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Kallie Szczepanski

A Dozen Powerful Asian Women

By July 14, 2012

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Indira Gandhi, center, with Nehru, Pres. Sukarno of Indonesia, and Megawati Sukarnoputri on tricycle

Over the past century, there have been twelve women who served as heads of state in Asia. Many of these female presidents and prime ministers come from great political dynasties, with fathers or husbands who preceded them in office, but several made it to the top on their own.

One aspect of this story that defies western stereotypes is the fact that 1/3 of the female leaders on this list ruled in predominantly Muslim countries: Bangladesh, Pakistan, Indonesia, and Kyrgyzstan. The United States, which has never had a female president, is lagging far behind.

Photo shows two of the female heads of state - Indira Gandhi, center, standing with her father, Jawaharlal Nehru and Indonesian president Sukarno, while Megawati Sukarnoputri and her brother play on a tricycle. Photo from an Indonesian government archive via Wikipedia.


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