Women leaders can help solve challenges of the 21st Century

The Top 40 Under 40 2021 Women finalists at their brunch event at the Capital Club on December 4, 2021. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

History has recorded extraordinary fetes accomplished by women leaders in government and the private sector.

There is evidence that women on boards provide unique insights that contribute to business focus from short-term profit to longer-term growth. They are more collaborative and adept at balancing the interests of multiple stakeholders.

Data continues to show that women are accelerators of economic growth, great at creating new market value, reputation, driving profits and development goals. It is in their nature to push for ending hunger, poverty reduction, inequality and tackling climate change.

At the onset of Covid-19, women led Germany, New Zealand, Taiwan, Norway, Iceland, Finland, Denmark – demonstrated better crisis management traits hence recording lower deaths and infection rates, as other countries were reeling from the vagaries of the pandemic. Women leaders seemed to be particularly successful in fighting the pandemic

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel took a stand early telling Germans to “Take it seriously.” and introduced testing and lockdowns in the early days.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern imposed lockdowns early and self-isolation for people entering New Zealand when there were just six cases in the whole country.

A World Economic Forum study found that these measures helped these countries to save lives, as evidenced by the significantly lower number of deaths in those countries.

Closer home, “Beyond Zero” an ambitious health initiative conceptualized by Kenya’s First Lady Mrs Margaret Kenyatta in 2013 focused on ending preventable maternal and child deaths in Kenya’s remote rural areas by 2023. The challenge was lack of essential pre and post-natal care for mothers in marginalised areas.

The Beyond Zero medical staff worked closely with engineers from local automotive assembler Isuzu to develop a mobile clinic design, that would adequately meet the programme objectives. The very first locally assembled Isuzu mobile clinic was donated to the programme in early 2014, with the aim to reach all counties by the end of 2016.

These women walk in the footsteps of great world leaders who displayed grit and determination. Former United Kingdom Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher also known as the Iron Lady showed remarkable steel as she grappled with the 1982 Falklands Island crisis and the miners strike in 1984. Mrs Thatcher won three consecutive terms in office setting an unbroken record.

In 1988 Benazir Bhutto became the first woman Prime Minister of Pakistan, a democratic government in a Muslim majority country.

In 2005 Angela Merkel emerged as the first female woman Chancellor of Germany and became the third longest serving Chancellor in German history until 2021 when she retired.

In Africa, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf served as President of Liberia from 2006 to 2018, being the first woman elected head of state of an African country. As president, she secured millions of dollars of foreign investments and established a Truth and Reconciliation Committee to probe corruption and heal ethnic tensions in her country.

More recently, Samia Suluhu Hassan made history in 2021 when she was sworn in as Tanzania’s first female President after the death of her predecessor, John Pombe Magufuli. She is currently one of only two serving female heads of state in Africa, alongside Ethiopia's Sahle-Work Zewde.

Kenya’s very own internationally acclaimed Prof Wangari Maathai was the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace. She was also the first female scholar from East and Central Africa to take a doctorate in biology, and the first female professor ever in Kenya.

These great women have inspired and empowered fellow women to invest in self-development and perfect how to harness the value that women bring to the table. Women are critical in helping to safely navigate through crises.

The time is now ripe in Africa to tap into these strengths of women in leadership to inspire optimism for the future and tackle the global challenges of the 21st Century.

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