Tsai breaks gender barriers as Taiwan’s first female president

  • AseanPlus News
  • Thursday, 21 Jan 2016

X: Tsai Ing-wen, the presidential candidate of Taiwan’s main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), campaigning ahead of the presidential election in Tainan’s southern city of Tainan. — AFP

Taipei: Taiwan’s president-elect Tsai Ing-wen (pic) has not only broken the gender barrier to win the highest office in the land – she is the first woman without political lineage in Asia to head a government.

This was made possible as laws were introduced in 2002 to enforce gender equity and equality in schools and workplaces here, making it easier for Taiwanese women to climb the ranks, say analysts.

Today’s voters are also averse to politicians with ties to influential political families.

Tsai, 59, a former law professor, won the presidential polls in a landslide victory last Saturday.

Her party, the Democratic Prog­ressive Party (DPP), also got its first ever parliamentary majority in the legislative elections.

Modern Women’s Foundation deputy chief executive Lin Mei- hsun said: “People used to think it was a joke that a woman wants to be a president, but Tsai has proven that a woman can do well and reach the top on her own merit.”

She added that Tsai’s win is instructive to young women in that they “don’t have to play second fiddle” and, if given opportunities, “can take up big responsibilities”.

But the president-elect is not the only woman making a difference in Taiwanese politics.

Women make up close to 37.2% of the newly elected 113-seat parliament – one of the highest rates of women in Parliament in East Asia.

Women politicians appeal to voters like designer Roy Hsieh, 31, who feels they read the ground better.

“They are patient and seem more willing to listen to people. That is very important,” he said.

Tsai has had to grapple with sexism in a society that favours boys over girls and prefers women to be stay-at-home mums. She has frequently been criticised for being unmarried and had to fend off questions about her sexuality.

Associate Professor Chen Yi-chien of Shih Hsin University’s Graduate Institute for Gender Studies said Tsai’s presidency will raise expectations of women’s groups.

“This is only the start. Taiwan will not be changed overnight into a gender-equal society just because we have a female leader,” she said, adding that reforms must continue. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

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