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President of Malta calls for more women in positions of power during speech at Mason

September 25, 2017   /   by Buzz McClain

The president of Malta, Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, delivered a case for involving more women at high levels of government and business in a speech Friday night at George Mason University’s Founders Hall in Arlington.

In her talk, “Peace Beyond the Patriarchy,” Coleiro Preca asked the audience of 175 to “take a critical look and be courageous in openly confronting the patriarchy,” referring to the overwhelming majority of men in top leadership positions in government and corporations.

“Patriarchy makes us believe that there are no alternatives to its way of thinking, of acting and of living,” she said. “It would have us believe that a deep-rooted change is not possible.”

She pointed out that in much of the world women are not only not in power but they are in danger, adding that “femicide” is rampant across Europe.

“It is shocking to consider that there is no international monitoring system looking at forms of violence against women,” she said. Because it is culturally accepted in many countries to discriminate against girls and women, she added, that often leads to tragic consequences.

International and domestic conflicts have significant impact on women and girls who usually are powerless to stop the wars men create.

“Let us remember that many of the world’s conflicts are the result of a patriarchal system that legitimizes the use of violence,” she said.

She also called upon men to be active partners in helping women achieve meaningful empowerment and equality.

Gender minorities are also underrepresented in leadership roles, Coleiro Preca said, calling for a zero-tolerance policy toward gender-based violence and oppression. She added that Malta is ranked first of 49 European countries in the annual index of LGBTQI rights released by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association.

“Malta is one of the only countries in the world to have made LGBT rights equal at a constitutional level,” she said, including a 2016 ban on so-called gay conversion therapies.

She called on students to start the change away from a patriarchal culture.

“I believe that the young people of the world must take a more central role to achieve this much-needed transformation,” she said. “You must be the activists of today in order to become the effective leaders of tomorrow.”

In a talk following the speech, George Mason professor Richard Rubenstein said the president’s remarks raised important questions.

“How do we get beyond this dichotomy, this hyper-masculine attitude, and get to the next phase of human value? This lays out an important research agenda,” he said.

Coleiro Preca’s address, the 28th annual Lynch Lecture, was sponsored by Mason’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution.