Five things African women can learn from Margaret Thatcher

9 Apr

Margaret_Thatcher_cropped2

From world leaders to the man on the street, it seems everyone has an opinion of the late former British PM Margaret Thatcher who died on Monday following a stroke.

True to form her death has divided the public with reactions ranging from tears to outright jubilation.

Thatcher’s 11 years in office make her the longest-serving prime minister of 20th century Britain. She was also the first and only female to occupy that role.

Originally a research chemist before becoming a barrister, Thatcher was elected Member of Parliament for Finchley in 1959. Edward Heath appointed her Secretary of State for Education and Science in his 1970 government. In 1975 Thatcher defeated Heath in the Conservative Party leadership election to become Leader of the Opposition and became the first woman to lead a major political party in the United Kingdom. She became Prime Minister after winning the 1979 general election.

Love her or loathe her, you can’t deny her legacy as one of the most influential political figures of the 20th Century, with her radical and sometimes confrontational approach that defined her 11-year reign at No 10.

Whilst she famously declared that she did not owe the women’s liberation movement anything, here are five things that African women can learn from Margaret Thatcher …in quotes.

 1. Don’t be afraid to have an opinion and to fight for your convictions even when no one else agrees with you

“To those waiting with bated breath for that favourite media catch phrase, the U-turn, I have only one thing to say. You turn if you want to… the lady’s not for turning.”

 “I am not a consensus politician. I’m a conviction politician.”

“Standing in the middle of the road is very dangerous; you get knocked down by the traffic from both sides.”

2. Understand your strength as a woman and use the special skills that you bring to the table because you are a woman

“Any woman who understands the problems of running a home will be nearer to understanding the problems of running a country.”

“I’ve got a woman’s ability to stick to a job and get on with it when everyone else walks off and leaves it.”

“If you want something said, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman.”

3. Be ambitious and understand that success takes hard work

 “I do not know anyone who has got to the top without hard work. That is the recipe. It will not always get you to the top, but should get you pretty near.”

 “Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It’s not a day when you lounge doing nothing, it’s when you’ve had everything to do and you’ve done it.”

“You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.”

4. Sometimes you have to be a bitch to get things done. Don’t be afraid to stamp your authority, change often requires a rattling of the cage

“If you just set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time and you would achieve nothing.”

“I don’t mind how much my ministers talk, as long as they do what I say.”

“I am extraordinarily patient, provided I get my own way in the end.”

5. We are the sum of our upbringing, our parents’ values and our life experiences. Understand how your own upbringing has shaped and influenced who you are so that you can choose what values you pass on to your children

 “I just owe almost everything to my father and it’s passionately interesting for me that the things that I learned in a small town, in a very modest home, are just the things that I believe have won the election.”

“My policies are based not on some economics theory, but on things I and millions like me were brought up with.”

“If I had my time again, I wouldn’t go into politics because of what it does to your family.”

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2 Responses to “Five things African women can learn from Margaret Thatcher”

  1. Patience April 11, 2013 at 10:18 am #

    “If I had my time again, I wouldn’t go into politics because of what it does to your family.” – Margaret Thatcher
    What a damper of a quote to end the otherwise empowering article on a woman meant to inspire the women of the world. It is such a deadening statement in that it’s as though when she is about to make the full circle, she stops and retraces her footsteps.
    Perhaps the woman’s movement is all in vain. Are women so engineered to center their whole self on family? Why can a man practically have it all, and I believe a man would simply say ‘my one regret is that I wasn’t always around to watch my children grow but yes I would do it all over again.” The male can say this because he is convicted that through his chosen career, he was able tofeed, clothe his family.
    Men can forgive themselves and seek forgiveness and look forward to what lies ahead. Men will make it clear that what they devoted their time and life to was for the good of the family. Can a woman stand up and convince her family of the same?
    Can a family, a husband and the children acknowledge that their wife, mother had a right to enhance her career at all cost can they allow her to be the person she believes she is as they would their father, husband and son?
    It goes back to the general thought that the most successful women on this planet are usually single because society fears them to be less than women. Less than women because they are powerful and know what they want to do with their lives.
    How saddening that Margaret had such a regret and that she felt she failed to balance her life successfully.

    • Sani Dowa April 12, 2013 at 7:25 am #

      You’ve hit hte nail on the head Patience and I think that statement is the tragic Shakespearean twist at the end that’s up for discussion. She ended up with two children who resented her and probably never forgave her for not being a ‘normal mother’, her daughter in particular. In the end she died alone in a hotel room. Watching the people dancing on her grave you wonder whether they would have judged a man so harshly, would her children have resented their father had he been the Prime Minister?

      Oprah Winfrey says of her decision not to have children that she felt she could not have both and so chose her career.

      The very real choices that women still have to contend with today.

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