From China and Hong Kong, to Bangladesh and Myanmar, these are Asia’s 5 most powerful women in politics.
- Sheikh Hasina Wajed, Bangladeshi Prime Minister
Most recently, the Bangladeshi Prime Minister was hailed as a ‘problem-solver’, and has earned praise from world leaders and international media in her efforts in the wake of the Rohingya crisis.
In 2017, she swiftly opened up Bangladesh’s bordering town of Cox’s Bazar to over 700,000 Rohingya fleeing from a police crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.
Bangladeshi’s longest-serving Prime Minister said she was ‘proud to bear the bulk of the cost’ of the relocation of the refugees to the country.
And that’s no small task, if you count immunisations, providing temporary shelters, food packages, and identification cards to a huge community.
In her home country, the 71-year-old has improved equal voting rights for all – including giving more rights to Bangladeshi citizens and greater equality between men and women.
- Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s De-Facto Leader
For decades, Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi was showered with accolades from the Nobel Peace Prize, to Amnesty International’s most prestigious human rights honours.
Once an icon of democracy for embattled Myanmar, now international organisations have stripped the Myanmar leader of awards.
Many more are moving to do the same because of her failure to handle the Rakhine crisis.
That includes South Korea, US, and the cities of Paris, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Oxford and Dublin. Canada went a step further and removed Suu Kyi of her honorary Canadian citizenship.
But she remains a leading figure in politics, with powerful influence on the international stage.
Political pundits say she is the only bridge between the lingering military influence in Myanmar, and the country’s path to democracy.
And they hope that with her at the reins, Myanmar will eventually have a democratic political system, and persecuted Rohingya Muslims will be granted full citizenship rights.
- Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Indonesian Finance Minister
Indonesia’s Finance Minister is best known for her tax reform drive, where she developed a successful tax amnesty programme to increase tax revenue in 2017.
Many say the move effectively ‘recharged Southeast Asia’s largest economy’.
While the 55-year-old economist has earned a fearsome reputation, she’s also praised for introducing policies that drive sustainable and inclusive economic development.
Indrawati was for a period of time, a familiar face at G20 meetings held around the world, having been the World Bank’s Managing Director.
Now, analysts say that with her controlling the purse-strings of Indonesia, the country’s economy is secure.
- Peng Liyuan, China’s First Lady
She’s the woman walking beside what observers call ‘China’s most powerful man’ – Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
Political commentators say Peng bears a striking similarity to Chairman Mao’s wife, Jiang Qing, in that she has quite a glamorous side.
The First Lady was a famous opera singer and actress before she married Communist Party leader Xi Jinping.
Now, Peng is a familiar face of rural education initiatives in China, and a strong supporter against HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis for the World Health Organisation.
In mid-2018, Peng held talks with UNESCO’s Director-General, to look at promoting education for women around the world.
But that’s not all – Peng also expressed that China is willing to make bigger contributions to the World Health Organisation’s 2030 health goals.
- Carrie Lam, Hong Kong Chief Executive
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam is in a delicate tug-of-war.
One, to best represent the interests of the people of Hong Kong, the other, to toe-the-line of the agenda of the Chinese government, which intends to take-back the city come 2047.
And so far, Lam has been pulled toward one side more than the other.
The 2014 protests in Hong Kong for the city’s independence demonstrated how important the seat of the Chief Executive meant to over 7 million people in the city.
After all, both her supporters and critics agree on one thing – that Lam is the city’s most crucial link to Beijing.
And perhaps no one understands its importance more than Lam, who campaigned on the manifesto of ‘We Connect’, promising to heal divisive cracks in society, and preserve the city’s existing ‘One Party, Two Systems’ way of governance.