Here are some powerful Muslim women that have made a significant change in world history.
When hearing about women’s rights in the Muslim world, the assumed story is often exclusively one of oppression, marginalisation and lack of power.
However, many often forget that eight countries have had Muslim women as their head of state. This is compared to the fact that neither of the two major US parties – Democrats and Republicans – has ever nominated a female presidential candidate.
Tansu Çiller: Prime Minister of Turkey 1993-1996
US President Bill Clinton(L) and Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Ciller in the Oval Office at the White House
Tansu Penbe Çiller – born 24 May 1946 – is a Turkish academic, economist and politician who served as the 30th Prime Minister of Turkey from 1993 to 1996. She is Turkey’s first and only female prime minister to date. As the leader of the True Path Party, she went on to concurrently serve as Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey and as Minister of Foreign Affairs between 1996 and 1997.
Megawati Sukarnoputri: President of Indonesia 2001-2004
Megawati Setiawati Sukarnoputri – born 23 January 1947 – is an Indonesian politician who served as president of Indonesia from 23 July 2001 to 20 October 2004.
Megawati has been Indonesia’s only female president and the fourth woman to lead a predominantly Muslim nation. She is also the first Indonesian leader to be born after Indonesia proclaimed independence. After serving as vice-president to Abdurrahman Wahid, Megawati became president when Wahid was removed from office in 2001.
Mame Madior Boye: Prime Minister of Senegal 2001-2002
Mame Madior Boye was Prime Minister of Senegal from 2001 to 2002. She was the first female holder of that position.
Boye was not only a woman, she was also non-partisan. Following the April 2001 legislative elections, Boye was reappointed as Prime Minister on 10 May 2001; she was, however, replaced as Minister of Justice in the government appointed on 12 May.
Atifete Jahjaga: President of Kosovo 2011-present
Atifete Jahjaga – born 20 April 1975 – is a Kosovar politician and the fourth President of Kosovo. She is the first female President of the Republic of Kosovo, the first non-partisan candidate, the first female head of state in the modern Balkans and the youngest to be elected to the office. She served as Deputy Director of the Kosovo Police, holding the rank of Major General and the highest among women in Southeastern Europe.
Roza Otunbayeva: President of Kyrgyzstan 2010-2011
Roza Isakovna Otunbayeva – born August 23, 1950 – is a Kyrgyz diplomat and politician who served as the President of Kyrgyzstan from 7 April 2010 until 1 December 2011. She was sworn in on July 3, 2010, after acting as interim leader following the 2010 April revolution which led to the ousting of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev. She previously served as Minister of Foreign Affairs and as head of the parliamentary caucus for the Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan.
In 2010, while congratulating her people with the approach of the month of Ramadan, Otunbayeva stated that the month would bring unity to her country. Otunbayeva stated: “The holy Quran appeals to people living during difficult tests, to general tolerance and forgiveness of the past offences of each other.
“These days, even those who were earlier at enmity must forgive each other in the name of further peaceful coexistence, get rid of all harmful habits and generously respect all people. These holy notions are one of the highest tops of humanistic ideals of Islam.”
Sheikh Hasina: Prime Minister of Bangladesh 1996-2001 and 2009-Present
Sheikh Hasina – born 28 September 1947 – is the current Prime Minister of Bangladesh and has been in office since January 2009. She previously served as Prime Minister from 1996 to 2001.
Benazir Bhutto: Prime Minister of Pakistan 1988-1990 and 1993-1996
Benazir Bhutto (21 June 1953 – 27 December 2007) was the 11th Prime Minister of Pakistan, serving two non-consecutive terms in 1988–90 and then 1993–96. In 1988, she became the first woman to be elected as the head of an Islamic state’s government. Noted for her charisma and political astuteness, Bhutto drove initiatives for Pakistan’s economy and national security, and she implemented social-capitalist policies for industrial development and growth. In addition, her political philosophy and economic policies emphasised deregulation of the financial sector, flexible labour markets, the denationalisation of state-owned corporations, and the withdrawal of subsidies to others..
Bhutto was assassinated in a bombing on 27 December 2007, after leaving PPP’s last rally in Rawalpindi, two weeks before the scheduled 2008 general election in which she was the leading candidate. Her party subsequently won the elections on a wave of sympathy generated by her assassination.
Khaleda Zia: Prime Minister of Bangladesh 1991-1996 and 2001-2006
Begum Khaleda Zia – born 15 August 1945 – was the Prime Minister of Bangladesh from 1991 to 1996 and again from 2001 to 2006. When she took office in 1991, she was the first woman in the country’s history and second in the Muslim world (after Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan in 1988–1990) to head a democratic government as prime minister
In its list of the 100 Most Powerful Women in the World, Forbes magazine ranked Khaleda Zia at number 14 in 2004, number 29 in 2005, and number 33 in 2006.
Ameenah Fakim: President of Mauritius 2015–Present
Bibi Ameenah Firdaus Gurib-Fakim – born October 17, 1959 – is a Mauritian Biodiversity Scientist who serves as President of the Republic. As such, she is the Head of State and Commander in Chief of the Republic of Mauritius. She is the first woman President of the country after Kailash Purryag resigned on 29 May 2015.
She is also currently the Managing Director of CIDP Research & Innovation where she devotes her time to research the medical and nutritive implications of indigenous plants of Mauritius.