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World Leaders

"Democracy without women is no democracy." Slavenka Drakulic, 'Network of East-West Women' (www.neww.org) co-founder, Croatia. Below is a list of women who are and have held leadership positions in their countries. While the quantitative aspect of women's representation is important in developing and maintaining the rights of women world-wide, an emphasis on the qualitative impact of women in decision-making processes is what truly provides the conditions for sustainable democracy. Globally, women make up over half of the entire population and without our ability to influence and create positive policies that support women's livelihood, our needs will not be addressed and democracy cannot thrive.
 
Current Women Heads of State and Government

Chandrika Kumaratunga, President of Sri Lanka (1994-)
-Sri Lanka's fourth executive president
-Elected President by record 62% of votes
-Widowed twice and mother of two children
-Daughter of former Prime Minister of Sri Lanka and of the world's first woman Prime Minister, Sirimavo Bandaranaike who was elected to office in 1961
-Fluent in Sinhala, English, and French
-Studied at St. Bridget's Convent, Colombo; Aquinas University College, Colombo; University of Paris and Le Monde
-Guest Lecturer at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi and at Bradford University in the U.K.
-Research Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London

Mary McAleese, President of Ireland (1997-)
-Eighth President of Ireland
-Inaugurated on November 11, 1997
-Barrister, former Professor of Law, and Broadcaster
-First President to come from Northern Ireland
-First woman President to succeed another (Mary Robinson) in history
-Attended Queen's University of Belfast and called to Northern Ireland Bar
-Appointed Reid Professor of Criminal Law, Criminology and Penology at Trinity College, Dublin
-Director of the Institute of Professional Legal Studies
-First female Pro-Vice Chancellor of the Queen's University of Belfast

Jennifer Smith, Premier of Bermuda (1998-2003)
-Served from November 9, 1998 until July 28, 2003
-First elected female Premier of Bermuda
-First Bermuda Progressive Labor Party Premier
-First Progressive Labor Party Minister of Education

Mireya Moscoso, President of Panama (1999-)
-First woman to hold Presidential position in the government
-Won by 43.99% of votes
-Leader of the Amulfista Party
-Attended Miami Dade Community College and the University of the State of Florida
-Mother of one child
-Wife of three-time President of Panama, Dr. Arnulfo Aryan Madrid
-Lived in exile from Panama for 10 years in Miami with husband

Vaira Vike-Freiberga, President of Latvia (1999-)
-Elected President June 17, 1999
-Re-elected President June 20, 2003
-Attended University of Toronto and McGill University in Canada
-Retired Professor Emerita from L'Université de Montreal
-Received honorary degrees from Victoria University, University of Latvia, Kaunas Vytautas Magnus University, McGill University of Montreal
-Director of Latvian Institute in Riga

Helen Clark, Prime Minister of New Zealand (1999-)
-Elected Prime Minister on November 27, 1999
-Elected to Parliament in 1981
-Attended Auckland University
-Lecturer in political studies at Auckland University
-Awarded the annual peace prize of the Danish Peace Foundation for her work in promoting international peace and disarmament

Tarja Halonen, President of Finland (2000-)
-11th President of Finland elected in February 2000
-Finland's first female head of state
-Attended University of Helsinki
-Lawyer, Cabinet Minister, Member of Parliament and of Social Democratic Party
-Has played an active role in international solidarity movement, human rights, democracy, social justice and the promotion of equality

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, President of the Philippines (2001-)
-14th President of the Philippines
-Elected January 20, 2001
-Elected senator in 1995 with highest number of votes in Philippine history
-Mother of three children
-Daughter of the late President Diosdado Macapagal
-Attended Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. as classmate of Bill Clinton, Assumption College, Ateneo de Manila University, and The University of the Philippines
-Executive Director of the Garments and Textile Export Board making the garment industry the top net dollar earner for the country

Megawati Sukarnoputri, President of Indonesia (2001-)
-Vice-President under President Abdurrahman Wahid who was removed from office on July 23, 2001; Megawati was then installed as Indonesia's 5th President
-Daughter of the late president Sukarno
-Leader of Indonesian Democracy Party (PDI) and was removed from position by force by former President Suharto
-Eventually reformed PDI into Perjuangan (Struggle)
-Has public reputation for political courage and integrity

Khaleda Zia, Prime Minister of Bangladesh (1991-1996, 2001-)
-First woman Prime Minister of country
-Was elected three times to position, the last being in October 2001
-Mother and grandmother of two children
-Led nationwide mass movement for the restoration of democracy in Bangladesh after assassination of her husband, President Ziaur Rahman on May 30, 1981
-Leader of largest parliamentary opposition in Bangladesh history
-Began nationwide program to ensure two square meals a day to the common people called 'dal bhat'
-During first tenure as Prime Minister, she made education free for girls

Maria das Neves Ceita Baptista de Sousa, Prime Minister of Sao Tome and Principe (2002-2003)
-Served as Prime Minister from October 7, 2002 until July 16, 2003 when she and President Fradique de Menezes were deposed in a military coup

Beatriz Merino Lucero, Prime Minister of Peru (2003-)
-Elected June 28, 2003
-First female Prime Minister of Peru
-Appointed by President Alejandro Toledo
-Attended Harvard and became a tax lawyer
-Senator from 1990-92
-Also served in Congress as a member of the Independent Moralist Front
-Director of an Inter-American Bank program that worked for the advancement of Latin American women
-Active in the Women's Leadership Conference of the Americas
-Head of the National Office of Tax Administration (SUNAT)

