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A difficult year for women in politics

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The intricate diversity of our world is often poorly reflected in the political realm. Perhaps the most glaring example of this is the lack of female representation in politics worldwide. As of February 2016 there were 22 female heads of state or heads of government, the highest this number has ever been. However, these 22 women make up just 6.9 percent of heads of state and government internationally.

This year has proven especially trying for many female politicians. Around the world, female leaders have faced corruption scandals, political upheaval, unprecedented economic shifts and challenging campaign races. Their responses to these situations serve as both cautionary tales and sources of inspiration for other women in politics.

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[symple_column size=”one-half” position=”last” fade_in=”false”]Dilma Rousseff

Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s first female president, held the office from January 2011 to August 31, 2016, when she was impeached for manipulating government accounts. After a trial investigating claims that Rousseff had borrowed money from state banks in order to hide government debts, the Brazilian Senate voted 61-20 to remove Rousseff from office. Her impeachment has sparked protests throughout the country.

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[symple_column size=”one-half” position=”first” fade_in=”false”]Theresa May

After the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union in June of 2016, former Prime Minister David Cameron announced his resignation. Theresa May announced her candidacy for prime minister quickly thereafter and was appointed to the office by Queen Elizabeth II on July 13, 2016 after earning a majority vote in the British Parliament. May, England’s second female prime minister, faces a number of unique challenges. She must negotiate a deal with the EU defining the terms of the UK’s separation, establish a timeline for exiting the bloc, and address England’s migrant crisis, which played heavily in the Leave campaign. [/symple_column]

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[symple_column size=”one-half” position=”last” fade_in=”false”]Angela Merkel

Angela Merkel is the first female Chancellor of Germany. As the “de facto leader of the European Union,” she has faced a number of challenges this year. June’s Brexit vote raised a lot of unanswered questions, leaving Merkel and other European leaders to pick up the pieces. Together, Merkel and other EU leaders must assess and prepare for the economic impact of losing the bloc’s third largest economy and negotiate the terms of Britain’s separation as well as the nature of their future relationship with the rest of Europe.

Merkel has also taken a central role in addressing the migrant crisis. German officials estimate that the country took in over a million refugees in 2015. Merkel has worked to build shelters for refugees, simplify the process of applying for asylum, integrate refugees into the German workforce, and provide aide in any way possible, rebuking the EU for its poor response to the crisis. However, Merkel’s policies have recently met sharp criticism and may prevent her from serving another term as Chancellor. [/symple_column]

[symple_column size=”one-half” position=”first” fade_in=”false”]Hillary Clinton

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton stands to be the United States’ first female president. She has fought through a difficult year to get there. In July, the FBI concluded an investigation of Clinton’s use of her own private email server during her time as secretary of state. The FBI recommended no charges against Clinton, but the mishandling of classified information has had severe consequences for her presidential campaign. [/symple_column]

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In a world where women still hold so few political offices, the actions of those who do play a significant role in shaping how we think about female leaders. Women will continue to face significant challenges in pursuing political careers, but their perspective and influence is essential to representing the diversity of our world.

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