While many American politicos and pundits are making bets on whether former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will make a move for the highest office in the land, there are women all over the world who’ve already made history by becoming their countries’ first female presidents.
As a launch to Women’s History Month, we take a look at five female presidents who are making an impact on countless citizens and the rest of the world.
Dilma Rousseff, President of Brazil
A daughter to a lawyer father and a school teacher mother, Dilma Rousseff had the right kind of environment to find her aspirations in the political realm. Interestingly, however, prior to Rousseff becoming the first female president of Brazil in 2010, she had never run for an elected office. In the 1970s, she had fought against the country’s military dictatorship and was consequentially thrown into jail and allegedly tortured. Decades later in 2003 she became the mines and energy minister and later chief of staff under President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva, accomplishing the daunting task of securing electricity to millions of citizens far and wide. Before officially taking office in January 2011, Rousseff cleaned house by getting rid of corrupt cabinet members.
Geun-hye Park, President of South Korea
Despite her life being fraught with tragedy, Park Geun-hye seemed primed to become South Korea’s first female president. Her father, Park Chung-hee, became the country’s president after launching a military coup in 1961. In 1974 Miss Park, 22, had to stand in as the First Lady after her mother was assassinated by a bullet wound that was meant to kill her father, who just years later, met his untimely death by the hands of his spy chief. Despite being an unmarried female in a deeply patriarchal society, it appears that President Park’s sordid political inheritance helped her win the votes of conservative Korean men. Sworn into office just this past month, Park has promised to have more interaction with North Korea.
Joyce Banda, President of Malawi
A mother of five, Joyce Banda became Malawi’s first female president after her successor, President Bingu wa Mutharika, died. Although Mutharika didn’t want Banda to succeed him—giving his presidential endorsement to his brother instead—Banda refused to take a backseat and ended up forming her own party, the People’s Party, and won the election in 2011. As she promised her citizens, President Banda has gotten rid of excess waste (e.g. the multi-million presidential jet), repealed discrimination laws against homosexuals, advocated for women’s and children’s rights, and called for President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan to be arrested if he steps into her turf.
Cristina Fernandez, President of Argentina
Widowed by her political predecessor and husband Nestor Kirchner, Cristina Fernandez became the first elected female president of Argentina in 2007 and the first one to be reelected. Although her politics as president has been marred with international controversy and allegations of corruption, Fernandez has appeased her citizens with huge job growth, reducing the national debt, protecting children’s welfare, and mending ties with Peru. In 2010 she signed a bill that legalized same sex marriage in her country.
Atifete Jahjaga, President of Kosovo
Assuming office in April 2011, Atifete Jahjaga became Kosovo’s first female president and nonpartisan candidate. At just 37, she is also the youngest president in its history. Prior to her presidency, Jahjaga was an international interpreter, a police officer, deputy commander of the border police, and most recently, the deputy director of the Kosovo Police, holding one of the highest ranks among Southeastern European women. Childless and married to a dentist, she is said to live a modest life, while working on her master’s degree in international relations. As president, Jahjaga says her main goal is to secure Kosovo’s ranks in the European Union and the United Nations and have strong relations with the United States.