Political parties still “boys’ clubs” – former President

Former President of Malta Marie Louise Coleiro Preca voices her belief in the need for the education system to be overhauled, for women in political life to be more visible, and for the nation to overcome its fear of critical and independent thinking.

To challenge gender norms and empower women, former President of Malta Marie Louise Coleiro Preca proposes a shake-up of the education system and increased visibility of women in political life.

Believing that harmful gender stereotypes must be tackled and addressed as early as in childcare, she called for an open-minded education system that first enables children and then empowers them.

Speaking at a Women’s Day event on ‘Women and Financial Sustainability’ hosted by Labour candidate for the 8th June European Parliament election, Clint Azzopardi Flores, the former President stressed that marking Women’s Day only holds meaning if, besides serving as an occasion to celebrate the many advancements that have been made, it also helps spark further change. We must transform our education system if we want to move beyond repeating the same platitudes year after year, she stated.

Drawing on her extensive experience of nearly five decades in political life, the first woman to ever serve as general secretary of a major political party in Malta and the second woman to hold the office of President said that she feels a responsibility to speak openly and share her unfiltered perspective.

“I want to see you more involved in these discussions outside of parliament,” Coleiro Preca told government backbenchers Katya De Giovanni and Amanda Spiteri Grech, who were present at the event. She expressed her fear that the well-intentioned policy aimed of increasing female parliamentary representation might become entrenched unless women in politics, including backbenchers, gain more visibility.

She then pointed to the predominantly male structure of leadership positions in Maltese political parties, describing them as “boys’ clubs” offering mere token representation to women.

The former President argued that the country must overcome its fear of critical and independent thinking, as such apprehension hinders progress. “Let us call things by their name,” she said. “We tell women that we want them to be independent, and we create schemes and policies. Still, we have a problem. We need to foster independent thinking … This country needs independent thinking … Constructive criticism makes us stronger. Equipping our children with critical thinking skills is essential for our nation’s progress.”

The discussion was moderated by The Journal editor, Sandro Mangion.

Photo: Godwin Mercieca

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