In recent years, as equality laws have been passed, women have become increasingly involved in the politics of their countries. Women are finally blazing a trail in the service of the running of the country from in front of the scene rather than from behind! Many are strong role models who manage to combine high flying careers as well as having a family. Some have even been elected as rulers. Here are just 7 countries led by women.
The German Bundestag (Parliamentary) elections in 2005 voted Angela Merkel to Germany’s most powerful position, Chancellor. The Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party led by Merkel in 2005 won the election by a small margin, but in the 2009 elections returned with a much larger majority due to Merkel’s popularity. Merkel was born in Hamburg in 1954. Her mother was a second-generation Polish immigrant, and her father was a German-born Lutheran Church Minister. Growing up in East Germany, Angela was a member of the compulsory ‘Free German Youth (FDJ)’ but avoided any direct activity. When the family moved to West Germany she met Ulrich Merkel, her future husband. As one of Europe’s largest nations, Germany is not only a country led by a woman but has become a powerhouse of manufacture and innovation. Angela Merkel continues to play an important role in European politics.
Iceland is not only a country led by a woman but a gay one to boot! Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir became Iceland’s first openly gay Prime Minister in the 2009 elections to the ‘Althing’ (Icelandic Parliament). She is Iceland’s longest serving politician; in 1990 when she failed to be elected as leader of the Social Democrats, she declared “Minn tími mun koma!" which translates as “My time will come!” - now a famous saying in Iceland. Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir was born in Reykjavik and studied commerce at the Commercial College of Iceland. After graduation she became a flight attendant and was a member and leader of many steward unions. In 1970 she married for the first time, divorcing later when Johanna met Jónína Leósdóttir with whom she formed a civil partnership . In 2010, when same-sex marriage was legalised in Iceland, the couple married, becoming one of the first same-sex partnerships in the country.
Julia Gillard became Australia’s first female Prime Minister in June 2010, after the former leader of her party, Kevin Rudd, was ousted by a national vote. Gillard won the leadership with a significant majority. Julia Gillard was born in Wales in 1961. When she suffered a serious illness as a child her parents were advised to move to a warmer climate, and they emigrated to Adelaide, Australia. In 1990, Gillard was appointed partner in the legal firm that she worked for, and it was through her legal work that she met her partner Tim Mathieson. Australia is a major power in world politics, especially across the Asiatic sector. Gillard remains very popular and hopes to gain further support for her campaign for Australia’s independence from the UK.
Scandanavians are known for their liberalism, so it’s not surprising to find Finalnd among the countries led by women. Tarja Halonen became the first female President of Finland in the elections of 2000. She was elected by a majority of 51.6%, beating the centrist party candidate Esko Aho. Tarja Halonen was born in 1943 in a working class part of Helsinki. Her father was on the front line during the 2nd World War, and her mother was a military bootmaker. She began her political career as a trade union leader and lawyer for the Finnish trade union movement. She married her partner Pentti Arajärvi in 2000. Halonen’s popularity has risen dramatically since her election and she plays an important ceremonial role in Finnish politics, at a time when Finland’s population and European influence is increasing.
5. Costa Rica
Laura Chinchilla was elected as the first female President of Costa Rica in the 2010 elections. She was born in 1959 in Carmen Central, San Jose, and graduated from university with a public policy degree, working as an advisor to the South American and African Governments. She married her first husband in 1982, divorced, and married her current husband José María Rico Cueto, with whom she has a son. Chinchilla’s Presidency is not without controversy; her party, the ‘National Liberation Party,’ campaigns against abortion and same-sex marriage, which has caused concern amongst civil rights campaigners. However Costa Rica has links commercially and politically with many major countries around the world, so she holds a considerable amount of power, which may develop further over time.
It’s a major statement of how the world has changed to see that one of the former communist bloc is now one of the countries led by a woman. Roza Otunbayeva was sworn in as President of the Kyrgyzstan Republic in 2010 after a political revolution in the country, which ousted the male President at the time. Otunbayeva was a high-standing member of the Communist party in the USSR, but in 2005, she was barred from becoming the leader of her party due to her previous job as ambassador to the UK. Roza Otunbayeva was born in 1950 in Osh, Soviet Union, now the Republic of Kyrgyzstan. Her father was a member of the Supreme Court of Kirgiz SSR. She graduated in philosophy and taught at the Moscow State University. She married her husband BK Sadybakasov in 1963. Kyrgyzstan is a growing power in the Caucasus region, and is a powerful oil rich country with bargaining power over major European countries.
Dilma Rousseff was elected as the first female President of Brazil in 2011, having also been the first female Chief of Staff. As a young woman, Rousseff decided to become involved in the armed revolt against the military regime, for which she was imprisoned. Her political career progressed from this point. Born in 1947 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Dilma Rousseff’s parents were middle-class and she was raised in a Catholic boarding school, run by French nuns. She graduated with a degree in Economics, and became an economist. Married twice, she has one child. Brazil is an increasingly powerful developing country, which attracts manufacturing businesses from all over the world. Rousseff‟s power is increasing rapidly, and she has a significant voice in South America and on the world stage.
I hope this impressive list of countries led by women makes you feel proud of just how far our sex has come from the days when we had no rights at all and our job was to keep house and have babies. For me personally, Margaret Thatcher will always be somebody to admire. I wonder if entering politics is something you dream of?
Top Photo Credit: MystifyMe Concert Photography™