Marlene Hassan Nahon
I have been living and breathing public service since I was a baby. These days, I realise how lucky I was to have had a mentor like my father, someone who dedicated his whole life to the people of his community, and someone who had a strong sense of social justice.
Believe it or not, it was not an easy childhood. There was never a time of day or night when my father wasn’t available to listen to people’s concerns. This often came at the expense of his own leisure and family time.
Now that I am older and have acquired experience of public service myself, I finally understand why he made the choices he made. It has to do with a love for and a sense of duty towards the community, with a giving, generous nature, and with a fire to fight for social justice. I hope I have learned and inherited at least a part of that, and I try to apply his example to my work every day. I mimic his ethos of making himself available to the people of the community at all times, in order to listen to them and help solve their issues or problems.
The values I grew up with have led me to wanting to dedicate my life to serving my community and making other people’s lives better.
However, I never planned to go into politics. I spent a great part of the last 15 years raising my four children. Despite having been lucky to have had plenty of support during motherhood, I learnt about the struggles of women, the primary caregivers in our society. I realised just how much more needs to be done to support women and give them structures and frameworks worthy of a modern western democracy so that they can live and participate in a gender balanced society.
When I stood for the 2013 by election I campaigned door to door, and out of one of the many doors that opened, came a lady who told me: “Thank you very much for standing for election, but I think you should be home with your children, making them dinner and caring for them.”
I replied to her, almost instinctively: “Madam, this is my way of caring for my children, it’s about teaching them to help others and care for their community. I also have three girls (as well as a boy) and I would like my daughters to know what it means to have a working mother who feels engaged and wants to work for the betterment of society.”
It was at that moment that I came to terms with my mission as a politician in Gibraltar - a mission to fight for fairness and equality. Not just in the field of political representation - where only two out of our seventeen Parliamentary seats are occupied by women - but in all aspects of society.
This is the driving force of my political mission, and the core value of the party I founded, Together Gibraltar. My father was at the forefront of our struggle for self-determination and national identity. He fought, together with other courageous members of our community, to bring back our evacuees, to house our people, to assert our national identity and to elevate our voices in many international forums. He represented a people of Gibraltar with a single purpose, agenda and allegiance - the betterment of the people of Gibraltar.
Today we live in a completely different society. An elite of lawyers and big business have crafted a system that has worked for quite some time, but is starting to show serious cracks. Social cohesion is on the down, living conditions are worsening and economic opportunity is hard to come by. We are following the paths of other western societies, in which wealth disparity is eroding the foundations of our society. The one Gibraltar my father represented has now turned into two - the one that is steering us in a direction that primarily fulfils their interests - the barristocracy, and the rest of us, who want a Gibraltar focused on the quality of life of all Gibraltarians.
And as many western democracies are, and many more will, we must respond to these challenges. And it is my belief that in order to do this we need to concentrate on a few key areas:
More democracy and better representation.
Environmental sustainability. Economic diversification.
Uncompromising anti-corruption policies.
Progressive civil rights agenda that will put us on a par with modern western democracies.
I have been fighting in Parliament from a lone seat for the last four years defending issues relating to women’s rights, healthcare, justice, impropriety, lack of transparency, housing, the environment, and social services issues. I have devoted myself to my constituents and endeavoured to echo their issues and concerns in order to effect the change that I believe this community needs and deserves. I have worked hard to create a platform where public participation and inclusivity are paramount.
I now ask you to place your trust in me so that I may continue to lead this political project. However, unlike most politicians, my call to action does not end there. If you feel compelled to place your trust in my vision for the future of Gibraltar, please follow closely in my footsteps. Be engaged. Be active. Raise your grievances and demand we hear your voice. We cannot do this without you. We need you right behind us, helping us push this powerful establishment every step of the way. We will only realise this beautiful, ambitious vision if we walk together.
Thank you for taking part in our primaries.