While most countries have been ruled almost entirely by men throughout their histories, more and more women are being elected to high political offices and even becoming heads of state. Many of these women are bringing unique and fresh perspectives on the challenges that their countries face and are showing innovative and effective leadership.
Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany, became Time Magazine’s person of the year in 2015 for how she handled the refugee crisis that hit Europe during the summer of that year. She enabled Syrian refugees to settle down in Germany and contribute to the economy, recognizing the positive effect that refugees can bring to a country.
New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, is widely credited with enacting policies that led to a halt in the coronavirus pandemic in her country. Her no-nonsense approach immediately shut down the country and isolated all cases of the virus so that it became the first country to reopen safely.
The small island country of Iceland has a female prime minister, Katrin Jakobsdottir. Iceland has a history of electing female heads of state since it became the first country to do so in 1980. Jakobsdottir has helped spearhead policies to make Iceland entirely carbon-neutral by 2040 and has also revamped the country’s economy following the fallout of the 2008 economic collapse.
Saara Kuugongelwa is the prime minister of Namibia became exiled from her home country at just 13 years old before earning a doctorate in economics. Her fight against corruption and insistence on sound fiscal policies has led to the country’s first budget surplus in history.
Hilda Heini is the president of the archipelago in the South Pacific, known as the Marshall Islands. Dr. Heini – who is the first Marshallese person ever to obtain a doctorate – has a background in education that she took with her to the highest office in the country. She is battling climate change, which threatens to submerge the Marshall Islands and other South Pacific countries completely.
Nepal’s president, Bidhya Devi Bhandari, has been emphasizing the need for gender equality, especially in light of the devastating earthquake the decimated the country in 2015. In Bangladesh, the prime minister is Sheikh Hasina, formerly a political prisoner who opened her country’s doors to the Rohingya refugees fleeing genocide in their home country of Myanmar.
There are many other female heads of state, and their numbers are increasing. Today, one-quarter of the United States Congress is made of female representatives, and we may have our first female president soon.