Women power emerges from Africa
There has been a long-held belief in our societies that power and leadership belongs to men. In recent years though, there has been a shift in thinking, with men being more than willing to rally behind more qualified and deserving women vying for leadership positions. Evidence of this new phenomenon is the rise of women to the presidency in Liberia, Malawi and Brazil; as well as to the top leadership of global finance institutions. Take a look at a few examples:
Even though she was not selected as the World Bank president, the Nigerian finance minister was the choice of the entire developing world – a rarity in our often male chauvinistic society. In two-person race, Okonjo-Iweala, stood out as the most qualified for the job which she lost not because she is a woman, but because she is not an American. He efforts in trying to dismantle a decades-long tradition that the bank shall always be headed by a male American, is a big achievement in it self.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
The President of Liberia won her first term in 2005 in male-crowded race. In January, she was inaugurated for a second term in office, after a very tense campaign and elections. She is a strong woman who contributed a lot to the development of her country, especially by reducing the country’s debts through the macroeconomic policies pursued by her administration and a commitment to prevent unsustainable borrowing in the future. Sirleaf also established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. She made history as the first ever African female president and was winner of the Noble Peace Prize in 2011.
After the death of the president Bingu wa Mutharika, Malawi experienced a few days of uncertainty until they got their next leader who also happened to be their first female president. Joyce Banda who was sworn in on April 7 had served as Malawi’s Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2006 to 2009 and Vice-President from May 2009 to April 2012. She has been involved with many grassroots projects with women to bring about policy change, particularly in education. She is the founder the Joyce Banda Foundation for Better Education, the Young Women Leaders Network, National Association of Business Women and the Hunger Project in Malawi. She is the second woman to become president in African.
Had the Americans not prevailed to stop Okonjo-Iweala from becoming the head of the World Bank, the two Breton Wood institions would for the first time be headed by women. Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund since July 2011 and a French lawyer, would have had a valuable colleague. In 1999, Lagarde became the first ever female Chairman of Baker & McKenzie, a large Chicago-based international law firm for which she worked. She held various ministerial positions in France and, in 2007, she was appointed at the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Industry and Employment to become the first woman to ever be in charge of economic policy in France. She was elected managing director and chair of the IMF for a five-year term.
Brazil also left a mark in history by electing Dilma Rousseff, their first female president in October 2010. Rousseff has been a political activist since her youth and her election, beating many political men to obtain the presidency, was a beacon of light to the women of her country and around the world.
It is very interesting to note that the majority of these women come from developing countries and it is great to know that those countries are finally leading in a very important area: political equity for all, regardless of gender.