In light of International Women’s Day, we have compiled a list of eight totally awesome women who have crashed through the barriers of gender expectations to achieve phenomenal successes in the name of women everywhere. Following in the footsteps of the trailblazers who came before them, such as Parks, Pankhurst and the one and only Toni Morrison, these incredible women are continuing the dialogue pioneered by the suffragettes, civil rights movement and womanism, to change the world for future generations of women.
If you didn’t know their names before, you certainly will now. Prepare to be inspired.
“Do not wait for someone else to come and speak for you. It’s you who can change the world.”
At just twenty-three years old, Malala has been through more than most of us can imagine possible. In retaliation to her advocacy for female education in Pakistan, Malala was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman, who attempted to assassinate her and two other women. After surviving the near-fatal attack, Malala co-founded the Malala Fund, a non-profit organisation that champions every girl’s right for twelve years of free education, became an international bestseller for her book, I Am Malala, and became the first ever recipient of Pakistan’s National Youth Peace Prize. On top of this and a handful of other accolades, at aged just seventeen, Malala became the youngest ever Nobel Prize Laureate.
“I have learned you are never too small to make a difference.”
Another young spearhead of global change, Greta Thunberg is a Swedish environmental activist, who has taken on the likes of Donald Trump on her quest to solve the climate crisis. For her inspiring work, Greta has found herself nominated for three Nobel Peace Prizes and has received countless accolades, including an honorary Fellowship of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society. In 2019, Thunberg became the youngest ever Time person of the year.
“Today, do what others won’t, so tomorrow you can accomplish what others can’t.”
Sticking with our Gen-Z groundbreakers, Simon Biles is an American gymnast who possesses the most World gold medals, with 19 under her belt, as well as the most World medals in general, at a staggering 25. In 2017, Simone was named in Time Magazine as one of the World’s most influential people and in 2020, she received the Laureus World Sports Award for Sportswoman of the year for the third time. The full list of her honours and awards is far too long to include here, but it is safe to say that she is certainly an iconic role model for the women who will come after her, further proven by her condemnation of ESPN’s SportsCentre for failing to include female athletes in their “Greatest of All Time” photograph.
“The difference between a broken community and a thriving one is the presence of women who are valued.”
From the moment we were first introduced to the former First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama has captivated us with her candour and eloquence. Always honest about the struggles she has faced in life, including miscarriage, marital bumps and racism, Michelle Obama has unfalteringly led by example the importance of women empowering each other. She has taught us that failure is okay, that we should have faith in our abilities and to prove our adversaries wrong when told that we can’t achieve something. She is, in her own words, “an example of what is possible when girls from the very beginning of their lives are loved and nurtured by the people around them.”
“What I want young women and girls to know is: You are powerful and your voice matters.”
Going from First Lady to first female vice-president of the United States, Kamala Harris may have been deemed the “female Obama”, but she is inspiring in her own right. Having served as San Francisco’s first female district attorney, Kamala is used to breaking ground. Her achievement of reaching the second highest position in US politics, as well as being the very first woman ever to do so, shows girls and young women everywhere that they are capable of incredible things.
“For there is always light if only we’re brave enough to see it, if only we’re brave enough to be it.”
If you watched President Joe Biden’s inauguration, then you will know that Amanda Gorman’s reading of her poem, “The Hill We Climb”, stole the show. Named the first National Youth Poet Laureate in 2017, Gorman has pursued many literary projects, including a handful of works that had already claimed best-seller status before they were even released. In an interview with James Cordon, Amanda hinted at her desire to run for presidency as soon as her age allows. With women like her set to run one of the most powerful nations in the World, the future looks bright indeed.
“I want to be a good leader, not a good lady leader. I don’t want to be known simply as the woman who gave birth.”
The world became aware of Jacinda Ardern’s brilliance following her handling of the March 2019 gun attacks in two Christchurch mosques. In response, Ardern doubled down on New Zealand gun laws, banning future sales of semi-automatic weapons. In a powerful speech about the incident, Ardern refused to refer to the attacker by name, thereby transitioning attention away from him and onto the victims. While meeting those affected by the tragedy, Jacinda took the decision to wear a hijab, which was met with international admiration, as it was a symbol of her compassion, sensitivity and respect. In the face of such hate and tragedy, Jacinda showed nothing but love and kindness.
“As the generation that led social movements over the last several years and fundamentally changed the political landscape that determined the election, we have more than earned our seat at the table.”
Next on our list is a name you may not have heard before, though not for her lack of worthiness. At just seventeen years old, Amika George founded the Free Periods campaign, which advocates for the end of period poverty. As a result of her efforts, menstrual products are now available freely at colleges and secondary schools in England. Moreover, in January 2020, it was announced that the much-condemned “tampon tax” was to be abolished.
“I am never going to put boundaries on myself ever again. I’m never going to say I can’t do it. I’m never going to say maybe. I’m never going to say I don’t think I can. I can and I will.”
An undisputed national treasure, Nadiya Hussain rose to fame in 2015 after winning the BBC’s “The Great British Bake Off”. She has since used her platform to discuss important issues such as motherhood and mental health. As a result, she has collected a handful of accolades, such as being named on BBC News’ 100 Women list, as well as Debrett’s 500 most influential people in the UK. In the 2020 New Year Honours, Nadia was recognised for her services to broadcasting and culinary arts and was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE).
The truth is, every woman and girl is inspiring in her own unique way. As we follow in the footsteps of these incredible women and the women who came before them, we will work together to bridge the gender equality gap for our daughters, so that maybe they won’t have to fight as hard.
Girl, you are amazing and capable of so many great things. Happy International Women’s Day!