In the November issue, on sale now, Sisonke Msimang writes about what she’d like to see in a female leader. Here is her list of the female leaders of tomorrow, plus we look at what the current crop of global female leaders have achieved for women.
Sisonke’s list of women to watch
Naledi is a 21-year-old freelancing performer and artist. She was raised in Mamelodi and is a qualified theatre practitioner who obtained her BA Drama degree at the University of Pretoria. In August 2016, she was one of four women who staged a silent protest as President Zuma was addressing the nation and declaring the winners of the local government elections.
Vuyiseka manages Sonke Gender Justice’s Development and Advocacy unit. She became an HIV activist after being diagnosed HIV-positive in 2001 and joining the Treatment Action Campaign as a volunteer. There she rose through the ranks as a strong leader, to become the general secretary in 2008. Vuyiseka has served as an advisor for the UN, the South African National Aids Council and various ministerial advisory committees, and she’s currently studying towards a PhD focusing on HIV policy.
Koketso is the executive director of amandla.mobi, a non-profit organisation that uses cellphones to run and coordinate social campaigns around issues that affect women. Koketso and her team have run more than 40 multilingual campaigns since launching in 2014. She is also the national coordinator of Local Government Action and deputy chairperson of the SOS Coalition.
The world’s female leaders at a glance
Hillary Clinton, US presidential candidate
What she’s done: This Chicago-born firebrand politician’s CV includes becoming the first female partner at Rose Law Firm in 1978 and the first-ever female senator from New York in 2000, as well as the only American First Lady so far to run for president. Hillary’s notable policies as secretary of state have included promoting children’s, women’s, educational and LGBTI rights. As a presidential candidate, she has promised to promote equal pay, support same-sex marriage and provide legislation to help undocumented immigrants get US citizenship, the last two of which have made her unpopular with more conservative American voters.
What she says: ‘Human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights. Let us not forget that among those rights are the right to speak freely – and the right to be heard.’
Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany
What she’s done: Born in Hamburg, Angela was voted this year’s ‘Person of the Year’ by Time. Probably one of her most controversial acts has been to allow more than one million asylum seekers (many of them women) to enter Germany, when many other European countries are clamping down on immigration – which was seen as a brave and even inspirational humanitarian move by many. Affectionately known by Germans as Mutti (Mommy), she has also helped to improve the country’s economy and encouraged tolerance among her people.
What she says: ‘Freedom is the very essence of our economy and society. Without freedom the human mind is prevented from unleashing its creative force.’
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, under-secretary-general of the United Nations and executive director of UN Women
What she’s done: As head of UN women, Phumzile launched the #HeForShe campaign with actor Emma Watson, which aims to reduce inequality between the sexes by encouraging men and boys to drive change (something that Phumzile is very passionate about, along with fighting poverty). Other achievements include founding an international young women’s programme while she was the coordinator for the Geneva YWCA.
What she says: ‘Educate a woman, you educate a nation.’
Theresa May, UK prime minister
What she’s done: After gaining work experience at the Bank of England, the UK’s current prime minister Theresa May moved to a career in politics, where she started literally at the bottom – stuffing envelopes for her local Conservative Association – before becoming the London borough of Merton’s councillor in 1986 and progressing to British Parliament in 1997, representing Maidenhead. As home secretary, a role she took up in 2010, she spearheaded campaigns to improve the police force, reduce crime and fight human trafficking by creating the Modern Slavery Act.
What she says: ‘It takes two men to step into the shoes of one woman.’