Ambassador Interviews

Women Diplomats in Power

The ‘Dual Earner’ of the New Era.

Empowerment is the creation of equal platforms in society to subdue the discrimination faced by the oppressed gender. It begins with small steps that bring positive changes in the minds of people. Empowering women is to empower societies and economies, raise awareness, make efforts to normalize gender equality and to uplift the norms against women which are deeply rooted in the minds of the people of a society.

Women are still under represented in diplomacy, particularly in senior positions. This is despite a proliferation of networks supporting women in diplomacy and purported support by numerous governments for increasing women’s representation in negotiations. What obstacles remain and how can they be overcome?

Here we share with you the voice of the Ambassadors and High Commissioners on their respective journeys.

Tanzania

H.E. Mrs. Anisa Kapufi Mbega, High Commissioner of Tanzania to India

What is it like to be a woman in a patriarchal society like Tanzania?

Tanzania is a Patriarchal Society just like most of the African countries.  We have more than 123 tribes. In almost all the tribes, women are expected to perform certain traditional roles, like cooking and taking care of the children. However, with globalization coming into force the trend is now changing. Women have also started enjoying equal rights with men and using their full potentiality in contributing to economic growth, both at the family and the national level.

What hurdles or challenges have you faced to become a woman High Commissioner?

There is nothing like believing in yourself and God, as long as you are on the right path. Challenges are there, but you must face and conquer them in a manner that they turn out to be opportunities and give you positive results. I believe that, apart from an individual’s efforts there is also God’s hand in it. Each one of us on this earth is destined to a certain thing which God has placed for him/her. What we all need to do on our part as humans, is to fulfill our obligations through hard work, as well as being ethical and resilient, in order to reach our goals.

What is empowerment to you in the actual sense?

Women empowerment can be provided in different angles. This includes provision of education and training, programmes aimed at poverty reduction, improvement in maternal health, rights to own land and properties, protection of human rights, prevention of violence against women, placing women in decision-making positions. All these, if implemented, can create a positive environment for sustainable development in society.

Panama

H.E. Mrs. Yasiel Burillo, Ambassador of Panama to India

What hurdles or challenges have you faced to become a woman Ambassador? Comment.

I am very blessed! Reaching at a momentum in the politics of my country where it has been possible to achieve and unite common wills and efforts. Panamanian President H.E. Laurentino Cortizo and Foreign Minister H.E. Erika Mouynes have promised to promote and advance gender equality at the leadership level with positive results. Currently, 44% of our Ambassadors, 55% of the Directors and 69% of our Heads of Offices at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are women (Source: INAMU, 2021). The challenge for me is to continue these efforts in places that have not yet achieved this momentum and work under the old stereotypes.

Would you want to share any experience which made you feel proud of being a woman?

I am very proud to be a woman. When a professional woman is entrusted in a mission, we are very dedicated and detailed in achieving it perfectly. My greatest pride as a woman is being able to be the mother of three beautiful children and give them all the examples they need. Through them, I foresee myself as a spokesperson to the future generation of the merits of hard work, family values, ethics, morality and love.

What are the suggestions you would like to give to all the aspiring women of society?

For us as women, it is more difficult to achieve a growing professional career and at the same time beautifully fulfil our role as mothers, wives, and daughters. Each woman decides the path she wants to follow, and whether in our career or as mothers, both roles are honourable. If the path involves career and family at the same time, it is very wise to choose a team that helps you support all things. Women need accept help, and value it to achieve their goals. At the same time, always keep a right balance between work and family.

Rwanda

H.E. Jacqueline MUKANGIRA, High Commissioner of the Republic of Rwanda to India.

Rwanda‘s women were the nation builders after the Genocide. Comment.

Rwandan women were the nation builders after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in RwandaAfter the devastating effects of the 1994 Genocide which destroyed the very fabric of Rwanda, its economy as well as the governance structures, the country has now become stable.  Moving forward, the Government of Rwanda has put gender equality and women empowerment (GEWE) at the forefront of development as the full recovery would only be possible with both women and men playing central roles.

Rwanda is a global leader in women participation in decision-making positions with 61.3% female members of Parliament and ranked 7th globally, in closing gender gaps according to the Global Gender Gap Report, 2021.

