Strong Cities, Strong Female Leadership

While overall global numbers of female participation in politics are rising, there is a lot of work to be done. According to a recent study by the World Economic Forum, just 38% of all nations have had a female head of government or state for at least a year in the past 50 years. Moreover, UNDP’s newly published Gender and Social Norms Index reveals that around 50% of the world feel that men make better political leaders.

To help change this, we chose to celebrate International Women’s Day on today, 8 March, by asking leading female mayors, policy leaders, directors and practitioners from a broad spectrum across our global network to give their views. This is what they said.

Mayors

Mayor Maria Climaco

Zamboanga, Philippines

Mayor Anna König Jerlmyr

Stockholm, Sweden

Why is female leadership important to building community resilience?

Women by nature are nurturing, caring and can multitask across the workplace, at home and with their families. When rebels attacked our city, my priority was our people – 120,000 were displaced and many living in fear.  Being a family counselor, I made sure hostages got psychological first aid.  By night, I would be in communities reassuring their safety. This built trust since people knew the Lady Mayor was present with them.

What advice would you give to girls and women aspiring to get involved in local government?

Follow your heart.  Make your voice heard.  You are a leader with the heart.

How can we as a global society support increased female leadership on local issues?

Hone women from childhood. My mom told me to speak out for my rights as a girl and teenager. We must continue to educate women of our rights and our significant roles in contributing to our community.

 

Why is female leadership important to building community resilience?

One of the pillars of smart and resilient cities is that women’s and men’s ideas carry the same weight. A resilient city is also a safe city where you are free from violence and sexual harassment, regardless of gender. To create that city, we need the ideas and voices of many.

What advice would you give to girls and women aspiring to get involved in local government?

Don’t compromise when it comes to your ideas and your personality. Cities must be a place where you have the possibility to fulfill your true potential, regardless of who you are.

How can we as a global society support increased female leadership on local issues?

I believe that role models are the key to success. A majority of Sweden’s young CEOs are women and a majority of universities and colleges in Stockholm are led by women. I don’t think that this would have been the case if aspiring women hadn’t led the way and I’m looking forward to the future that these women are creating.

Mayor Valérie Plante

Montreal, Canada

Vice-Mayor Rina Mariann Hansen

Oslo, Norway

Why is female leadership important to building community resilience?

In order to fight against climate change, the needs, perspectives, and ideas of women need to be taken seriously. Women’s entrepreneurship is a strong lever for the success of our ecological transition. According to the UN, women also share more information about community wellbeing, which is important for resilience, and are more willing to adapt to environmental changes.

What advice would you give to girls and women aspiring to get involved in local government?

I would advise to get involved and not be afraid to dream big. Be part of the solution. Decisions are made by those who show up and contribute to the conversation. Get involved in your school, your neighbourhood or in an organization you like, but the important thing is to be engaged. Do not hesitate to talk to elected officials. Ask them your questions and they will be happy to answer.

How can we as a global society support increased female leadership on local issues?

We must place more value on work-family balance in order to make politics more attractive and inviting to women. Women must also believe in themselves. Too often, women underestimate themselves and their value. We are strong and we are capable of succeeding in everything we do. There are many female leaders in the world who inspire us daily. Use these role models as your inspiration to make our planet a better place to live.

Why is female leadership important to building community resilience?

All governance, local and national, needs legitimacy from its citizens. Elected leaders should represent the population, and electoral parity will ensure representation of all of the population.

What advice would you give to girls and women aspiring to be community leaders?

All voices are needed in a democracy, because all backgrounds, experiences and knowledge makes our decisions and leadership better and more legitimate. Girls and women should be considered important voices in making our communities better.  Don’t be afraid to participate. We will support all of them and facilitate so they can be great leaders.

How can we as a global society support increased female leadership on local issues?

The importance of clear boundaries and strong female role models on a global level cannot be underestimated. However, global measures alone cannot secure local democracy and leading positions for women (locally). We should spread best practices of the systems in political parties, electoral laws and regulation to ensure quotas for women.

Practitioners


Why is female leadership important to building community resilience?

Peace, gender equality, women’s leadership in prevention, as well as protection and peace-building efforts are all connected to sustainable peace and greater security. It is therefore critical that they be supported and empowered to challenge the violence that threatens their communities. It is also vital that women are prioritized in the implementation of peace and security agendas for their vital role in de-radicalization and rehabilitation.

