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Andrea Leadsom’s remarks are reminiscent of the extreme vilification of childless women in developing countries

By Nina Steele 

The first thought that came to my mind when the final line up for the Tory leadership contest was announced was: ‘I hope Andrea Leadsom doesn’t use the fact that Theresa May has no children against her’. And to my utter disbelief, she did just that. Listening to parts of the recorded interview, as many people have pointed out, is even worse. It was obvious that she felt superior to Theresa May, by virtue of being a mother.

That someone who has been an MP since 2010 and is a junior minister, believed she was more qualified to be Prime Minister than someone who has been an MP since 1997 and has held one of the toughest jobs in government for 6 years (Theresa May is the longest serving Home Secretary for over 60 years), just because she is a mother and Theresa May isn’t, only proved one thing: that she didn’t get it.

The things that Leadsom said and the way she said it, reminds me of the way in which childless women are treated in developing countries. What makes the similarities even more striking is the fact that Leadsom is often described as a devout Christian.

Of course there is nothing wrong with being a devout Christian. However, as is often the case in places like Africa where religion is part of the fabric of society, many people see children as a gift from God. The implication is that those who cannot conceive are somewhat inferior and worse, cursed.

I get sent desperate emails from women around the world and often, the most distressing ones are from developing countries. Recently, the bulk of the messages have been from Africa, and the stories they tell are as bad as they come, with religion playing a central part.

If we in the West, with all the information at our disposable cannot become enlightened enough to see that there is more to life than having children, what hope is there for people, particularly women in the developing world where there is still a great deal of ignorance about this issue?

Millions of women are rejected by their communities because they are unable to conceive. They are seen as worthless. Any input they have on issues related to children is met with derision. ‘What does she know?’, is what their contributions are often met with. This is one of the reasons why Leadsom’s remarks made me so angry. A woman with her background should have known better.

If anything good has come out of this sorry saga, it is the backlash that ensued. That so many parents felt as outraged as non-parents, shows that the great majority of people get it.

As I write this, Andrea Leadsom has dropped out of the race, paving the way for Theresa May to become our next Prime Minister. I am absolutely ecstatic.

Andrea Leadsom

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