When women from all walks of life are able to make vital choices concerning their own lives, lives of their families, organisations and nations, there can be real change and progress; and this paradigm shift is tantamount to the emergence of women as effective leaders and decision makers. The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly highlighted the important role that women all over the world have played as caregivers, health workers, doctors, nurses, community workers and policy makers in the efficient, difficult and often strenuous handling of the pandemic at both local and international levels. This clearly demonstrates that when women forge ahead as leaders, long lasting effective change can happen and can motivate other women to believe that if they can do it, so can I.
There are few vibrant examples of high achieving women who have emerged as leaders such as Kamala Harris, the first ever woman elected vice president of the US having African and Asian origin, who is the highest-ranking female official in US history. Her long career as district attorney involved breaking many barriers, remaining resolute and unflinching where she adopted a tough approach against cases of abuse, violence and crime. She did her work in a politically independent manner rejecting pressures from many avenues.
Another example is Malala – she wrote in an anonymous diary how oppressing life was under the Taliban rule in Pakistan and advocated for girls’ education and the need for girls to attend school. She developed an international readership, but the Taliban wanted to ban girls’ education, so she was shot but survived the attack and quickly won the support of millions of people world over. At only 17 she became the youngest person ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize. She has won many awards since then and continues to campaign for girls’ rights all over the word and is an inspiration to many.
Another example is Mother Teresa, a great humanitarian who dedicated her life to helping the poor and the diseased and who was the first Indian woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.
Kiran Bedi was also the first woman to join the Indian Police Service (IPS) and was instrumental in introducing prison reform in India by handling matters related to corruption and human rights abuses in the Tihar prison complex in India.
Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany was hugely responsible in dealing with the refugee crisis in a humane manner where she faced criticism and political backlash and wherein Germany came up with a quick, effective and rapid solution of dealing with the huge flood of refugees who had fled their home countries, by readily accepting a number of refugees with unaccompanied children. Thus, she handled the issue with concern, pragmatism, empathy and in a collective manner. All the women mentioned were resolute, resilient, determined in what they believed and wanted to bring about change. A lot can be learnt from their examples. Despite such effusive examples of women, the reality shows that globally women’s leadership is still low with only 20 countries worldwide having women leaders and only 29% of women are in top management positions.
Therefore, it is extremely vital that women’s potential and caliber in all spheres be hugely supported, made known, canvassed and validated as it is only when we celebrate their potential that we can hold the beacon for other women.