In addition, 55% of the Cabinet Members are women, among the Judges and clerks, women stand at 49.7%, while in the local government leadership, women occupy 45.2 % of the share, as members of District Councils, in 2020.

Furthermore, the constitution of Rwanda institutes a minimum of at least 30% of women’s occupancy in sectors of national, political and administrative posts, and the same legal provision applies equally, in the private sector. 

What is empowerment to you in the actual sense?

For me, ‘Empowerment’ refers to autonomy and the self-determination of people. Therefore, these people are respected in their communities and have control over their own lives. Empowering people, means they will have the same opportunities as everyone else to live good lives. Then, they will be valued, listened to, respected and feel safe.

Empowering women is a vital precondition to socio-economic transformation of the nation. As a Rwandan woman, I am privileged to have emerged in a society that has understood and embraced the essence and natural importance of gender equality. My personal trajectory through my political and diplomatic career was not a random historical happening. It is rather a result of Rwanda’s government policy of promoting gender balance in all spheres of national life. 

Lesotho

H.E. Mrs. Lineo Irene Molise-Mabusela, High Commissioner of Lesotho to India

Lesotho‘s women are more educated than men. Will the women overpower the men in the coming year?

It is true that in Lesotho women are more educated than men but even though that is the case Lesotho women still have a long way to go, in terms of attaining equal opportunities as men. So, to answer your question, there’s currently no plan to empower men in the coming year as men are already in a relatively advantageous position.

What is empowerment to you in the actual sense?

Empowerment is levelling the playing field for all, so that both men and women are able to access equal opportunities without one or the other feeling disadvantaged or disenfranchised.

What hurdles or challenges have you faced as a woman High Commissioner?

I have built my professional career over a period of two decades and being a High Commissioner is the apex of all the work that I have done over the years. There are not particularly any abnormal challenges that I have personally experienced in assuming this role.

What are the suggestions you would like to give to all the aspiring women of the society?

I advise women to persevere and to be relentless in the pursuit of their dreams. They should use all available platforms to educate themselves and position themselves strategically, so that when opportunities arise, they are more enlightened and better positioned to attain them. Women have to understand that in life no one will give them anything on a silver platter. They should therefore go out and look for opportunities. They should not have the victim mentality as that is a huge hindrance if one wants to be successful in life.

Tunisia

H. E. Mrs. Hayet Talbi Bilel, Ambassador of Tunisia to India

What’s the empowerment to you in the actual sense?

Women’s empowerment goes beyond the definition
of gender equality which focuses on women’s condition relative to men and incorporates the extent to which women have the power and ability to make strategic life choices which had been previously denied to them and to control their own destiny.

In the actual sense, empowering women is allowing them to fully participate in political, economic, social and family decisions.

Women empowerment and boosting the status of women can be achieved through literacy, education, training and awareness of self-worth and self-confidence. There is a lot of work still need to be done to strengthen women empowerment and achieve full gender equality.  There is a substantial discrepancy between what law is and what is practiced, both in public and private life. One of the main reasons for this is the existence of strong and persistent gender-based norms and attitudes.

What hurdles or challenges have you faced to become a woman Ambassador?

Actually, the real and persistent issues for female diplomat are strongly related to existing stereotypes, persisting culture patriarchal mentality and reconciling work and family life.

I was raised believing that if you work hard and always do your best, recognition will come and it has paid off for me. I have continued to bring my best every day and to look for new and interesting opportunities and assignments that take me out of my comfort zone, and offer an opportunity to learn something new or to develop a new skill. Female diplomat are generally posted exclusively to North Europe or North America considered to be safe for them. By accepting the challenge to come and serve in India, I become the first Tunisian female Ambassador to India and all Asia.

What suggestions would you like to give to all the aspiring women of society?

Women should know that they don’t have to prove that they are always perfect.  Sometimes it is not easy or smooth, but we can balance life between work and home.  You can ask for help, and you are not inferior if you need assistance.  

Women should be confident in their abilities and promote them.  Women should have the opportunity to attempt anything they want to try.  The most important catalyst is to work on their sense of self-worth and self-confidence. If we don’t raise ourselves, then no one will do it for us.