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Women of the World – The Rise of the Female Diplomat

21 August 2018

“A husband would be useful, but I suspect that a bachelor ambassador would miss a wife more” said Her Excellency Anne Warburton, Britain’s first woman ambassador. She was posted to Denmark in 1976 and as permanent representative to the UN in Geneva Switzerland in 1983.

In her book, Women of the World – The rise of the Female Diplomat, Helen McCarthy, renowned British historian, lays bare the facts of the vital role women play in the engagement of international relations. It may be a revelation that women are quite natural to the Art of Diplomacy.

Ambassadresses, as McCarthy refers to them, highlight the heroic unsung role of the many women who actually had a major impact on British Foreign policy although they were not eligible to be diplomats because of their gender.  Soft power always has its special place in the world international relations. In fact it is paramount in connecting people in a lighter environment, alleviating much of the diplomatic protocol and bureaucracy.

The book tells the story of professional and personal encounters of women and their struggles against a dramatic backdrop of war, super power rivalry and global transformation over the last century and a half.

South Africa has kept up its tradition of appointing women as top diplomat since Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma was appointed the first woman Minister for Foreign Affairs. Since then South Africa’s international relations portfolio has been headed by Maite Nkoana Mashabane and the current Minister Lindiwe Sisulu.

Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland along with the European Union’s foreign policy director Frederica Mogherini will host the first ever meeting of women foreign ministers in Montreal in September 2018 while the UN general assembly takes place in New York, officials have said.

The meeting will further strengthen and promote gender equality as a requisite for peace, stability and prosperity.  It could also present a perspective on susceptibility and tendencies for corruption, fraud, sexual harassment and violence regardless of gender orientation.
According to records there are currently around 30 women Foreign Ministers. There have been several former eminent women foreign ministers who have proved their worth on the world stage. There are many inspired and motivated young diplomats eager to leave a legacy in international relations.

‘Women of the World’ is written as a tribute to all those that have broken through the restrictions of gender and created a space for women to equally participate and be acknowledged for their roles and impact on the world. K Bhana




February/March 2020

















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