Thailand's first female prime minister won a landslide election in August with a campaign promising to eradicate poverty by boosting the minimum wage, building high-speed trains, and giving free computers to every student. Yingluck Shinawatra, the little sister of ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, had no political experience before assuming office, but inspired hope of reconciliation in a country torn apart by two years of violent political protests. She got started right away: just one month before Yingluck took office, Thailand was besieged by floods, and a quick-thinking Shinawatra immediately set up relief operations and long-term prevention measures.
Award-winning CNN war correspondent Sara Sidner gained global recognition after reporting live on the Mumbai terrorist attacks from outside the Taj Mahal Palace in 2008. Three years later, as the Libyan revolution escalated, Sidner brought scenes from Tripoli into millions of living rooms around the globe. As Libyans celebrated the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, audiences watched Sidner fearlessly report from outside the fallen leader's compound.
Ellen Sirleaf Johnson
As the 24th president of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is the first and only elected female head of state in Africa. She served as Liberia's Minister of Finance under President William Tolbert from 1979, until she left the country during its coup d'etat in 1980.