The voice of Benazir Bhutto and what she was trying to say. Benazir Bhutto’s Fight for Democracy
“Her voice was ever low, gentle and soft—an excellent thing in woman.” – King Lear.
In history, a women’s voice has been revered in poetry and song. “It is a woman's voice, sire, which dares to utter what many yearn for in silence.” (Unsent letter to Napoleon III re: Victor Hugo) by poet Aurora Leigh.
We know that every culture brings a different set of standards for how women are considered or related to. The United States has been known to lead the way in Women’s Rights. However, in Europe there is also a long history of powerful women creating the road map for the civility of women.
For many years Women have been leaders in developing countries around the world. More are taking the lead in becoming powerful political leaders such as Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf who has been sworn in as Africa's first elected female leader in Liberia. In Ireland, a little boy asks his mother, "Do you think a man could ever be President?" All his life he has only seen women presidents.
It is inspiring to see how far we have come. However, we still have a ways to go. Women being president in Unites States is not really an issue of women’s rights, but character. In the case of Hilary Clinton, we will be voting on her character and her ability to lead after the election in November 2008. Creating a unified, strong voice and courage, is what our future needs.
Finding your voice.
In a tribute to Benazir Bhutto, a woman who’s voice impacted the world, we explore our own voice.
As we mourn for Bhutto, 54 after her recent horrific assassination on December 27, 2007, we reflect on the impact women have in the world right now. Her message was clear, she refused to be quiet and allow extremism to continue to destroy her beloved country, Pakistan. Her heroic stand for democracy has become her legacy. As we reflect on our own voice, are we being heard?
Let’s explore a radical yet simple, approach to how to uncover your voice-and be heard, in honor of Bhutto. No matter what the country, or what culture you are from; your voice can make a difference.
If it is in your belief that your voice cannot speak for you, or for your children, or the belief that your voice cannot make a difference, this is the heart of the suffrage you may be facing.
Your passions are clear, but do you speak them? Your opinions are valuable, but do you sing them from the rooftops? It is your ‘holding back’, where the change you want to see will not take place. The change you want to see in your life, and in the world around you.
Mrs. Bhutto saw what she wanted to change. She was a valiant, passionate and loving mother and wife. A mother of three children who loved her country of Pakistan so much, she became Prime Minister twice. Bhutto's persecution began after the dismissal of her father, Prime Minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1977 and his execution by hanging in the city of Rawalpindi. She intensified her denunciations of Zia and sought to organize a powerful political movement against him.
After the hanging of her father, her mission was clear, "I told him on my oath in his death cell, I would carry on his work", to free the people of Pakistan; once and for all; from the communist and extremist violence that has plagued her country.
Bhutto was born June 21, 1953, in Karachi, Pakistan. Her name means "one without equal." She was educated at Harvard's Radcliffe, College in the United States at 16 years old, and at the University of Oxford in England, where she excelled in studies as well as other activities. She was the first Asian woman to be elected president of the Oxford Union, an elite debating society.
In a country where women’s rights, are almost non-existent, and neighboring countries follow cultural and religious beliefs that women are not supposed to be educated, or work, She said, "What I really need to ask myself is: do I give up, do I let the militants determine the agenda?"
The "Times" and the "Australian Magazine" (May 4, 1996) have drawn up a list of 100 most powerful women and have included Benazir Bhutto as one of them. This magnetic woman, who came out of exile in London after repeatedly being under house arrest, was finally imprisoned under solitary confinement in a desert cell in Sindh province during the summer of 1981. Released in 1984, she went into exile in Britain until 1986, when martial law was lifted in Pakistan. Bhutto returned with a huge crowd numbering in the hundreds of thousands.
Her voice gave hope where no hope existed. Her words and her actions pulled generations of Pakistani closer to freedom than they had ever seen in history. In an interview with Ann Curry in Feb 22, 2007 for the Today show she so passionately reveals her reasons for coming back. “I have a choice to keep silent, and allow the extremist to do what they are doing or I could stand up and say this is wrong, and I am going to try to save my country. And I have taken the second choice.”
Her voice rings loud and clear, especially in the ears of her children. She brought her children up to their teenage years, and before her death; she undoubtedly taught them about the importance of not being silent, not sitting back, and allowing inhumane actions to persist around them. Her first-born son speaks out (from the New York Times, Dec 31st 2007) Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, 19, states; "My mother always said democracy is the best revenge." After he was chosen to succeed his mother, as leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party.
Bhutto and her children
Pakistanis across the United States, regardless of whether they supported Benazir Bhutto or not, worry about the impact of her assassination in destabilizing their homeland and threatening the safety of family members living here. We hope Bhutto did not die in vain. As an immigrant in exile she never stopped her concern about her country. Her death is a call to action for immigrants abroad to touch base with their home and lend their voice to their future of their motherland.
In the spirit of Bhutto not holding back her voice, look to your own voice, your own power, your own ability to make a difference, and let’s explore what it really takes to be heard, and make an impact in the world.
Leaders agree that in their desire to be heard, they would have to listen first. By listening to the points of views of others it is a critical competency for success. Listening to others, and asking for their input, we enhance our leadership abilities. Our effectiveness goes the roof. Why?
Communication in relationships is a skillful art that begins with listening. Listening is getting the other person’s world. Allowing them to contribute to you is not about strategy, this is about contribution. We all have value to contribute to each other, when you allow yourself to be contributed to by another, you can make a more effective decision and results.
Some simple changes can make the world of a difference.
Instead of using the word ‘problem’, for example; try using the word ‘challenge’, or ‘circumstance’ in it’s place. See what happens. I noticed immediately that the ‘problem’ I thought I was having became less daunting and easier to solve when I saw it as an opportunity.
Begin with distinguishing what really matters to you? If anyone messed with what really matters to you, would you let them? Would you stand by and watch? You would probably take a stand, standing up for that someone or that something that you believe in. You would end up doing the right thing…even when it is the toughest thing to do.
Another great tool is being accountable. It is the greatest freedom that we can create for ourselves.
You will start to notice your power in your life.
"Those who enjoy accountability usually get it; those who merely like exercising authority usually lose it."
- Malcolm Forbes