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Women are shaping history

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This is coronavirus month, but it is also Women’s History Month. In March the world celebrates the contributions of women to society’s defining moments.

Much of the awareness campaign this year was drowned in news delivering updates on Covid-19 as it spread uncontrollably from China to Iran, Italy, the US and everywhere else in between. But in these testing times, many women have stepped forward to lead the efforts to contain and overcome the pandemic.

In Malta, Professor Charmaine Gauci, the Public Health Superintendent, has become the reassuring face of the emergency. She has conducted daily media briefings with dignity, candour and aplomb, expertly answering questions with facts and rising above cynicism.

And that is only her part of the day that is publicly visible. Behind the scenes, Prof. Gauci faces incredible pressures that require bold decisions against a deluge of information while keeping on top of global developments in the pathological, medical and political spheres.

Beyond our shores, too, women leaders have come in for praise for their masterful handling of the crisis. German Chancellor Angela Merkel made a rare TV announcement to the nation that was applauded the world over. The reserved Chancellor, who incidentally went into isolation after coming into contact with a man who tested positive, adopted a composed tone that instilled both seriousness and hope.

Merkel’s former Defence Minister, Ursula von der Leyen, has proved an indomitable figure in this situation. The EU Commission President was swift in mobilising EU structures to address both the practical needs of the emergency, such as stranded citizens or mask shortage, as well as strategic demands, such as protecting Europe’s supply chain and relaxing the Stability Pact.

Away from the continent, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern once again rose to the occasion explaining hard decisions by her government with frankness and compassion. After announcing a national lockdown, Ardern surprised citizens with a spontaneous Q&A session broadcast live on Facebook from her residence.

Besides the four prominent leaders mentioned here, there are thousands of other women including heads of states, healthcare professionals, businesswomen and journalists who are at the forefront of global and local rescue initiatives.

We may not be formally celebrating Women’s History Month this year, but the leading role that women are taking in this crisis is perhaps the most appropriate form of commemoration.

Jesmond Saliba


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