8 Female World Leaders Standing Up for Women's Rights (Get Ready To Bow Down, B*tches)
Even in today’s “modern” age, feminist political theory — as the word suggests — has yet to become tangible in global society. But female world leaders are taking action to empower women by furthering the concept of gender equality and urging the political system to leave its outdated patriarchal skeleton behind. There are dozens of political theories dedicated to women, including libertarian, cultural, socialist, and eco feminism. But all of them share a common ideology: Women and men should be treated equally by society, and should have the same opportunities to succeed.
Fortunately, awareness of gender equality is beginning to adopt a higher profile through celebrities like Emma Watson, who has encouraged both men and women to speak up in her He For She campaign, and Beyonce, who has featured important feminist commentary in her songs. You might recognize these words, spoken by feminist author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi and sampled in none other than Beyonce's “Flawless”:
We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, "You can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful." Otherwise you will threaten the man.
Like celebrity women, female politicians can use their political backing and notoriety to make a great impact and actively fight the status quo. They can encourage more girls around the world to make themselves larger than life. Here are eight leading ladies who are running nations of their own and furthering women's rights around the world. #WhoRunTheWorld?
Development is not progress till it is equally shared and not till women can be safe from violence and exploitation.
Sochua is the leader of Cambodia's main opposition party, and creator of the Women’s Wing within it. In response to gender-based violence and sex trafficking, Sochua created the Prevention of Domestic Violence Bill, which severely penalizes marital rape and the abuse of minors. Since it passed in 2002, she has also traveled to rural areas to ensure that villagers become aware of these issues.
Merkel wrote in The Times:
We need to talk about the possibilities open to women around the world to establish their independence and ensure their advancement through safe and skilled labour. All the statistics show a reduction in poverty and inequality when more women play an active part in economic life. However, only about 50 percent of all women are currently in gainful employment.
Merkel, who serves as Chancellor of Germany and Leader of the Christian Democratic Union, is the first woman to hold either position in the country. On top of that, she studied quantum chemistry. In 2015, she approved a gender quota bill, which would require that women make up at least 30 percent of non-executive positions at large companies.
Aung San Suu Kyi
Upon receiving the Eleanor Roosevelt award in 2011, Kyi said:
I believe women play the more important part in our world because not only are they entering the professional world, they still remain the pillars of their homes and families. So I hope the menfolk in this audience will forgive me for speaking in favor of women — for speaking out in favor of women — because I think only a woman can understand the troubles, the problems, the discrimination that other women have to face. So, from this day onwards, until all the people in the world, particularly all the women in the world, are able to achieve their full potential, I hope we will be able to work together closely and in the true spirit of sisterhood.
Aung San Suu Kyi serves as Chairperson of the National League for Democracy in Burma, and has won a Nobel Peace Prize for her human rights activism and protest against the country’s military regime. As a result of these efforts, she spent over a decade under house arrest.
In an interview with The New York Times, she said:
Women work harder. And women are more honest; they have less reasons to be corrupt.
Johnson-Sirleaf is Liberia’s first democratically elected woman president. She has implemented a number of programs that seek to help women who have suffered rape and abuse — atrocities that become tragically common in postwar Liberia. For example, she built a courtroom specifically for cases of sexual assault to ensure that women’s voices are heard and criminals are persecuted. Since she assumed office, hospitals also feature gender-based violence units for victims.
Sheikh Hasina Wajed
In 2014, Hasina told the BBC:
When a girl gets proper education and monetary freedom, automatically it will come down; only passing law or forcing people can't stop it; you have to give them opportunity; you have to create the opportunity and create the atmosphere so that parents should think that girls' marriage is not the only and ultimate goal.
Sheikh Hasina Wajed is the Prime Minister of Bangladesh. UNESCO recognized her in 2014 for her dedication to improving education for girls, whose enrollment in school was significantly surpassed by that of boys in 1990. To encourage families to send their daughters to school, Hasina awarded stipends to them, and by 2013, half of the students enrolled in primary and secondary school were female.
Rousseff said in an interview with Slate in 2010:
I believe that Brazil was prepared to elect a woman. Why? Because Brazilian women achieved that. I didn't come here by myself, by my own merits. We are a majority here in this country ...
Rousseff is Brazil's first female President. Since being elected to office in 2011, she has implemented a piece of legislation that sets harsher penalties for femicide — a crime she believes extends beyond the killing of women to include domestic violence and discrimination. Rousseff has also passed the "Maria da Penha” law, which requires abusers to be removed from their homes and sent away from their victims. Additionally, she has legislated that all public hospitals treat rape victims affected with STDs or HIV/AIDS. Abortion is generally illegal in Brazil, but this law provides a starting point for its legalization by allowing it in cases of rape.
Bachelet said in an interview with the United Nations in 2012:
We need to work on [creating] an environment in which women’s rights are human rights, and that women deserve to be treated respectfully, with dignity and also understanding that, in today’s world, we just cannot afford to lose the potential of the half of humanity that are women and girls ...
Bachelet is the President of Chile — serving her second term — and former Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. In September, Chile’s Health Commission approved of a bill proposed by Bachelet that would legalize abortion in the country.
Bryce commented on paid parental leave at a Productivity Commission meeting back in 2009:
Leave for parents is absolutely vital for strengthening families. All women need support when they're having babies and their little family's in formation
Bryce, Governor General of Australia, has supported equal rights for women, and attention to the needs of mothers in particular. In 2009, she strongly supported legislating 18 weeks of universal paid parental leave for mothers. She has also established orphanages in the Middle East, and fought on behalf of the indigenous people of Australia.