Women leaders of the world speaking out

Back in 2015 British Elle magazine started a #MoreWomen campaign which advocated for more women in politics. To illustrate their point, the magazine photoshopped all of the men out of political photos, leaving just the women. The results were stunning: pictures of Germany's Angela Merkel, Queen Elizabeth II of England, Hillary Clinton and actress and activist Emma Watson sitting very much alone.

I was reminded of these photos this past week when watching coverage of the events at the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly, especially the coverage of the General Debate. Out of 150 heads of state and leaders that spoke, only nine were women. Among the female speakers were Theresa May, the newly elected Prime Minister of Britain, who recently took over when all the men abdicated responsibility for Brexit; Isatou Njie Saidy, Gambia's first female Vice-President; Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh; Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, president of Liberia; and the controversial Aung San Suu Kyi, State Counsellor and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Myanmar.

Yet despite their small ranks, these female leaders made great speeches, speaking firmly and plainly about issues that must be addressed. Although none were quite as blunt or personal as former Argentinian president Cristina Kirchner, who went on prolonged tirades during her UN speeches, they nevertheless made impassioned remarks about the issues facing the world today.

They spoke about fighting against terrorism and the two-state solution in Palestine. They spoke about migration, modern-day slavery, climate change and the economy. Rather than focus solely on defending their nations or detailing grandiose national plans for improvement, they spoke about world unity and strengthening the United Nations. Naturally, they also spoke about women: as Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh pointed out, " Bangladesh is perhaps the only country in the world today that has a woman Prime Minister and Leader of the House, Leader of the Opposition, Speaker and Deputy Leader of the House."

There is a change underway. The #MoreWomen photos do not reflect it. The paltry number of female speakers at the United Nations General Assembly does not reflect it. Women in all corners of the world are pushing forward to lead their countries. For now, it will be useless to measure female leadership in numbers. Perhaps, instead, we should focus on the impact and change the amazing women who are in office are making. If we don't encourage support for the women who make it to the top first, then the path for those who follow will be tough indeed.