020 and Guterres’s in 2021, making it clear it will be another 4-5 years at least before there is any hope again of a woman being elected to the highest offices in the land.
Before Clinton, there was a long history of women who have tried to run for America’s presidency. Over 200 women have sought the presidency since Victoria Woodhull, the American leader of the woman’s suffrage movement who was the first woman to run for president in 1872.
Most of the 200 women were minor third-party candidates who got very little traction. But with Clinton, the possibility of a woman being elected as US President had appeared more strong than ever before in the nation’s 240-year old history.
Armed with 30 years’ public experience, which included roles as First Lady of Arkansas, First Lady of the United States, Senator from New York and Secretary of State, Clinton’s victory against Trump, a real estate developer, reality-television star who had never held public office, had appeared all but certain.
Trump’s victory not only stunned the US and the world, it defied all major predictions by pollsters and media houses who had prognosticated Clinton’s win.
“Donald Trump was elected the 45th president of the United States on Tuesday, bitterly disappointing millions of voters who had come closer than ever to seeing the ultimate gender barrier in American politics overcome, had Hillary Clinton become the nation’s first woman chief executive,” a post on the website of prominent women’s organisation ‘The Women in the World’ said.
A Clinton win had promised not only the undeniable shattering of the “glass ceiling”, but a victory over the aggressive platform of her Republican opponent, that galvanised voters’ resentments about perceived privilege and unleashed alarmingly unbridled displays of bigotry and chauvinism, it said.
In the UN too, women organisations and hoped to see a woman succeed Ban as the Secretary General. There was a growing call from several UN member states and civil society organizations to choose a woman as the world’s top diplomat, given that the world body has had no female head in its 70 year history.
The elections for the UN Secretary General this year saw an unprecedented level of transparency and a high number of women candidates in the fray, including prominent names such as Director-general of UN cultural organization UNESCO Irina Bokova, Argentinian Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra, former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres and Moldova’s former Foreign Minister Natalia Gherman.
Ban had noted that as the 9th “man” to serve as Secretary-General, Guterres has a special responsibility to include, support and empower the world’s women and girls.
WomanSG, an organisation that had been rallying for a woman Secretary General had said in a statement that the announcement by the Security Council that they have chosen a man for Secretary General “once again is a disaster for equal rights and gender equality.”
“It is unfair to…women…and represents the usual backroom deals that still prevail at the UN. There were seven outstanding female candidates and in the end it appears they were never seriously considered. This is an outrage,” the origanisation had said.