opinion

This election has been focused on two men. But the real victory belongs to girls.

When Kamala Harris was growing up in Berkeley, California, her mother — an Indian-born biologist and breast cancer researcher — instilled in her a simple message.

"Don't sit around and complain about things; do something."

That ethos guided her through her education at a newly desegregated primary school, and through degrees in economics, political science and law. 

It guided her into a legal career where she was appointed District Attorney of San Francisco then Attorney General of California — the first woman in the history of those positions.

It guided her into the United States Senate in 2017, and on to a bid for the Democratic presidential nomination just a year later.

And now, that ethos will guide Kamala Harris in her role as the Vice President of the United States of America.

After a year in which the world's attention has been myopically held by a tousle between two men, we must not underestimate what Vice President-Elect Harris' victory means.

Not only will she be the first woman to hold the office since it was established 231 years ago, she will be the first Black person and the first South Asian American.

At last, girls — and in particular, girls of colour — will be able to look to the West Wing of the White House and see themselves.

At the helm of a global superpower, will sit a woman, a daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants, an advocate who stood up for marginalised Americans and unflinchingly called out her outgoing President's history of predation, misogyny and xenophobia.

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Sadly, Vice President-Elect Harris' mother did not live to see that day or this. She died of colon cancer in 2009.

Kamala Harris (L), with her sister Maya and their mother, Shyamala Gopalan. Image:Kamala Harris campaign. 

But the scientist's daughter carries her legacy, while forging her own.

Throughout Vice President-Elect Harris' presidential bid and subsequent campaign alongside the soon-to-be president, Joe Biden, she spoke of her inherited values of self-determination, perseverance and leadership, which charted the course of her life.

"My mother was a proud woman. She was a brown woman. She was a woman with a heavy accent. She was a woman who, many times, people would overlook her or not take her seriously," Vice President-Elect Harris said on the campaign trail.

"Because of who my mother was and what she believed, what she had the ability to dream was possible and then work to make possible, [and] the fact that my mother never asked anyone permission... is why, within one generation, I stand here..."

Come Inauguration Day on January 20, Vice President-Elect Harris will achieve what she worked to make possible.

With a new title before her name, she will step off the dais in Washington D.C. and begin treading a path that's been blocked for so many others, clearing it as she goes.

That was another of her late mother's mottos: "You may be the first, but make sure you're not the last."

There's little doubt of that. And goodness knows doing that is far more than 'something'.

Feature Image: Getty.

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