Black women have taken political control of the nations of Liberia and Jamaica and a third Black woman is the fourth in line of the American presidency.
Portia Simpson-Miller was recently sworn in is as the first woman Prime Minister of Jamaica and immediately faces great challenges in curing Jamaica’s chronic poverty and crime. Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf faces the enormous challenge of rebuilding a nation torn due to over a decade of war and a century of division. Although these challenges are great the fact that they are women heads of state is historic. President Johnson-Sirleaf is the first woman African ruler since pre-colonial Africa and Portia Simpson-Miller is the first black woman head of state in the Western hemisphere. And although American Secretary of State Condi Rice’s political views and affiliations are abhorrent to BlackState she is nonetheless the first black woman to be Secretary of State of the United States, and she consistently polls high as a potential republican presidential candidate. This fact is unheard of in American political history.
The issue remains how and if Simpson-Miller and Johnson-Sirleaf can govern differently than their male predecessors and what direction will they move there developing economies given the unique challenges they are to contend.
Johnson-Sirleaf’s monumental task is rebuilding Liberia. A country desperate to move beyond its war torn past where thousands were killed and thousands escaped into refugee camps. High on the list in rebuilding Liberia is deciding what to do with former President and War Criminal Charles Taylor who help ravage the country for almost 20 years. Nigeria recently turned over Taylor to the International Criminal Tribunal in Sierra Leone where he will face charges relating to 20 years of civil war in Liberia. This is already a victory for the new Liberian administration as it is an opportunity for the country to have justice and heal political wounds.
But more work lays ahead in rebuilding a nation as President Johnson-Sirleaf stated before a joint session of the U.S. Congress,
“Our girls, capable of being anything they could imagine, were made into sex slaves, gang-raped by men with guns, made mothers while they were still children themselves. But listening to the hopes and dreams of our people, I recall the words of a Mozambican poet who said, “Our dream has the size of freedom.” My people, like your people, believe deeply in freedom – and, in their dreams, they reach for the heavens. I represent those dreams. I represent their hope and their aspirations. I ran for president because I am determined to see good governance in Liberia in my lifetime. But I also ran because I am the mother of four, and I wanted to see our children smile again. Already, I am seeing those smiles. For even after everything they have endured, the people of Liberia have faith in new beginnings. They are counting on me and my administration to create the conditions that will guarantee the realization of their dreams. We must not betray their trust.”
Jamaica’s problems are typical of other developing nations, a nation dominated by a few elites who control a larger percentage of the nations wealth. This relationship creating an inequity that brings about poverty and crime socially, unfair trade agreements and economic exploitation by multi-national corporations economically leaving the nation with crushing debt. With these issues as the backdrop Jamaicans are nonetheless optimistic with their new Prime Minister. In her inauguration ceremony, Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller, offered what she deemed a new partnership with the people of Jamaica and their government,
“A partnership for love, honour and protection of our women. A partnership for love, honour and respect for our men. A partnership for the protection and nurturing of our children, who represent the future, and which recognises that children are the torchbearers of all the good that we must pass on to posterity. A partnership to provide access to quality education for all our children. A partnership for the empowerment of youths through education, training and economic opportunities. A partnership for the development of our communities, for strengthening democratic governance and for truly giving a voice to all the people. A partnership to eradicate crime and drive the criminals from our communities. A partnership to deepen the involvement of Jamaicans in the diaspora. A partnership in the building of a harmonious, prosperous and vibrant Jamaica, committed to making the Jamaican dream accessible to every single Jamaican; together we can make it.