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Why do women leaders lead better fight vs. COVID-19

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Stephen Roan
Stephen Matthew S. Roan is a Global Affairs Columnist at Politixxx Today. He previously served as Editor-in-Chief of The Bedan Roar, the official student publication of San Beda University-Rizal SHS. He was also a former Vice-President of the Bedan Model United Nations and a Student Council Board Member. With a keen interest in global politics and affairs, and as an advocate for the Sustainable Development Goals, he is now part of a youth-led network in the Asia-Pacific - the 2030 Youth Force in the Philippines - which helps realize the 2030 Agenda. He is also pursuing his undergraduate studies at De La Salle University-Manila under the Bachelor of Arts in International Studies Major in American Studies degree program. You may reach him through his email: stephenmatthewroan@yahoo.com.

When the world was suddenly plagued with an invisible and dangerous enemy by the start of the year, no country was spared from the tide of its transmission.

Leaders across the globe took action against the deadly virus to mitigate its effect. Draconian public policies were implemented in many states to easily contain the virus, but some leaders like Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand, Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan, Angela Merkel of Germany, and Mette Frederiksen of Denmark took matters in a different perspective, implemented a comprehensive strategy, and geared their countries toward the best responses in handling the pandemic.

These leaders have one thing in common – they’re all women.

Women only account for 7% of all heads of state with the world being predominantly governed by men. But as female heads of state shine as better handlers of the COVID-19 pandemic, it begs the question: why do women lead better coronavirus response?

Straightforward

After the Philippines recorded its first novel coronavirus case, Vice President Leni Robredo immediately called for the imposition of a total travel ban on passengers coming from China.

Similarly, despite not being a member of the World Health Organization (WHO), Taiwan is “among the world’s best” responses in containing the virus, according to CNN.

In a time where China and WHO continue to downplay the virus, Taiwanese leadership, led by its President Tsai Ing-wen, took matters very seriously, implemented 124 protocols, and has helped prevent widespread infection and community transmission.

Even though the island-state settles beside China – the ground zero of the virus, that did not prevent the country from having one of the lowest COVID infection and mortality rates in the world, after recording only 484 cases and 7 deaths as of writing.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was also one to quickly respond on containing the virus.

On March 14, Ardern implemented one of the “toughest border restrictions in the world” despite having only 6 cases at that time.  

She then placed the country in one of the strictest lockdowns on March 23, despite having no deaths and only a hundred cases at that time, preventing further spread of the virus.

Ardern has also detailed a clear and comprehensive plan for businesses that helped avoid economic collapse, with businesses returning back after 5 weeks of lockdown.

Aside from a strict community lockdown, her self-isolation policy helped the country ‘eliminate’ the outbreak and achieve a 100-day streak of no community transmission, which was heavily reported by numerous media outlets around the world.

As it turns out, female leaders are quicker to respond in a straightforward manner, avoiding any delaying tactics to downplay the issue.

Empathetic

Just like mothers, female leaders also provide voices of reason and a great manifestation of empathy and maternal instinct towards their constituents.

Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg previously pushed the idea of conducting a conference addressed directly to its young constituents, where the Prime Minister and the young children can easily converse without the interference from adults or their parents. Solberg reassured the young that it was “OK to feel scared” with what is happening due to COVID-19.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s public address also speaks of empathy and clarity that while she seeks support from the people to participate with the government’s policies, she also reassures the government’s plan in a clear manner.

This, versus the response of strongmen (e.g. Bolsonaro, Trump, Duterte, Putin, among others) on militarizing the response to curb the pandemic instead of letting medical experts control the situation, female leaders bring more to the situation than authoritarian and militaristic leaders.

Creative Thinkers

COVID-19 pandemic is unlike any other viral disease in modern history, and thus requires an outside-the-box approach.

Katrin Jakobsdottir, Iceland’s Prime Minister, initiated a free coronavirus testing to all of its citizens, helping researchers gather vital data for COVID-19. If made successful, Iceland’s initiative would serve as benchmark research as it involves total population sampling/testing.

Due to lack of funds, Philippine Vice President Robredo launched a donation drive in collaboration with partner NGOs to help address the need for Personal Protective Equipment for medical frontliners. Robredo also sought the help of private partners to conduct free shuttle service, food drive, and free dormitories for frontliners, free face masks to Filipino families, establish Learning Hubs and provide distance learning materials for Filipino students.  

Finland’s millennial Prime Minister Sanna Marin, the world’s youngest head of state when she was elected back in December 2019, employed the idea of using social media and influencers to help spread information on coronavirus.

New Zealand’s extensive testing was also instrumental in ‘eliminating’ the virus with 7,000 tests for each confirmed case.

But since the whole coronavirus ordeal doesn’t stop with testing, greater efforts especially with countries struggling to respond to the virus is needed now that the vaccine development and distribution is nearing the end of its trial and up for approval.

Strong-willed

Above all, female heads of state are strong, independent and stands as one of “interesting role models toward women”.

PM Ardern, despite being pregnant, dismissed critics as she expressed that her pregnancy is not incapacitation and she would continue to perform her duties.

Female leaders are also models of ‘unadulterated facts’, with their statements spewing with dignity and truth, one that lawyer and journalist Sunny Hostin claims that US President Donald Trump should learn to follow.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel [PxxxT] immediately asked Germans to take the virus seriously, with 70% of the population projected to be infected.  Merkel skipped the part of denying the virus as a mere ‘hoax’ or downplay the virus that “it will disappear very soon like a miracle”, as what Pres. Trump would always say, or the virus is a ‘symbol of weakness’, as described by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson who, along with Mexico’s Pres. Lopez Obrador, are male leaders with the most disapproved response on the coronavirus.

Interestingly, actress and TV host Joy Behar, express that Chancellor Angela Merkel is “the real leader of the free world” and not US Pres. Trump, because of how ineffective Trump’s leadership is, compared to Merkel’s massive success.

While male heads of state continue to dominate on a global scale, it is time to consider women for their capabilities and be recognized for their potential to become effective and influential global leaders.

As COVID- 19 helped them earn the global spotlight, it is now the time for female leaders’ voices to be heard, get more women elected, and bring effective leadership and change the world.

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