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March is known as Women's History month, meant to recognize the contributions and progress of women across history and around the world. Women today are playing some significant roles, from making peace to crafting economic policy in the midst of a crisis. Here are 10 women who are making history, today.|
- Whitney Eulich
1. Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany
Running the country with the fourth largest gross domestic product in the world is reason enough to be deemed one of the most prominent women in the world. But as the European Union struggles to contain its debt crisis, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has also become the de facto leader of the eurozone. Because of Germany’s economic strength, no eurozone decisions can be made without her support.
Le Monde reports that in a November 2011 poll in France, 46 percent of people reported having more confidence in Ms. Merkel’s leadership and ability to avoid a future financial crises than they do in that of their own president, Nicolas Sarkozy (33 percent).
In 2011 and into 2012, several EU member countries faced the collapse of their financial institutions, high government debt, and rapidly rising borrowing costs. Merkel was faced with the challenge of finding a balance between pressure from within Germany not to fund future economic bailouts and calls from other EU countries to provide further assistance. Throughout the crisis, Merkel has urged fiscal discipline and demanded leadership changes and austerity measures in countries like Italy and Greece.
If the eurozone survives this turbulent period, Merkel will be lauded as the heroine that saved the European Union.
2. Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar human rights leader
Aung San Suu Kyi, the Myanmar human rights leader who spent 15 of the past 21 years in prison or under house arrest, rejoined mainstream politics in late 2011 after Burmese authorities permitted her opposition party, the National League for Democracy, to legally register.
Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, who says she was inspired by the nonviolent campaigns of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi, has become an international symbol of peaceful resistance. Her years in detention were a result of her calls for peaceful democratic reform and free elections in Myanmar (Burma).
She founded the National League for Democracy (NLD) in 1988, and in 1990 her party won a general election, but Myanmar's military junta did not allow her, or her party, to take power. In 1991, she received the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts, and she served as general secretary of the NLD even while imprisoned.
The NLD was deemed illegal and forced to disband leading up to the Nov. 2010 elections, which were the first open elections in Burma in 20 years. The government’s decision to allow the party to reintegrate in 2011, paired with the recent re-initiation of diplomatic relations between this previously closed-off country and the West, gives hope to supporters internationally that Aung San Suu Kyi’s work and perseverance will pay off.
3. Dilma Rousseff, president of Brazil
Dilma Rousseff reportedly dreamed of becoming a firefighter or trapeze artist when she was a kid. But serving as the first female president of one of the most populous countries in the world – and a burgeoning economic power – will likely inspire the dreams of young female Brazilians for years to come.
A career civil servant who never ran or held elected office prior to the presidency, Ms. Rousseff was inaugurated in January 2011. In her first year in office, Rousseff dismissed five cabinet members and dozens of officials charged with corruption. Known for supporting a prominent state role in the banking, oil, and energy sectors, Rousseff’s approval ratings rose to 72 percent in December 2011.
Brazil is one of South America’s most influential countries, one of the world’s largest democracies (with a population of nearly 200 million), and an economic powerhouse. The discovery of offshore oil could thrust the country into the top echelon of oil-exporting nations.