The female world leaders defeating coronavirus
PUBLISHED: 10:00 24 April 2020 | UPDATED: 11:13 24 April 2020
BONNIE GREER on the strengths female world leaders have brought to their nations during the coronavirus pandemic.
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The coronavirus pandemic is upending our ideas and perceptions of the world itself. It is quite simply forcing us to see it in another way.
This pandemic is also telling us what we want and what we need now.
For example, no one yet has the answer as to why nations and territories governed by women appear to be doing better than those that are not.
Maybe it has to do with these traits: women leaders tend to tell the unvarnished truth, and with that to move fast.
German chancellor Angela Merkel told her country that up to 70% of them were going to be infected. She told her people that this was no joke and that she was going to start testing right away.
Merkel also raced her people through the three stages of adolescent grief that the US is now going through in some states of the Union.
In other words, the chancellor had no time for denial, rage and rebellion. She made Germany grow up fast.
Nothing is perfect, of course, but the nation’s numbers are far below its neighbours. The country has begun loosening its restrictions.
Women leaders also tend to be decisive.
Among the first and the fastest responses against Covid-19 was that of Tsai Ing-wen, president of the Republic of China, commonly known as Taiwan.
Back in January, when the virus looked like it was going to be more than a local Chinese difficulty, she introduced 124 measures to block its spread. Without resorting to lockdown.
She is now sending 10 million masks: to the United States and Europe.
Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister of New Zealand, took her country into an early lockdown.
She told her people what she was doing and why. Plus, she imposed self-isolation on anyone entering New Zealand, and soon after that banned foreigners from entering the country. The nation so far has had only a handful of deaths from the virus.
While other countries are now talking about lifting restrictions, Ardern is doubling down. All returning New Zealanders will be quarantined in designated locations for two weeks.
Her message to returning compatriots: If you don’t like it, don’t come back.
There are no Midwestern US-style ‘civil liberties’ rallies protesting the lockdown there.
Women leaders are big on tech too. Katrín Jakobsdóttir, prime minister of Iceland, is offering free coronavirus testing to all Icelanders. The data collected can go on to become a key case study in the true spread and fatality rates of Covid-19. Iceland also has a complete tracking system which means that schools can stay open.
Finland’s Sanna Marin, at 34, is the youngest female prime minister in the world. Her cabinet is also young and largely female. The Finnish PM used her generational understanding of tech and reached out to internet influencers to get her coronavirus message out. It may make a difference.
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Women leaders are not afraid to show love.
Erna Solberg, prime minister of Norway, goes on television to talk to the children of the country. She banned adults from one press conference to take questions from children, listen to their fears and tell them it was ok to be scared. Mette Frederiksen, her Danish counterpart, did something similar.
“Oh these women just run islands or small nations!” some cry.
The United Kingdom is only some islands.
And Nicaragua is a small nation.
In fact, its president, Daniel Ortega, has finally emerged – the 74-year-old had not been seen in public for more than a month – to call the virus “a sign from God.”
Whether this analysis will help or not is yet to be seen.
What we all want now is good news. We are all tending to sing that great solo number from the musical The Wiz, Don’t Bring Me No Bad News.
Instead, we want to read and hear about people like 99-year-old Second World War veteran Captain Tom Moore, who wanted to make those 100 laps on his walker around his garden before he reached his birthday at the end of the month. His goal was to raise a little money for the NHS. Instead he has raised millions.
Instagram accounts dedicated to good news have seen their followers skyrocket. Google searches for “good news” are also rising. A YouTube good news channel has follower numbers growing in the millions. CNN has a segment on its morning flagship show that is called “The Good Stuff”.
The world is watching US TV news anchor Chris Cuomo going through the coronavirus quarantined in his basement and still broadcasting. We see his banter with his big brother, Andrew, governor of the corona-frontline state of New York. We watch because we know what love between brothers is about. We can see it now live and unedited on TV
One of my favourite news websites is called Good Black News. That’s all.
It is dedicated to good news about people of African descent, especially African Americans. This may sound like no big deal.
But finding good news about black people is a trawl. For many news markets, frankly, for mainstream papers, it must be a loss-leader.
But the growth of GBN, since the outbreak of the pandemic, has exploded. This is because of headlines like this one, about a star of America’s satirical topical news show Saturday Night Live, Michael Che: “SNL Star Michael Che Pays Rent For His Grandmother’s Entire Building After She Passes From COVID 19”.
That headline alone just simply makes people feel good.
The most popular good news sites aim to deliver coronavirus-related stories, but with a positive message. One that makes you get on with your day. Your life.
Fact-checking has seen a spike, too. Stories about swans and dolphins returning to the lagoon at Venice and baboons washing their hands were fact-checked and proved to be rubbish.
There are some good news outlets that are dedicating themselves to spreading stories about non-profits which help others.
They aim for news that enhances not the public bad, but the public good.
In this time of deep uncertainty; of bombast; and a silent enemy threatening us, we can all use more of that.
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