This years International Women’s Day was all about celebrating the achievement of women and promoting the need for greater quality. We’ve seen some incredible examples of women doing amazing things all over the world. But we’ve also seen some examples that helpfully remind us how much we need to continue to promote equality for women; step forward China who it’s been reported detained up to 10 female activists.
Here is Salt’s selection of the top 10 women who have in their own unique way fought for a more compassionate and sustainable world over the last year:
Duration : 3 min to read
The actress Emma Watson was named UN Women Goodwill Ambassador in 2014. She kicked off her tenure with two impassioned speeches on gender equality. Her speeches were widely covered in the media and shone a strong spotlight on the issues that still persist for women around the world. She commented with some hope that she was “convinced that there has never been a greater understanding than today about the place of women.” She announced a new dynamic initiative, HeForShe’s IMPACT 10X10X10, launched with the support of UN Secretary-General Ban and a host of global leaders. The initiative will ask governments, companies and universities to step in and work together to “bring an end to the persisting inequalities faced by women and girls globally.”
Aung Sang Suu Kyi
This 66 years old Burmese woman has spent the majority of her life fighting to bring democracy to her military-ruled country, Myanmar (Burma). Considered by some to be the female version of Nelson Mandela, Aung Sang SuuKyi has become a symbol of freedom and peaceful resistance after spending the last twenty years of her life under house arrest. She received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 after her party won a landslide election that the military Junta then nullified. Her fight has improved the Myanmar’s human rights record, improved foreign relations and facilitated the easing of trade and other economic
Ranked as the world’s third most powerful woman by Forbes in 2014, her work is mainly carried out through her charitable foundation. When they established the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 1999, they pledged to give 90% of their wealth to charity. So far they have donated over $30 Billion to their foundation. Melinda Gates is a businesswoman and success story in her own right, having met Bill after rising through the ranks at Microsoft. For her generous charitable work Melinda has been recognized as a significant change-agent. In 2013 she was appointed an honorary Dame of the British Empire (DBE) for services in philanthropy and international development.
J.K. Rowling has come a long way from where she started. Working hard as a single mother in relative poverty she went on to establish herself as one of the most respected and commercially successful writers of our time. Rowling is now an inspiration to a whole generation, having shown us what’s possible when you combine a good idea with grit and determination! Rowling is an active member and donor to 14 charities and foundation. She co-founded Lumos an organization that works around the world to ensure the 8 million children currently living in institutions regain the right to a family life.
Harvard graduate and former corporate attorney, Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama became an overnight role model for women when she became the first lady of The United States. During her time in the White House she has used her position to help fight childhood obesity, champion the role for community and public service and been an outspoken supporter of women’s rights. Michelle Obama enjoys high levels of support in America and is widely considered to be more popular than President Obama.
In 2012 Malala Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban on her way to school. She was targeted due to her outspoken support of the need for female education in the North West region of Pakistan where she lives with her family. In 2014 at the age of 17 she was announced as the co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize – the youngest person to have received the recognition. She has been named one of the most influential people in the world by Time magazine and is an inspiration to the many women across the world who are fighting for the right to receive an education.
Dr Humayra Abedin, a practicing doctor living in the UK was working for the NHS in London in 2008 when she was tricked by her family in to returning home to Bangladesh. On arrival her family held her captive and forced her in to an arranged marriage. During the ordeal she managed to get messages to her friends in the UK who galvanized the British government into assuring her safe return and annulling the marriage. The High Court issued an order under the Forced Marriage Act, which makes it illegal to force someone in to a marriage against their will. Humayra’s case was the first time this legislation was used to protect a foreign national. She is now considered an icon for those campaigning against forced marriages.
Arundhati Roy is a globally recognized novelist and activist. In 1998 she won the Man Booker Prize for her novel The God of Small Things. After publishing her novel she utilized her international profile to campaign on a number of political issues including opposition to India’s nuclear weapons and Enron’s corrupt activities in India. She is actively involved in human rights and environmental causes and is a strong advocate for a more compassionate world.
Paris Lees is a British journalist, presenter and leading transgender figure. Paris is a positive change agent who has been leading the charge for greater recognition of transgender issues. Paris won the ‘Positive Role Model’ award in 2012 and continues to speak honestly and openly about the challenges transgender people still face.
Paris once said “When I realised I would like to change society, not myself, all these good things have come into my life.” A true support of compassionate thinking.
Dr Neha Pathak
Dr Neha Pathak led a team of researchers who discovered that many strains of HPV (the Human Papillomavirus which has been prove to lead to cervical cancer) can be discovered through a simple urine test. Currently 900 women a year die in the UK from cervical cancer. Her breakthrough research means that more women will opt in to regular testing, reducing the mortality rate. She was the rightful winner of Cosmopolitans ‘Ultimate Game-changer’ at their Women’s Awards 2014. Her work has also helped encourage more women to pursue science as a career.