New Roles for Women Leaders Worldwide

In the past month, women across the world have been moving into new and groundbreaking political leadership positions. Here, we profile four women’s recent successes.

In the United States, Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will be sworn-in as Speaker of the House this afternoon. Speaker Pelosi, who will begin serving her 11th term in Congress, has been credited with breaking the “marble ceiling” that has prohibited women from advancing to the highest leadership positions in the US. She will be the first woman to serve as Speaker of the House and, as third-in-line to the presidency, the highest ranked woman in the United States government in history. Speaker Pelosi has already set a comprehensive and ambitious agenda for her first 100 hours, beginning with enacting the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.

May Eljeribi was elected in late December to lead Tunisia’s Progressive Democratic Party, the principal opposition party in the North African country. She is the first woman party leader in Tunisia, despite the nation’s reputation as one of the more progressive North African countries on gender issues, Reuters reports. Eljeribi is the second woman to lead a political party in North Africa; the first was Louisa Hanoun of the Algerian Workers’ Party. Eljeribi said of her recent win, “This is another opportunity for women in Tunisia to fight, not only by working in associations and unions but by taking part in political activity in an important opposition party,” Reuters reports. Her first priorities as party leader will be to call for amnesty for political prisoners and for amendments to the constitution to guarantee greater freedoms of speech and association, according to Reuters.

In Iran, Mehrnoush Najafi, a lawyer, women’s rights activist, and blogger, recently won a seat in the Hamedan City Council Elections, Eteraz reports. According to Eteraz, Najafi wrote in her blog (which is unavailable in English) about the importance of women”s political participation in Iran, saying, “Why don’t women want to have a larger share of participation? We shouldn’t wait until they give us a share. We should go forward ourselves and be involved. Standing aside will do no good.” Najafi’s win in a local election is a triumph for feminists who, last year, battled against police brutality against women activists and stonings in Iran.

Finally, in the United Arab Emirates, one woman was elected to office in the country’s first ever national election. Amal Abdullah al-Kubaissi, an architect, was elected to serve on the Federal National Council. al-Kubaissi was one of 438 candidates, including 62 other women, who ran in the December election, Gulf Daily News reports. The United Arab Emirates, however, limited the number of eligible voters; of about 300,000 citizens over the age of 18, a total of 6,595 voters were chosen by each emirate”s ruler, according to Middle East Online.

LEARN MORE Get a sneak peek of the Winter 2007 issue of Ms., which features an exclusive interview cover story on Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Look for this issue of Ms. on newsstands January 16!

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Majority Leader�s 2007 House Vote Schedule; Gulf Daily News 12/17/06; Middle East Online; Gulf News 12/26/06; Reuters 12/26/06; Eteraz 12/29/06

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