By: Tomas Penfold Perez
Celebrated on March 8 every year, the International Women's Day celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. The day reportedly was predominantly celebrated by the socialist movement and communist countries until it was adopted in 1975 by the United Nations.
This year, the theme is #BeBoldForChange. Women around the world are marking International Women's Day, with some wearing red to work and others taking the day off to go on strike or join rallies calling for equal rights.
International Women’s Day grants us an opportunity to applaud the achievements of women worldwide; most notably, however, the achievements of women in the foreign policy realm who have tackled leadership roles in the diplomacy world. Although the state of international affairs should reflect the views of both men and women, the unfortunate reality lies in women being historically underrepresented in senior diplomatic and governing positions worldwide.
Contrary to popular belief, and perhaps surprising to many, the pioneers of the women’s political movement in the 21st century lies in Rwanda and Bolivia. While the diplomatic infrastructure may reinforce gender inequalities within government, Rwanda and Bolivia have led the move towards breaking the glass ceiling. Rwanda (63.8%) and Bolivia (53.1%) are leading the world in women’s participation in government, with advanced countries like Canada and the United States ranking 63rd and 100th, respectively.
Although women’s role within government may be historically underrepresented, there are several countries that have democratically elected women to lead their countries: Chile (2006), Nepal (2015), Malta (1982), South Korea (2013), Mauritius (2014), Croatia (2015), Lithuania (2009), Bangladesh (1991), Marshall Islands (2016), Taiwan (2016), Liberia (2014), United Kingdom (1979), Germany (2005), Norway (1981) and Poland (1992).
It is important to revere the women who made this political movement a reality (several listed below), as the incorporation of their perspectives, and the perspectives of many others, have helped pave the way for equality, development and peace in the world of international diplomacy.
Served as Prime Minister of Ceylon and Sri Lanka three times (1960-65, 1970-1977, 1994-2000). The first female head of government in the modern world (1960-65).
Served as Prime Minister of India twice (1966-77, 1980-84). Remembered as the “Iron Lady of India.” Successfully negotiated end to the Pakistan war of 1971.
Served as first female prime minister of Israel from 1969-1974. Served as minister of labor (1949-56) and foreign minister (1956).
Dubbed The Iron Lady, she served as Britain's prime minister from 1979-1990. The first woman to lead a political party in the U.K.
The first female President of the European Parliament (1979-1982).
In 2011, the French lawyer and politician became the first female Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Served as U.S. Secretary of State (1996-2001), first woman to ever hold position. Albright also took part in the first ever U.S.-China High-Level Political Party Leaders Dialogue, organized by the EastWest Institute in 2010.
Served as first female president of Iceland from 1980-1996. The world’s first democratically elected female president. To date, the longest-serving, elected female head of state.
In 2016, the former First Lady and New York Senator became America's first female presidential nominee of a major party. Served as Secretary of State from 2009-2013.