What advice would you give to girls and women aspiring to be community leaders?

Focus on cultivating your strengths, believe in yourself, your capacities and your ability to make a difference. Challenge the status quo and recognize that comfort zones are not so comfortable.

How can we as a global society support increased female leadership on local issues?

It is important to look ahead to the untapped potentials and opportunities that await future generations of women. We have a long way to go, so we must tap into the capabilities and intelligence of women and their power to build bridges of trust within and among their communities. It is only through women’s full and equal participation that we can overcome this century’s global challenges, and this will only happen if we overcome the legal, social and structural obstacles that prevent Lebanese women from participating effectively in society’s advancement.

Rubina Abu Zeinab, National Coordinator for Preventing Violent Extremism

Lebanon

Gulmina Bilal, Director, Individualland

Nowshera, Pakistan


Why is female leadership important to building community resilience?

The female gender is the personification of the term “resilience.” As a mother, she goes endures terrible pain yet remains resilient. Females are decision makers and are highly capable of running family and economic affairs within their households. Females have the natural ability to perceive danger and devise protection mechanisms for the safety of their families. Therefore, communities can benefit tremendously from female leadership.

What advice would you give to girls and women aspiring to be community leaders?

Women that are financially independent can take important decisions regarding the welfare of their families. Girls and women aspiring to be community leaders should build their capacities through education and skills and become independent. This way they can become role models within their respective communities and also assume community leadership.

How can we as a global society support increased female leadership on local issues?

Traditionally, women are the larger decision makers when it concerns the household. In many areas in Pakistan, women lead the rural economy. Economic empowerment allows women to have a direct role in the family, community affairs and local issues.  Females are better placed to solve local issues as they have the natural capacity to understand and manage community affairs.


Why is female leadership important to building community resilience?

Women are traditionally the first respondents in building community resilience, our mothers have been the nurturers of families and societies for generations. In these modern times, female leadership is critical. UN Resolution 1325 advocates for the implementation of strategies that place women in a central role, as opposed to simple validators and observers. Women are the best negotiators and great mentors in fragile states. Community policing and dialogue, such as the peacekeeping missions in northern Kenya, is driven and championed by women.

What advice would you give to girls and women aspiring to be community leaders?

The UN plan of action on Prevention of Violent Extremism clearly describes the roles of sub-national governments. Local governments understand the local contexts of their communities, and women are the key stakeholders involved. For the women aspiring to take up leadership roles in the county governments, go for it – the world is yours to conquer.

How can we as a global society support increased female leadership on local issues?

Global society should empower leaders through capacity-building leadership programmes and create technical working groups that link women globally. The international community can also lobby for member states to adopt the two-third gender rule for political elective positions in-order to increase the number of women in legislative positions.


Munira Hamisi, Director for CVE and Community Engagement

Mombasa, Kenya

Why is female leadership important to building community resilience?

In a time of massive institutional failure, and where the foundations of our social, economic, ecological and spiritual wellbeing are floundering, female leadership in building community resilience offers balance in an unbalanced history. It represents the possibility of true co-creation of the next phase in the push to reimagine the world for the next generation of citizens.

Malin Martelius, Safety and Security Coordinator

Malmö, Sweden

Julie McKercher, MERIT Specialist

Ottawa, Canada


What advice would you give to girls and women aspiring to be community leaders?

Be transformative. Ask wicked questions of the status quo. Be inclusive – and seek to understand and create alliance with that which you cannot define or explain. Be creative in problem solving; this will take you into collaborative spaces and outside the proverbial box. Speak out against injustice and rigidity in policy and in the ways that policy is developed. Ask questions that current systems can’t answer. Be untraditional in your roles while embracing those that you feel can be used to help define your lines. Be a part of the movement that invests in widespread systemic change because systems can be changed and need change.

How can we as a global society support increased female leadership on local issues?

Global transformative leadership is how we support increased female leadership on local issue. Leadership that values collaboration, co-development and observation is the sexy alternative to autocracy. It is innovative and creative, and redefines the crutch of institutionalization. Female leadership has the potential to broaden the strict confines of “traditional” roles by creating space for viewpoints other than those traditionally held in high esteem.

Marijeta Mojasevic, Youth Advisor

Municipality of Berane, Montenegro


Why is female leadership important to building community resilience?

When I think of female leadership, the first link is ethics of care as a principle used by me and many females trying to build social resilience against extremism. We must think of others – to help them, to prevent wrongdoing and support them in doing good.

