Sun Yat-sen (孫逸仙) once defined politics as the management of public affairs, but it is also the center of resource distribution and the power to set the agenda.
However, looking back, not everyone could participate in politics, and there were also thresholds for people who wished to exercise their basic civil right to vote.
THE ROAD TO SUFFRAGE
For example, women were often deprived the right to vote, and when the first local elections were held in Taiwan in 1935, that right was restricted to men of a certain financial status.
Following the arrival of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government from China after the end of World War II, the nation went through the 228 Incident, the implementation of martial law and the White Terror era.
Thanks to the efforts and sacrifices of the dangwai (黨外, “outside the party”) movement, then-president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) finally lifted martial law in 1987.
Only then was Taiwan able to truly begin the path toward democracy, and Taiwanese now enjoy the freedoms of speech, assembly, association and election, along with a number of other civil rights.
AN UPHILL BATTLE
Even so, at the time when martial law ended, the social situation was such that women still faced many challenges to political participation, including gender stereotypes, a lack of civic awareness and a male-dominated political world.
Despite women now having the right to participate in politics and vote in elections, Taiwanese must still exercise those rights in order to promote women’s participation in politics, fulfill their obligation as citizens and make sure that these rights are effective and impactful.
In 2016, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office as Taiwan’s first female president, a historic moment shared by all Taiwanese.
When women receive election bulletins and hold voting notices from the Central Election Commission, they must all bear in mind that suffrage and other civil rights did not fall from the sky. Rather, they were earned through the hard work of previous generations.
A WORLDWIDE EFFORT
From the UK, the US and Saudi Arabia to Taiwan, women around the world belong to a shared community. When Taiwanese vote for a female leader, they are helping women around the world make another great leap forward.
In the current era of globalization, what is local is also global, and what is global is local. The map of global female leaders stretches across different ethnicities, colors and nationalities. When voters elect a female president, they are setting an example for the next generation of women, and endorsing them around the world.
SPEAK UP, VOTE
Today, Taiwanese will exercise their civic right to vote. Looking back at the history of political participation and the right to vote, women’s suffrage is even more precious, because although in the past Taiwan might have been a democracy, women seem to have been excluded.
Now, voters are about to add another page to history by voting for a female presidential candidate, and speaking up for all women by exercising the right to vote and showing support for all the world’s female leaders.
Huang Fei-hsin is a social studies editor at a Taiwan-based publishing house.
Translated by Eddy Chang
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