On International Women’s Day: Prominent examples of women in power

Diana Galeeva
Diana Galeeva
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Today on International Women’s Day, which has become one of the most anticipated annual global celebrations, I would like to express admiration and respect for famous women in power.

Nowadays, International Women’s Day is becoming more politically motivated – demonstrating the struggle for equal rights and the political and social awareness of women globally. The “Women’s March on Washington”, which was held on January 21, 2017, after Donald Trump’s inauguration as President of the United States, was aimed at promoting women’s rights and racial equality.

Today, on the 8th of March, the same group is organizing another event – “A Day without a Woman”. The organizers encourage women around the world to take the day off from work, to acknowledging the value that women of all backgrounds bring to our economic and social system.

In modern society, it seems that in some parts of the world, women are only able to speak about their rights through demonstrations and protests, however some politicians have responded to these demonstrations with disrespectful comments.

For example, on March, 3rd 2017, an independent member of the European Parliament of a right-wing political party, the Coalition for the Renewal of the Republic Freedom and Hope, Janusz Korwin-Mikke stated: “women must earn less than men, because they are weaker, they are smaller, they are less intelligent” (CNN).

There are some patterns in modern society that suggest that with demonstrations and protests, women do not show respect to men, and as a consequence, some men do not show respect to women. I think these opposite views lead to more confrontation, and that the root of this confrontation is a misunderstanding of the main idea of International Women’s Day, and of the role of women in society.

In other parts of the world, International Women’s Day is a day during which women are shown love, respect and admiration for their role in social and political arenas. The nation congratulates mothers, girls, grandmothers, and female colleagues with beautiful words. I strongly believe that International Women’s Day should be understood as a day of respect and love for women. Women’s values should not be expressed in the streets as demonstrations; the importance of women.

Every woman can be a leader by example. This article will discuss the role of women in power throughout history; it will express appreciation of their talent for ruling, their smart advice, and their being the first in particular initiatives. This article is about women with different stories and different struggles, but they have in common their desire to develop their states, their love of their lands and countries, and dedication to the future prosperity of their lands – and this is why they became successful.

Examination of stories of Catherina the Great, Hurrem Sultan, Theresa May and Dr. Amal Al Qubaisi could help to indicate the importance and values of women in general.

I think successful examples of prominent women in power will inspire other women to think that they can also create and make others happy, contribute to the development of socio-political process

Diana Galeeva

“I have no way to defend my borders but to extend them” – Catherina the Great

Catherina II or Catherina the Great, came to power following the coup against her husband Peter III, who was assassinated. Under her reign from 1762 until her death 1796, she expanded the Russian Empire lands making Russia one of the great powers in Europe. She enlarged Russian lands in the South, the West and the East.

For example, having won wars against Ottomans in Russo-Turkish wars, Russia inhabited the huge territories of Novorossiya, along the coasts Azov and the Black Sea. Catherina’s era was proclaimed as the Gold Age of the Russian Empire. She also enthusiastically supported the ideas of the Enlightenment (intellectual movement which was dominant in Europe during the 18th century, centred on ideas of authority, legitimacy, liberty, tolerance, and the separation of church and state).

Catherina was a patron of arts, and she established the first state-financed higher education institution for women in Europe – the Smolny institution. She is remembered as one of the most powerful monarchies in Russian history. Originally she was from Prussia, however, her soul was Russian.

She once said: “I am honoured to be Russian, I am proud of it, I will defend my Homeland and language, with feather and sword, while I have enough life….’. She dedicated all her life to serving the Russian monarchy and to transforming Russian society. With her strong character and opinions, she brought well-being and prosperity to the Russian Empire.

‘The Wife of the Sultan of the World’

Being the “Wife of the Sultan of the World’ meant becoming the first supporter and adviser for the greatening Ottoman Empire by the Hurrem Sultan. Hurrem Sultan was the legal wife of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent (who reigned 1520-1566). Despite the 200 year-old custom of the Ottoman Imperial house – sultans were not married to their concubines, Sultan Suleiman became the first Ottoman ruler, who married to Hurrem Sultan in a formal ceremony.

Being brought to Suleiman’s harem captured by Crimean Tatars from her hometown Polish Ruthenia, Hurrem Sultan started one of the essential eras known as the Sultanate of Women. She achieved power and influenced Ottoman politics through her husband. Due to her intelligence, Hurrem Sultan became Sultain’s chief adviser in the domestic and international affairs of the Ottoman Empire.

Contributing to making the Ottoman Empire in that period an economic, military and political power. The Ottoman navy dominated the seas from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea. Hurrem’s charity efforts are still remembered and appreciated: public buildings, building mosques, two Koranic schools, a women’s hospital, commissioned by the Haseki Hurrem Sultan Hamami, in Jerusalem, she launched the Haseki Sultan Imaret, a public soup kitchen to feed the poor and the needy, which fed 500 people twice a day.

