When Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga took office last year, observers were quick to point out similarities between her and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Not only are both highly intelligent and strong-willed—with their swirling stacks of red hair, they even look a lot alike. For Vike-Freiberga, the comparisons led to the inevitable label: Latvia’s Iron Lady.
Finnish President Tarja Halonen
Tarja Halonen was elected the 11th President of Finland in February 2000 and assumed office on 1 March 2000. She is Finland’s first female head of state.
President Halonen was born in Helsinki in 1943. She joined the Social Democratic party in 1971. Her political career began in 1974 when she was appointed parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister, a post she held until 1975. President Halonen was elected to the Parliament in 1979 and held her seat in five consecutive elections until she assumed the office of the President of Finland.
President Halonen is married to Pentti Arajärvi and has one daughter. She is interested in theatre and has held several honorary positions in this sphere. Her other interests include the history of the arts, and painting and drawing are among her hobbies. She has also been closely involved in rhythmic competition gymnastics and swims regularly.
The Philippines’ President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
The President of the Philippines, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, holds many records. Elected as Senator during her first try in politics in 1992, she was re-elected Senator in 1995 with nearly 16 million votes, the highest number of votes in Philippine history.She was elected Vice President of the Philippines in 1998 with almost 13 million votes, the largest mandate in the history of Presidential or Vice Presidential elections.She was sworn in as the 14th President of the Philippines on January 20, 2001 by Chief Justice Hilario Davide, Jr. after the Supreme Court unanimously declared the position of President vacant, the second woman to be swept into the Presidency by a peaceful People Power revolution.
The President is the daughter of the late President and Mrs. Diosdedo Macapagal, who were well known for their integrity and simple but dignified lifestyle. During the Presidency of Diosdado Macapagal, the Philippines was second only to Japan in economic progress in Asia.
Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Khaleda Zia
Khaleda Zia was born to Iskandar Majumder, a businessman, and Taiyaba Majumder at Dinajpur district in north-western Bangladesh in 1945. In 1960, she got married to Ziaur Rahman. Her husband, one of the prominent heroes of the country's liberation war, later became the President of the Republic and formed the Bangladesh Nationalist Party.
Even when her husband was propelled to power after the political changes in 1975, she remained a shy and withdrawn housewife who devoted most of her time grooming up her two sons.
In 1991, she became the country's first woman Prime Minister through a free and fair general election on 27 February 1991 and formed the government. She became Prime Minister for the second consecutive term after the BNP had a landslide victory in 15 February 1996 general election to the sixth Jatiya Sangsad. The election was, however, boycotted by all other major parties.