A Question of Leadership

May 25, 2020

In her artwork, Pickering examines questions of leadership during the COVID-19 global pandemic. “Question of Leadership“, are portraits community leaders, such as Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, who speak truth to power. Because the people who deserve public attention are those leading us through this crisis with humility, sacrifice and collaboration.

Education, Empowerment and Equality for Women during Covid-19

How much do you know about the global impact of the pandemic on women and girls? Quiz yourself: https://interactive.unwomen.org/multimedia/explainer/covid19/en/index.html

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka is United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women. At the end of March, the UN Women’s organization published a gender-based emergency response plan to the Covid-19 pandemic. This document outlines areas of most concern to women during this pandemic. These include; existing inequalities, violence against women, economic impacts, the disproportionate role of women in care and domestic work, lack of gender specific data or gender specific planning in policy creation and lack of women’s input into response planing(1).

In their plan, the UN Women Reduced set out to:

1- reduce infection and transmission rates among women, their households and their wider community.

2- reduce economic impacts on women, particularly for those in vulnerable employment

3- improve response to violence against women and an increased sense of safety

4- increase women’s leadership and voice in the COVID-19 response

Phumzile writes “It is a time for the protection and assertion of rights, a time to listen hard and speak louder, no matter how difficult; to call out the continuing imbalances of power; to band together and take a stand on the changes that must happen so that girls and women are heard and their experiences are taken seriously.” (2)

In order to reach their goals, their efforts focus on 20 countries “with the weakest healthcare and social protection systems and those whose economic systems heavily impacted by countries affected by the crisis (2).” Direct actions include the provision of goods, services and assets to 200 000 women and girls. They also aim to raise awareness for Covid-19 prevention and response to three million more (2).

About Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

Phumzile served as the Deputy President of South Africa from 2005-08. During this tenure, she focused much of her energy on programs to address poverty. She has a long career in national politics, which started in 1994 when she was elected as a member of Parliament. This was South Africa’s first democratic Parliament.

Phumzile started her career as a teacher. However, she quickly began working to advocate for youth, education and women’s rights and equality. Prior to her career in politics, she spent over a decade working as an advocate in the private and civil sectors. In 2013, she completed a Doctorate at the University of Warwick. Her research focused on “using mobile technologies to support teacher Development in resource poor nations”(5).

About the Artist Jennifer Pickering

Jennifer Pickering is a contemporary artist from Canada, born in Switzerland and currently based in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. She teaches Visual Art at Advanced Learning Schools, an International Baccalaureate School. Much of her practice is based in site-specific interventions into public space. Her work explores complex systems of information exchange. Issues of access and denial, of privilege, class and where the power lies are central to her work.

For more artwork by Pickering in this series “A Question of Leadership” visit: http://jen-pickering.com/blog/


  1. https://www.unwomen.org/-/media/headquarters/attachments/sections/news%20and%20events/in%20focus/covid-19/gender-responsive-prevention-management-covid19.pdf?la=en&vs=1519 (March 27, 2020)
  2. https://www.un.org/africarenewal/web-features/letter-girls-phumzile-mlambo-ngcuka-un-under-secretary-general-and-executive-director
  3. https://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2020/4/statement-ed-phumzile-violence-against-women-during-pandemic
  4. https://live.worldbank.org/experts/phumzile-mlambo-ngcuka
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phumzile_Mlambo-Ngcuka