US First Female VP-Elect: What Does It Mean for Women?

US Vice President-elect Kamala Harris (Photo by Adam Schultz / Biden for President)

The world woke up last week with exciting news about women — that the world’s leading democracy and most powerful country, the United States of America, has for the first time ever, elected a woman to the second-highest position in that country’s history. The U.S. Vice President-elect, Kamala Harris, who is also the first Afro-Asian-American to be elected to the position, ran on the Democratic Party ticket alongside U.S. President-elect Joe Biden.

The United States is among the world’s leading countries in the vanguard of women’s rights and participation in national decision-making. Even though its women have occupied various prestigious public positions in the echelons of the Legislative, Executive and Judicial branches of the U.S. government, it has been a struggle for them to reach the helm of national leadership.

Since her election, scores of congratulatory messages have poured in from leaders and reputable women across the world, Liberia being no exception. Former President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, as well as Liberia’s current Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor have both extended their warm felicitations to the United States and the winning candidates Biden and Harris. The two Liberian women are feminist advocates who wish to see more women serve in public and private positions.

President Sirleaf, in a Twitter post, said, “Congratulations to the next US president Joe Biden and vice president Kamala Harris on their historic victory. This milestone serves as a powerful affirmation that women and women of color can and should belong in every level of government. Amujae! We are going up!”

Jewel Howard Taylor, who is Liberia’s first female Vice President, said: “Again, the American people have spoken so profoundly of their belief in democracy and have demonstrated that America is indeed the leader of the Free World. Special congratulations go to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, who will be the first Indian American, the first African American, and first female Vice President in the United States history.”

Madam Taylor said undoubtedly the highest-ranking female elected official in the United States is a milestone for women’s achievement, adding that the US election is not just historical, but gives renewed hope and inspiration to women across the world to keep fighting for space at the table of leadership.

“I look forward to working with Madam Harris on issues of women empowerment and gender equality,” VP Taylor said.

Although the election of Harris, coupled with roles other women have played, brings pride to women and presents them as potential people like their male counterparts, the caveat has also been sent out that in order for women to be measured with men and play significant roles in national leadership, they should be prepared for the task and not expect it on a silver platter. 

A women’s rights advocate and President of the Female Journalist Association of Liberia (FeJAL), Siatta Scott-Johnson, said while the advocacy continues to intensify for women’s political participation and leadership, it is important for women to get prepared for what they perceive to see happening in their lives.

Acknowledging how society has put women below the ladder, Madam Johnson told the Daily Observer in an interview that since the time has come for the same society to see women as essential decision-makers, they should also make the space available in order to avoid any form of prejudice that may come to women.

In addition to Harris in the United States’ election, the Center for American Women and Politics has said that 131 women are expected to serve in the next Congress.  The figure for women’s representation in the US Congress came up to 127 in 2019.

The elections have been described by the citizens as a process that marks another ‘year of women’, giving huge increment to female representation in the Republican Party.  

According to The Guardian, a British news outlet, Madam Harris is the first in history as a woman, and a woman of color, to have been elected to such a position at the level of the U.S. Government.

The Guardian said Joe Biden and Madam Harris won the presidency by clinching Pennsylvania and its 20 electoral votes on Saturday morning, after days of painstaking vote counting following record turnout across the country. The win in Pennsylvania took Biden’s Electoral College vote up to 284, surpassing the 270 needed to win the White House.

Madam Harris was born in Oakland, California, to two immigrant parents – an Indian-born mother and a Jamaican-born father.  Her parents divorced when she was five and she was primarily raised by her Hindu single mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, a cancer researcher and civil rights activist.

Jeffery Stonecash, an expert on political parties in the USA, told journalists during a zoom meeting on “Elections 2020 Virtual Reporting Tour (VRT)”, that the USA has interestingly undergone a pretty thorough gender gap development in the last 30 years. 

According to him, men and women did not vote terribly differently, but now, or beginning in the 1980s, men began to vote more Republican adding that women sometimes moved with them but, on average, did not.

He told participating journalists that women in this particular election are going to play a very crucial role because Trump has alienated a lot of women with his “Behavioral style, his language, his harshness, and his crassness.”

According to the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP), many women have sought to become President in the USA and a number of them received national attention, either as pioneers in the electoral process, as potential candidates, or as candidates of minor parties with a significant national presence. 

CAWP said only Hillary Clinton, among the women that sought the presidential office, successfully contested as a major party nominee, which is the Democratic Party, in 2016. 

The organization also disclosed that there are three women who have been nominated to run for the Vice Presidency, including Kamala Harris by the Democratic Party in 2020, Sarah Palin by the Republican Party in 2008, and Geraldine Ferraro by the Democratic Party in 1984. Another woman, Frances “Sissy” Farenthold, had her name put into nomination for Vice President at the Democratic National Convention in 1972. In addition, Toni Nathan, the 1972 Libertarian candidate for Vice President, became the first woman to win an electoral vote when one Republican elector voted for her instead of his party’s candidate. It is worth noting that other women throughout history have had their names placed into nomination and/or earned electoral votes for vice president, but they did not receive wide support.

Native Liberian Wins US District 40

Naquetta Ricks, a native-born Liberian who fled the country during the civil conflict and resettled in Aurora, won the Colorado House of Representatives District 40 seat on the Democratic Party ticket in the just-ended elections. Madam Ricks is expected to assume office on January 13, 2021.

According to Ricks’ biography, since she fled the war in Liberia, she has had the opportunity to live what now seems like an impossible American Dream.

“After graduating from Aurora Central, I earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Business Administration from Metro and CU respectively. I am the proud mother of a 24 year old daughter and I have worked hard to provide for her and operate a successful small mortgage brokerage business. I have dedicated my life to working to improve my community by helping to build economic knowledge, capacity and attainability for immigrant and low income communities. I serve on various community boards, and find joy in helping people reach their goal of home ownership through affordable housing as a mortgage broker,” her biography said.

Understanding the importance of education, Ricks believes that education is still the key to a bright future that is why she fought for better funding for school-going kids and advocated for the improvement of the education outcome.

Hannah N. Geterminah is a 2016 graduate of the Peter Quaqua School of Journalism with diploma and series of certificates in journalism from other institutions. She has lots of knowledge/ experience in human interest, political, Health, women and children stories. Hannah has worked with the Daily Observers Newspaper and the Liberian media for the past years and has broken many stories. Contact reporter; [email protected] WhatsApp;0770214920


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