Friday, February 10, 2012

Female Heads of State - Part I

There are currently 19 female world leaders in power, as of February 2, 2012. In my January blog I highlighted three of these leaders. The February series will be on a few of the other 16 leaders. Excluded in this list are the three reigning Queens in the UK, Netherlands and Denmark. There are also three Vice-Regals also known Governor-Generals who serve on behalf of Queen Elizabeth, in British CommonWealth countries, as heads of state. They are, however, not considered female world leaders since they are symbolic figure heads.

President Rosa Otunbayeva
Most of the current leaders have been elected into office and a few have been appointed. Only one female leader in the list of present and past women leaders came into power via a coup. This was President Rosa Otunbayeva, of Kyrgyzstan, who was in power from April 7, 2010 to December 1, 2011.

Roza Isakovna Otunbayeva is a seasoned diplomat and former foreign minister serving under the then President Kurmanbek Bakiyev. The April 2010 revolution, also known as the "tulip revolution" ousted President Bakiyev paving the way for Ms. Roza first as an interim leader, then President. Kyrgyzstan is one of the six independent Turkic states located in Central Asia. It is the second poorest country in the region. This predominantly Islam state is unique in that elite women have political space in the upper echelons of society.

Cissé Mariam Kaïdama Sidibé
Prime Minister Cissé Mariam Kaïdama Sidibé  is the first female head of state in the history of Mali. She was appointed, and not elected, on April 3, 2011. Her appointment brings the number of female heads of state in Africa to two!

It is said that this was a political calculation on the part of the President who was responsible for appointing PM Sidibé. Mali is a very conservative country that is divided on the issue of gender and the vicissitudes of the family code. A Family Law bill in 2009 which would have promoted women's rights was withdrawn after vociferous protests by conservatives. 

Some speculate that President Amadou Toumani Touré's choice of a female Prime Minister is in part his way of reaching out to the female voters in June 2012 elections. 

Whether this was a calculated move or not, Africa now has a second female head of state. Interesting enough they are both leaders in two of the poorest countries in the continent. This could mean that hope is still alive for these countries. These women can turn these countries around, given the chance.

Next ... European female heads of state.

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