I have been a fan of New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern’s politics and leadership ever since I saw how well she handled the aftermaths of the horrific terror attacks in two mosques in Christchurch in 2019, committed by a racist, white man from Australia. And now, with much of the world still shocked and shuttered by the horrid Covid19 pandemic, New Zealand is one of the very few countries which has not only flattened the curve but is also trying to hit the ball out of the park.
Out of 1498 Coronavirus Cases, 1421 people have recovered. The Prime Minister took early action to shut down tourism and impose a month-longdown on the entire country, limiting coronavirus casualties to just twenty one deaths. Ardern’s policies rested mainly on one statement she made: “Act like you have coronavirus.” She told people of her country, “Every move you then make is a risk to someone else. That is how we must all collectively think. That’s why the joy of physically visiting other family, children, grandchildren, friends, neighbours is on hold.” The New Zealand government has contained the pandemic through early, scientific intervention. They have also implemented widespread testing, easy access to quality medical treatment, aggressive contact tracing and tough restrictions on social gatherings.
Another country that has managed to squash the curve, entirely by itself without implementing a lockdown is Taiwan. Despite being barely a thousand kilometers away from the epicentre of the virus- Wuhan, it has surprisingly less number of cases, for which the credit goes to Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen. When she heard about a mysterious new virus infecting the citizens of Wuhan in December last year, she immediately ordered all planes arriving from Wuhan to be inspected.
She then set up an epidemic command center, increased production of personal protective equipment such as face masks and restricted all flights from mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau. Taiwan’s early, vigorous testing limited the outbreak to just 440 cases.
Headed by Angela Merkel, Germany too, is straightening the curve. With a total number of 175,699 cases, Germany has recorded 151,700 recoveries. Angela Merkel had urged people to social-distance as early as March 11, citing analysis about the worst-case scenario and showing the reality of the disease to people. Germany is testing almost 500,000 people every week, way more than any other European countries, simultaneously boosting its supply of ICU beds and ventilators. Government guidance on social distancing has been widely followed. The German government also efficiently passed a 1.1 trillion euro spending package to stabilize the economy.
Similarly, four of the five Nordic countries, led by women, have lower death rates from coronavirus compared to the rest of Europe. On the contrary, Sweden- the only Nordic country not led by a woman, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven did to impose a lockdown and has kept schools and businesses open. There, the death rate has soared far higher than in most other European countries.
It is not a hidden fact, that women are underrepresented in political offices almost everywhere across the globe. Maybe it’s because they are constantly scrutinized under a different microscope. But it is undeniable, that a woman’s participation in politics helps advance gender equality and affects both the range of policy issues that get considered and the types of solutions that are proposed. There is also strong evidence that as more women are elected to office, there is a corollary increase in policy making that emphasizes quality of life and reflects the priorities of families, women, and ethnic and racial minorities.
Maybe it’s too soon to say which leaders will emerge as having taken enough of the right steps to control the spread of coronavirus — and save lives. But the examples above show that a disproportionately large number of leaders who acted early and decisively were women. It might be time to re-evaluate the “women are too emotional to be in important political positions,” stereotype. The coronavirus crisis might perhaps finally change how society views women in leadership roles.
Note- All the numerical data has been acquired from https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/ and is as of 14th May 2020