Nino Burdzhanadze, President of Georgia (2003-)
-Acting President since November 23, 2003 and Parliament opposition leader of Georgia
-Controls Georgian government until elections can be held to replace Eduard Shevardnadze, who resigned his position due to protests against the amount of corruption within his administration
   
Previous Women Heads of State or Government

Sirimavo Bandaranaike, Prime Minister of Sri Lanka (1960-1965, 1970-1977, 1994-2000)
Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India (1966-77, 1980-1984)
Golda Meir, Prime Minister of Israel (1969-1974)
Isabel Peron, President of Argentina (1974-1976)
Elisabeth Domitien, Prime Minister of Central African Empire (1975-1976)
Maria de Lourdes Pintassilgo, Prime Minister of Portugal (1979-1980)
Lidia Gueilier, Caretaker President of Bolivia (1979-1980)
Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister of Great Britain (1979-1990)
Vigdis Finnbogadottir, President of Iceland (1980-1996)
Eugenia Charles, Prime Minister of Dominica (1980-1995)
Gro Harlem Brundtland, Prime Minister of Norway (1981, 1986-1989, 1990-1996)
Maria Pedini-Angelini, Captain-Regent of San Marino (1981)
Milka Planinc, Prime Minister of Yugoslavia (1982-1986)
Agatha Barbara, President of Malta (1982-1987)
Gloriana Rannocchini, Captain-Regent of San Marino (1984, 1989-1990)
Corazon Aquino, President of Philippines (1986-1992)
Benazir Bhutto, Prime Minister of Pakistan (1988-1990, 1993-1996)
Maria Liberia Peters, Prime Minister of the Netherlands Antilles (1988-1994)
Kazimiera Prunskiene, President of Lithuania (1990-1991)
Sabine Bergmann-Pohl, State President of German Democratic Republic (1990)
Ertha Pascal-Trullot, Acting President of Haiti (1990-1991)
Violeta de Chamorro, President of Nicaragua (1990-1996)
Mary Robinson, President of Ireland (1990-1997)
Edda Ceccoli, Captain-Regent of San Marino (1991-1992)
Edith Cresson, Prime Minister of France (1991-1992)
Khaleda Zia, Prime Minister of Bangladesh (1991-1996, 2001-)
Hanna Suchocka, Prime Minister of Poland (1992-1993)
Kim Campbell, Prime Minister of Canada (1993)
Patricia Busigani, Captain-Regent of San Marino (1993)
Agathe Uwilingiyimana, Prime Minister of Rwanda (1993)
Silvie Kinigi, Interim President of Burundi (1993-1994)
Tansu Ciller, Prime Minister of Turkey (1993-1996)
Renata Indzhova, Interim Prime Minister of Bulgaria (1994-1995)
Claudette Werleigh, Prime Minister of Haiti (1995-1996)
Ruth Perry, Chairman of State Council, Liberia (1996-1997)
Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh (1996-2001)
Rosalia Arteaga, Caretaker President of Ecuador (1997)
Pamela Gordon, Premier of Bermuda (1997-1998)
Janet Jagan, Prime Minister of Guyana (1997-1999)
Jenny Shipley, Prime Minister of New Zealand (1997-1999)
Ruth Dreifuss, President of Switzerland (1998-1999)
Suzanne Romer, Prime Minister of Netherlands Antilles (1998-1999)
Nyam-Osoriyn Tuyaa, Interim Prime Minister of Mongolia (1999)
Rosa Zafferani, Captain-Regent of San Marino (1999)
Irena Degutiene, Acting Prime Minister of Lithuania (1999)
Maria Domenica Michelotti, Captain-Regent of San Marino (2000)
Madior Boye, Prime Minister of Senegal (2001-2002)
 
Women Number Twos and Heads of State (non-royal)
   
Aisatou N'Jie Saidy
Vice-President of The Gambia (1997)
Annette Lu
Vice-President of Taiwan (2000-)
Milagros Ortiz Bosch
Vice-President of Dominican Republic (2000-)
   
Sandra Sumang Pierantozzi
Vice-President of Palau (2001-)
Lineth Saborio Chaverri
First Vice-President of Costa Rica (2002-)
 
   
Women Heads of State (non-royal)
   
Pearlette Louisy
Governor-General of Saint Lucia (1997)

Adrienne Clarkson
Governor-General of Canada (1999)

Sheila Cartwright
Governor-General of New Zealand (2001)
   
Current Major Women Opposition Leaders
   
Sonia Gandhi
Leader of the Opposition (Congress Party), India (1997-)

Aung San Suu Kyi
leader of the National League for Democracy, Burma (1988-)

Jenny Shipley
Leader of the Opposition (National Party), New Zealand (1999-)
   
Angela Merkel
Leader of the Opposition (CDU), Germany (2000-)
   
   

   
Women World Leaders 1945-2003 Definitive resource for names and ranks of all women holding positions of power both past and present. click here
  • Women in Government
    Statistical database on women in the executive branch of governments.
    Source: UN DAW, extracted from the 1996 Edition of the Worldwide Government Directory (Worldwide Government Directories, Inc.)

  • Women in Parliament: world and regional averages
    World and regional averages of Women representation in parliament (both houses).
    Source: Compiled by the Inter-Parliamentary Union on the basis of information provided by National Parliaments.

  • Women in Parliament: % of women in each National Parliament
    Women representation in national parliaments (both houses) indicating the number of seats and averages.
    Source: Compiled by the Inter-Parliamentary Union on the basis of information provided by National Parliaments.

  • Who's Who at the UN: Female Ambassadors
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