What advice would you give to girls and women aspiring to be community leaders?

Considering the fact that our position is not yet equal to that of men, I always say that we should say what we think as to show what we know. From my experience, that is the strongest tool to make space for us at the local, national and international level.

How can we as a global society support increased female leadership on local issues?

Different initiatives and programs can empower women to raise their voice when it comes to different topics meaningful for local issues. The fact that there is a space dedicated to role of women is promising better positions of us in future.


Why is female leadership important to building community resilience?

Female leadership is of great importance in order to both have good role models and bring others’ perspectives to society.  Diversity must always be viewed as a resource, and is necessary to create a future-oriented, competent and inclusive organization

What advice would you give to girls and women aspiring to be community leaders?

Have belief in your own abilities, find yourself a role model and maybe contact this person, ask their advice, and whether this person would like to be your mentor.

How can we as a global society support increased female leadership on local issues?

Equality is fair for the individual and it is fundamental to a democratic society. We must always assume that equality is a matter of everyone having the same opportunities for community participation regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion or belief, functional ability, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. It is of great importance that society sees females as individuals with their unique circumstances, resources and requirements, regardless of the background they have.

Johanne Nilsen, Crime Prevention Coordinator

Kristiansand, Norway

Rehema Zaid Obuyi - Integrated Initiatives for Community Empowerment (IICCP)

Nairobi, Kenya


Why is female leadership important to building community resilience?

Women’s influence extends beyond their families; they play an important role as mediators as well as authors of counter-narratives to violent extremism. Being victims of both terrorist attacks and counter-terrorism measures, they can point out when preventative practices are counterproductive. They are equally well-placed to inform CVE strategies and programmes to make them more effective and are also uniquely suited to detect and disrupt early signs of VE.

What advice would you give to girls and women aspiring to be community leaders?

Prioritize identifying gaps which hinder the successful implementation of UN resolution 1325. In my experience, enabling female participation without ensuring the structural changes necessary to address gendered power dynamics and inequalities risks instrumentalising the discourse of “women’s empowerment” and promotes a naïve view of women’s capacity.  In turn, this limits their status and risks reproducing more gender stereotypes.

How can we as a global society support increased female leadership on local issues?

Ensure development of gender-sensitive programming, for without it, gendered assumptions will continue to shape P/CVE policies and programming. Understanding the role women play in CVE differs based on religion and culture traditions and how these traditions impact gender relations and power dynamics is vital in developing relevant solutions.


Why is female leadership important to building community resilience?

Women are at the heart of every striving and resilient community. They are the steady voice that galvanizes relationships, networks, stability, and the courageous defenders of human dignity. I’m encouraged and inspired by the many female leaders who against all odds defied divisions of conflicts and became a unifying force to promote resilience of communities.

What advice would you give to girls and women aspiring to be community leaders?

The success of female leaders comes from their determination and ability to find strength in compassion and kinship with those who are at the margins.  Upcoming women leaders have a unique opportunity to convene diverse voices and substantially influence policies.  I would encourage aspiring women leaders to stay true to who they are, find their grit, and to continue to build alliances. 

How can we as a global society support increased female leadership on local issues?

Global society can elevate the role of female leadership on local issues by consistently ensuring that they are key to informing decision making at all levels, and promoting their contributions for advancing global issues through local actions.

Joumana Silyan-Saba, City of Los Angeles

Los Angeles, USA

Desanka Stoshevska, Secretary of the Municipality of Kumanovo

Kumanovo, North Macedonia


Why is female leadership important to building community resilience?

In every society, women and men should be equally represented in all spheres of social activity, and it should be the commitment of women to grant other women such opportunities and rights to equal representation in all aspects of society, including participation in politics, local and central government, social, and cultural life, through the improvement of the legislation.

What advice would you give to girls and women aspiring to be community leaders?

Certainly, positive and encouraging advice in their commitment and desires for inclusion in local government is important, but at the same time a high awareness of responsibility, honesty and consistency in work commitments and assumed function or duty.

How can we as a global society support increased female leadership on local issues?

Above all we should improve the legislation in the government’s measures and activities by supporting businesses led by women entrepreneurs from different ethnic communities through trainings and workshops.


Our sincerest thanks to all the mayors and practitioners who contributed to the making of the article. We’re proud to share the diversity of voices across our network and would love to hear yours. If you would like to write a guest piece, please send a description to [email protected].

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