Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala became first African, woman to lead WTO
On the 15th of February, 2021, Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala shattered the glass ceiling, becoming the first woman and African to lead the World Trade Organization after the early exit of Roberto Azevedo. This milestone has become a major topic of interest in the world.
Like Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, there are other women breaking boundaries across the world and making their mark in some of the world’s leading multi-lateral organisations. Nigeria Today News has compiled a list of five other exceptional women who are at the helm of affairs at international organizations:
1. URSULA VON DER LEYEN (President of the European Commission since December 2019)
Ursula, born 8 October 1958 is the first woman to be elected as the president of the European Commission a position she has held since December 2019.
She is a graduate of Economics from the University of Gottingen after which she obtained a medical degree from Hanover Medical school.
Ursula was the first woman to serve as German defence minister, prior to her election by the European Commission she served in the cabinet of Germany from 2005 to 2019. She is married with 7 children.
2. CHRISTINE LAGARDE (European Central Bank president since November 2019)
Christine Lagarde, born January 1, 1956, in Paris, France is the first woman to head the European Central Bank a position she assumed on November 1, 2019. She holds a degree from Paris-West University-Nanterre la defense where she obtained a master’s degree in English, Labour law, and Social law.
Lagarde like every woman elected to head any position has achieved a couple of milestones – becoming the first chair and Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund from July 2011 to September 2019. She is known to have reshaped the organisation.
Lagarde who was also the first woman to become the finance minister of a G8 economy was the first female chair of major international law firm Baker and Mc Kenzie between 1999 and 2004. When Lagarde resumed at the ECB she listed fighting climate change and the review of the monetary policy framework as things she’s willing to do.
3. KRISTALINA GEORGIEVA (Managing Director, International Monetary Fund since October 2019)
Kristalina Georgieva born in Sofia, Bulgaria, in 1953 obtained a master’s degree in Political Economy and Sociology from the University of National and World Economy and a ph.D holder in Economic Science. Georgieva currently serves as Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, a position she was selected for on September 25, 2019, and has served since October 1, 2019. Prior to this, she was Chief Executive Officer of the World Bank.
She is known to have helped in the shaping of the agenda of the European Union while serving as European Commission Vice President for Budget and Human Resources by overseeing the EU’s €161 billion (US $175bn) budget and 33,000 staff, as well as the EU’s response to the Euro Area debt crisis and the 2015 refugee crisis.
4. AUDREY AZOULAY (Director-General of UNESCO)
Audrey Azoulay was elected at the 39th session of UNESCO’s General Conference as Director-General of UNESCO, succeeding Irina Bokova. She took office on 15 November for a four-year term is another woman who is performing exceptionally well.
The DG is known to have notably focused on the funding of French public broadcasting and on the reform and modernization of France’s film support system. She has also served the European Commission providing her expertise on issues concerning culture and communication.
In 2014, as an advisor on culture to the President of the French Republic, she notably initiated the development of a protection plan for heritage in danger, which she was able to implement in 2016 as Minister of Culture and Communication. She has also prioritized improving children’s access to culture with the launch of artistic and cultural education school programs “Création en cours” and created innovative cultural outreach programs for people in remote and vulnerable areas “Microfolies”.
A graduate of France’s Ecole Nationale d’Administration and of the Paris Institut d’Etudes Politiques, she holds a diploma in Business Administration from the University of Lancaster (UK) and a master of science degree in mechanical engineering from Cranfield University and an undergraduate degree in aeronautical engineering from the University of Manchester.
With a longstanding commitment in favour of intercultural and intergenerational dialogue to advance education for all and the dissemination of scientific and cultural knowledge, she is determined to maintain this commitment as the head of UNESCO.
She will spare no effort in ensuring that UNESCO fulfills its universal mandate fully in promoting values of humanism and openness and serving as a driving force in the United Nations system. The Organization is to achieve this by serving as an intellectual forum for the world of tomorrow, and as a standard-setter that will help society advance, as well as serving as an expert agency contributing to the dissemination of knowledge to the greatest number of people worldwide.
5. WINNIE BYANYIMA (Executive Director, UNAIDS and under secretary general of United Nations; November 2019)
Winnie Byanyima like Okonjo Iweala is an African woman from Uganda who holds the post of the Executive Director of UNAIDS and an Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations. she is a passionate and longstanding champion of social justice and gender equality, Ms. Byanyima leads the United Nations’ efforts to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030. Ms. Byanyima believes that health care is a human right and was an early champion of a People’s Vaccine against the coronavirus that is available and free of charge to everyone, everywhere.
Before joining UNAIDS, Ms. Byanyima served as the Executive Director of Oxfam International, a confederation of 20 civil society organizations working in more than 90 countries worldwide, empowering people to create a future that is secure, just and free from poverty.
Ms. Byanyima was elected for three terms and served 11 years in the parliament of her country, Uganda. She led Uganda’s first parliamentary women’s caucus, championing ground-breaking gender equality provisions in the county’s 1995 post-conflict constitution.
Ms. Byanyima led the establishment of the African Union Commission’s Directorate of Gender and Development and also served as Director of Gender and Development at the United Nations Development Programme. She founded the Forum for Women in Democracy, an influential Ugandan nongovernmental organization, and has been deeply involved in building global and African coalitions on social justice issues. A global leader on inequality, Ms. Byanyima has co-chaired the World Economic Forum and served on the World Bank’s Advisory Council on Gender and Development, the International Labour Organization’s Global Commission on the Future of Work and the Global Commission on Adaptation.
Ms Byanyima is a recipient of several awards, including an honorary doctorate from the University of Manchester, United Kingdom, an honorary doctorate from Mount Saint Vincent University, Canada, and the 2018 Human Rights and Solidarity among Peoples Prize, awarded by the Latin American Council of Social Sciences.
She holds a master of science degree in mechanical engineering from Cranfield University and an undergraduate degree in aeronautical engineering from the University of Manchester.