Maddalena Vani Women in Security

Female Global Empowerment

Our Ancient Ancestress

The very foundation of political and ideological work in Ancient Greece and Rome continues to influence the modern world. Ancient Romans believed that women were powerful but were required to remain in the “private” sphere, caring for their children and teaching them how to be proper citizens. Despite this belief, historical records show that women were successful in influencing their husbands and male counterparts for positions of political power. Livia, Emperor Augustus’ wife, contributed to the formation of the Roman Imperial dynasty’s traditions. Although officially consigned to the private sphere, women who were married to political men were able to assert diverse forms of political power.

Role Models for Westerners

Unlike Ancient society, contemporary western governments encourage women to be part of the political sphere. The Canadian government has created many organizations to empower women both at home and abroad. Despite these contributions, it is still possible to argue that some women in the twenty-first century are similar to the women in Ancient Rome. Contemporary Livias, one could argue, could be the First Lady, Michelle Obama, or Laureen Harper, the spouse of the Canadian Prime Minister. Although not in elected or paid positions, these women are proving to be influential role models for young women around the world because of their status, successes, and efforts of encouragement.

Female Global Empowerment

The idea for designing the role of First Lady began in the US. The position is filled by the wife of the President who acts as the hostess of the White House. The First lady is not an elected representative and carries no official duties, in addition she has no official salary. The First Lady’s political decisions are, therefore, not motivated by success but by the desire to see positive change in the world. Some famous First Ladies include: Dolley Madison, who was dedicated to helping orphans and women; Eleanor Roosevelt, who took on Franklin D. Roosevelt’s duties during his paralytic illness; Nancy Regan, who founded the Just Say No drug awareness campaign; and Michelle Obama, who is currently rooting for the support of military families, as well as tackling childhood obesity. The role of the First Lady in America is directly linked to improving the status of women in the country and around the world. The objective is to demonstrate that women are just as powerful and influential as their male counterparts.

The Spouse of the Prime Minister is regarded as a public figure who accompanies the Prime Minister, and is the hostess of the Prime Minister’s place of residence. Prime Minister Harper’s wife, Laureen Harper, supports many small charity organizations such as the animal welfare organization. Spouses of previous Prime Ministers include Mila Mulroney and Aline Chretien, who were recognized as powerful advisors to their husbands. Laureen Harper has been recognized as her husband’s “secret weapon,” since her ideas for campaigning proved invaluable to her husband’s career. She has also made significant inroads into international politics. Teaming up with Indigo President Heather Reisman and human rights activist Nazarin Afshin-Jam, wife of attorney general Peter Mackay, Laureen Harper pressured the Iranian regime to spare the life of a woman who was given the death penalty for committing adultery. Women in such positions contribute to female empowerment on a global scale because they are able to demonstrate the importance of upholding women’s social and political rights.

The status of Michelle Obama and Laureen Harper demonstrates the progress of incorporating women into Western political history. These women play an important role internationally, in addition to serving as role models for women. We should recall the great efforts of Empress Livia, the woman who promoted the status of females in Ancient Rome, and encouraged them to take part in the progress and success of the empire. Michelle Obama and Laureen Harper could be her contemporary counterparts.

Maddalena Vani
Maddalena Vani is a Junior Research Fellow Alumni, and 2014 Winter Intern at the NATO Association of Canada. She graduated from York University with a BA Honours (Double Major) in Classical Studies and European Studies. Maddalena is in the 2016 class for the MA in European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto. Outside of academics, Maddalena has co-founded a Lions Club in Kleinburg and surrounding Vaughan region, where she is committed to helping those in need, and creating a sphere of young adults who want to be leaders in their community. She is also the Academic Events Coordinator for the 2014 Model NATO Youth Summit. Maddalena is the 2013 recipient of the Ordine al Merito “Order of Merit” Young Achievement Award from the National Congress of Italian-Canadians.