Hurrem Sultan was one of the most powerful and influential women in the Ottoman history and around the world at that time. Choosing the main commitment of her life – serving her husband, her story demonstrates the ways in which the extent of women’s support and advice could strengthen the marriage, garner respect and appreciation; and how the union between husband and wife can contribute to the strengthening of an entire nation.

“Brexit means Brexit” – Theresa May

The morning after the UK’s decision to leave the EU, the former prime minister David Cameron resigned. There were a lot of pros and cons of the Remain and Leave Campaigns before the referendum. However, it seems that there was no clear plan for what to do if the Leave campaign won. All responsibility of handling the transition in this changeable period for UK history has laid on Theresa May, the new-elected leader of the Conservative Party and the UK’s Prime Minister, who suggested her candidacy promising to bring “strong leadership” and “positive vision” for the country’s future.

In February 2017 the Brexit plan was published in government White Paper, which concerns the trade, immigration, expats, sovereignty, border and devolution. Theresa May promised that formal negotiations will begin once the UK has given notice of Brexit under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty by the end of March. On the international level, May became the first world leader to meet Donald Trump since he took office.

After the signed executive order on immigration by Donald Trump, some British politicians demanded Theresa May to block the US leader’s visit to the UK. One of the main opponents became the Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn, who was leading a campaign to block Trump from visiting Buckingham Palace. Theresa May responded to his criticism, saying “he can lead a protest, I’m leading a country”.

These are not only words, Theresa is leading the country, working out all challenges, at a most uncertain time for the UK. History will show what the future of the EU is, but the UK is the first country which without any precedent is finding new strategies and policies after Brexit. The first leader, who took responsibility to make success out of this deal, is the woman – Theresa May.

“I made history for my country not for me” – Dr. Amal al-Qubaisi

Dr. Amal al-Qubaisi became the first female leader of a national assembly in the United Arab Emirates and the Arab world. She is the President of the Federal National Council. She is among the 50 most powerful Arab Women in the World and she supports tolerance and openness. She is one of the main promoters of the idea of political tolerance, which is distinctive for the UAE international and domestic politics, as suggested in my previous article (2017).

Despite all suggestions and concerns about security, she visited Belgium immediately after the terrorist attacks in Brussels to meet the EU Commission, demonstrating solidarity and bearing condolences, and sincerely believing and showing that the friendship between the West and the East cannot be shaken by some groups.

Dr. Amal al-Qubaisi is one of the main leaders in the region who is putting the goal of demonstrating Islam as the religion of peace and ‘that we are against what is happening and we cannot tolerate it and because of that we have zero tolerance with intolerance’ (Euronews, 2016). Alongside criticizing sectarianism and extremism, she also has clear suggestions about how friendship between West and East could be strengthened: “we need more gatherings and more events that bring people culturally together so that they will understand each other’s culture” (ibid, 2016).

Considering the main role of female speakers around the world, Dr. Amal intends “to bring all the goodness we can for our people, so that we can make our people happier and make them safer” (ibid, 2016). She explains that respect to women in the UAE came gradually; they gained it with their good intentions. Promoting a strong vision on suggesting tolerance as one the main drivers for friendship and respect between countries, suggesting clear initiatives for solving one of the most vital problems in the Arab world and in the world in general.

Dr. Amal al-Qubaisi is making the history not only of herself and her country, but for all Arab World women. Representing Islam as a religion of peace, she is contributing to dialogs and friendship between the West and the East, which is sometimes so fragile because of the actions of radical groups. She clearly demonstrates that women should gain recognition by her discourses of tolerance and openness, and implement these beautiful words in action.

Happy International Women’s Day

A good ruler is not a woman or a man; a good ruler is a person who has a talent to rule, and who works hard for the prosperity of the people. Catherina II, Hurrem Sultan, Theresa May and Dr. Amal al-Qubaisi’s intelligence, world-views, and love for their countries have helped them to succeed, and to become respected icons of success in politics.

I think that such successful examples of prominent women in power will inspire other women to think that they can also create and make others happy, contribute to the development of socio-political process. All successful outcomes/ results of women will demonstrate the value and importance of women in the society.

I strongly believe that International Women’s Day should be understood as an expression of love and respect to women for their talents and skills, their smiles and kindness, and their support and inner beauty. If you have women in front of you right now, please congratulate her/them (your wife, mother, sister, daughter) and express your appreciation for her, and International Women’s Day will forever become a day of happiness and smiles.

Diana Galeeva is a PhD Candidate at the School of Government and International Affairs at Durham University. Her PhD research focuses on theories of power, IR theory, small states, political islam and GCC politics. She was an intern at the the President of Tatarstan’s office - Department of corporation and Religious organizations (2012), Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Tatarstan, legal department (2011), and the Ministry of justice (2010). Diana received her M.A. in International Relations from Exeter university in the UK, and earned a degree in Governmental Law from Kazan Federal University (KFU). She speaks English, Russian, Tatar and studies Arabic and Turkish. She can be contacted on [email protected] and @diana_galeeva.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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