Female leaders in the frontline against the pandemic
With robust policies, zealous efforts, and all-round leadership against the COVID-19 outbreak, women leaders around the globe have excelled where their male counterparts have stumbled.
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the world hard but countries like Germany, Denmark, New Zealand, Taiwan, and the small island nation of Sint Maarten, among others, continue to show extraordinary resilience against the highly contagious virus. What do they have in common? They are all led by powerful women.
Here is a list of female leaders who have emerged as beacons of light amid such dark times.
Angela Merkel, Vice-Chancellor, Germany
Female leaders are being lauded for formulating steps against the outbreak to minimize damage. At its forefront is Germany, a powerful economic and world power, led by Vice-Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has effectively navigated a way forward during the world crisis. With an efficient healthcare system, extensive testing, and brave leadership, her efforts have helped the country keep its head above water while her counterparts in the west continue to struggle.
Germany has handled the coronavirus outbreak very well.— ian bremmer (@ianbremmer) April 16, 2020
And Merkel is absolutely one of the reasons why.pic.twitter.com/UJStfVgLxO
In a clip addressing the public, Merkel, a doctorate in chemistry, explains how the coronavirus is transmitted. Her calm stature amid the uncertainty posed by the outbreak is praiseworthy. So far, 95 per cent of the closed cases have resulted in recovery, a far better number than is the case in otherwise flourishing UK, France, and Italy.
Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister, New Zealand
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been praised around the world for her efforts against the pandemic. While most countries remain in the tight grip of the pandemic, Adern’s government has reignited hope among its fellow citizens with fewer than 2000 cases of the coronavirus. The young leader closed the country’s borders on March 19 and on March 21 declared a complete lockdown. On April 9, New Zealand reported a decline in new coronavirus cases for the fourth consecutive day.
Her empathetic video messages urging people to “stay home and save lives” helped her garner public trust. Her exceptional efforts to contain the virus have helped the country emerge from the grips of the pandemic. As of now, life in New Zealand is returning to normalcy with more relaxations being granted by the day.
“It would be easy to conclude outright that women make better leaders than men… [But] that would be an overly simplistic verdict,” says Louise Champoux-Paillé of Concordia University. “What if countries led by women are managing the pandemic more effectively not because they are women, but because the election of women is a reflection of societies where there is a greater presence of women in many positions of power, in all sectors? Greater involvement of women results in a broader perspective on the crisis, and paves the way for the deployment of richer and more complete solutions than if they had been imagined by a homogeneous group.”
Mette Frederiksen, Prime Minister, Denmark
Denmark’s youngest ever Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen’s strict policy towards border control in the early stages of contagion shows the farsightedness of the political leader. Frederiksen closed the country's borders as early as March 13 followed by shutting down all schools and universities and banning large public gatherings. Her stern take on the fast-approaching disaster has saved the country from a far worse situation. Her administration announced an economic package that covers 75 per cent of employee salaries in businesses and 90 per cent for those paid by the hour. The approachable persona that she has managed to project in her video clips addressing the public not only makes her a people’s leader but has also helped double her approval ratings to more than 80 per cent.
President Tsai Ing-wen’s alert response to the pandemic is noteworthy, given Taiwan’s proximity to China, the epicentre of the novel coronavirus. Travel restrictions were imposed early on in January and mass pubic hygiene plans were rolled out. Taiwan closed its borders at the first sign of trouble and had already begun screening travellers at airports way back in December. Early in January, the country responded to the increasing number of cases with efforts at quarantine and isolation to minimise the spread. It even set its new Central Epidemic Command Center in motion to combat the pandemic. With efficient policies at play, Taiwan has been able to relax some of its restrictions and is now exporting millions of face masks to the affected areas of the US and Europe.
On #InternationalNursesDay, be sure to thank the frontline heroes in your life who are dedicating their time & expertise to keeping people safe & healthy. Their courage & compassion is an inspiration to us all as we work together to meet the challenges of the #COVID19 pandemic. pic.twitter.com/5zJz4PfIHq— 蔡英文 Tsai Ing-wen (@iingwen) May 12, 2020
Silveria Jacobs, Prime Minister, Sint Maarten
In a video clip addressing her nation, Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs came out with a strong message for her people, “Simply stop moving”, she said with a stern voice. The country which only had two ICU beds knew strict actions needed to be taken and the Prime Minister’s complete lockdown plans have been successful so far. Her vigilant actions against the pandemic has put the small nation island of 41,500 on the world map.
Kerala state health minister KK Shailaja has set an excellent example for other Indian states to follow. So far, the state has reported only 4 deaths due to the virus and no community transmission has been reported, according to Shailaja. The former teacher has been widely praised for her efforts and has attracted names like the Coronavirus Slayer and Rockstar Health Minister for obvious reasons. Her quick response to the growing number of cases in China proved fruitful as she held her first meeting with the response team way back in January. When the first plane arrived from Wuhan on January 24, Kerala had already adopted WHO’s protocol of test, trace, isolate, and support.
A lovely piece about @shailajateacher, the Health Minister at the centre of Kerala's #Covid19 response: https://t.co/5jHVHiAj5Y— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) May 14, 2020
She has been omnipresent & effective, & deserves the recognition. But Kerala's society & people, above all, are the heroes of this story.
Scandinavian female leaders
Under the leadership of Prime minister Katrin Jakobsdottir, Iceland has offered free testing to all its citizens. With extensive testing and impeccable tracing systems, the country has been able to protect its citizens from the pandemic.
In Finland, Sanna Marin, who became the youngest head of state last year, also imposed strict restrictions on travel and closed the borders. The measures helped the country minimise the spread.
Norway's Erna Solberg promoted mass testing and declared a complete lockdown. So far all these countries have been able to contain the spread as their heads of state prove that female leadership is strong, compassionate, and efficient.
Meanwhile, the head of South Korea’s Centre for Disease Control, Jeong Eun- kyeong, also proves that not all leaders need to be national leaders in order to perform well. She has been on the frontline in the fight against the coronavirus, and her strategies have proven that women in leadership are decisive, headstrong, and steadfast.