Longest Serving US Female Lawmaker on the Importance of Women in Politics

A champion. Normally, one shouldn’t throw around adjectives like this too lightly, but if anybody deserves it, Barbara Mikulski, or Senator Barb, does; with her country affectionately affording her the title of longest serving female lawmaker.

She has somewhat of a remarkable success story of gender equality, with women taking their rightful place in the world of political decision-making.

After calling it a day at the Senate after an impressive 30-year tenure, and being voted the meanest senator twice, Mikulski has now joined the John Hopkins University in an academic capacity. This week, alongside former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, she visited Georgia to partake in NDI Georgia’s event – the round-up and graduation of the Future Women Leader’s program whereupon GEORGIA TODAY and Panorama TV Show were privileged to a have a blitz-interview with the venerable lawmaker.

It’s your first visit to Georgia - what are your impressions?

First of all, I’m very impressed by the vibrancy of the culture and people. There is such energy, such vitality here. And it seems that there is a deep commitment to continue to make progress for social and economic reforms.

What is your message to this vibrant society? Especially to the part of society that still harbors sympathies for Russia and to an extent, the Soviet Union?

You know, I believe in the self-determination of a person and of a nation. I believe that Georgia itself is not just an independent democracy, it is a respected democracy and it is a welcomed democracy among other nations. So many of your rankings have improved, and in such a short time! The degree of government services to people, the anti-corruption campaign, the attempt to bring new jobs here – it’s all very impressive. So, I believe Georgia is going to determine what's best for Georgia and I’m sure you would agree that independence and democracy are the best ways to go.

You’ve served as a senator for more than 30 years. What’s the perception of Georgia in the West, and in the US particularly?

I was a child of WWII and its aftermath. My own heritage is Polish. We kept traditions in our family and we saw great people, great nations, fall behind the Iron Curtain. Once the wall came down, once the curtain got lifted, what we saw was Georgia, a country that had so much potential due to creativity, intellectual robustness, and the spirit of the people. And we are ever so glad that since the wall came down, Georgia has moved in even greater and greater democracy.

You are the longest serving woman senator in US history and a great proponent of women’s rights. What can you say about the obstacles that women encounter on their path to realizing themselves in politics?

It was very interesting to see the active participation of women in politics here. I know that Georgia is trying to improve its representation and I would wholeheartedly encourage that. We had the same issues in the States. In the US senate there are 100 senators, when I came to the senate over 20 years ago there were only two of us. We were 2%. Now we’re 20%. The barriers are the same. #1 – culture. People either think that politics is not a job for women or that women can’t do the job. Yet, when we serve in politics, we show that we are often twice as hard and often get twice as much done. And I hope that Georgia will choose a path by whatever means they determine is in their best interest to improve women’s participation. I think society will benefit from it because the women will work on the big issues but will also work on the kitchen table issues to improve and strengthen families.

Vazha Tavberidze

15 June 2017 19:46