March 8 is International Women’s Day and this year we wanted to honor one inspiring and courageous woman from each country recognized by the United Nations. Even in countries where it seems like a woman’s voice is not being heard, you will find her mentioned here. This blog was truly inspiring to write as I learned so much about women’s work on a global scale. I am encouraged by the dedication, commitment, and willingness to do good by these women no matter the economic, political or social circumstances of their countries. These women endure challenges, hardship, sexism, racism, ableism, oppression, brutality, suffering, injustice, and so much more; yet get up everyday and say, “Enough is enough.”
Ladies, stop taking jewels out of your crown so that society can hold it better.
“Strong women aren’t simply born. We are forged through the challenges of life. With each challenge we grow mentally and emotionally. We move forward with our head held high and a strength that can not be denied. A woman who’s been through the storm and survived. We are warriors.” – Alysia Helming, Novelist
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195 Inspiring Women from 195 Countries
Winning a silver medal for Courageous Achievement at the FIRST Global Challenge- for science and technology – in the US, the Entrepreneurship Challenge at Robotex in Estonia (Europe’s biggest robotics festival), and so much more, Somaya has shown that no matter where you are from or your age, you can accomplish anything.
Her robotics team, “The Afghan Dreamers” worked on a low-cost ventilator to help treat coronavirus patients, and they continue inspiring girls everywhere that STEM is an option for them. “We have to make sure that every kid has the same access to education, and the tools to make their dream come true.”
As one of the first girls to attend high school in Albania run by American Presbyterian missionaries, Nexhmie also became the first female from Albania to achieve a higher education. She was a best selling author of her autobiography, Daughter of the Eagle, Albanian-American affairs activist, women’s rights activist, and journalist. She was known as “the First Lady of Albania” and was made a “Knight Commander of the Crown of Italy”.
Nahla Nalili is an Algerian sculptor, Secretary General of Save the Casbah Association of Algiers and co-founder of the Awakened Youth Movement. She also initiated along with other family members, The NAS Workshop, a space for reflection for all artistic expression. She has also participated with several UNESCO trainings. She continues to promote artistic expression through trainings, workshops, and exhibitions.
Melissandre Fuentes: Figure Skater
Melissandre is the first female skater to represent Andorra at an ISU Championship during the 2002 World Junior Figure Skating Championships. She is also the 2004 and 2005 Andorran National Champion. She competed from 2000 to 2008.
Maria is an Angolan model and was named Forbes Africa Magazine’s top model of 2013. After being raised by her siblings during the Angolan Civil War, Maria was discovered in 2010 when she placed second in the Elite Model Look contest. She has appeared in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show from 2013-2017, campaigns for Tommy Hilfiger, H&M, Forever 21, etc, and has walked runways for Tom Ford, Banana Republic, Versace, etc. She was also the first African woman to be featured on the cover of the American version of ELLE, 20 years after Sudanese model Alek Wek in 1997.
Winning multiple awards at the National Youth Awards, including the award for literary arts in 2016, Zahra Airall, is a writer, women’s rights activist, filmmaker, and playwright. She is a founding member of Women of Antigua, is the director of the Sugar Apple Theatre, and is a contributor to She Sex, a collaborative book with sections written by various Caribbean women.
Eva Perón: First Lady of Argentina
Eva Perón is one of the most notable women from Argentina as the First Lady of Argentina. She ran the Ministrists of Labor and Health, founded and ran a foundation in her name, championed women’s suffrage, and ran the nation’s first large-scale female political party called the Female Peronist Party. Upon her death, she was given a state funeral, something normally reserved for heads of state.
Lara Aharonian is the director of the Women’s Rights Centre in Yerevan, and has been recognized as a “Woman of Courage” by the United Nations. She founded a crisis centre in 2008 for women suffering domestic violence. “In society, if we can resolve gender identity and orientation, other things would be very easy to resolve.”
Macinley Butson: Inventor
Macinley Butson was selected as the 2018 NSW Young Australian of the Year. She is an active role model for students, motivating them to ask questions and explore issues. She believes that if we invest in our youth we can flood communities with new ideas. By working with everyone’s unique gifts we can work towards a better future.
Lise Meitner: Physicist
Contributing to the discoveries of the element of protactinium and nuclear fission and founder of radioactive isotope protactinium-231, Lise Meitner is a world renowned physicist. She was the first woman to become a full professor of physics in Germany, and the first woman from the University of Vienna and second in the world to earn a doctorate in physics. Albert Einstein praised her work and nicknamed her the “German Marie Curie.”
Leyla Mammadbeyova: Aviator
Mammadbeyova was the first female pilot from Azerbaijan, Transcaucasia, Southern Europe, and of the Middle East. She performed her first flight in 1931 and became the second woman parachutist in the Soviet Union. By 1941 she was Squadron Leader of the Soviet Army. She trained hundreds of combat pilots and around 4,000 paratroopers, and later appeared as a stuntwoman.
Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie: Sprint Athlete
Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie is a former sprint athlete specializing in the 100 and 200 meters. She has participated in five Olympics and is currently the assistant Track and Field Coach at the University of Kentucky. She has won gold, silver, and bronze in the Olympics, and has won medals in competitions such as; World Championships, Pan American Games, CAC Championships in Athletics, the Commonwealth Games, and so on.
As a Dalai Lama Fellow, Fulbright scholarship recipient, Wall Street Journal “Woman of Note,” a Salzburg Global Fellow, a Business for Diplomatic Action Fellow, and an Expo 2020 Global Impact Innovator, Leena Al Olaimy is a true social innovator. She is also an award winning author for her book, Compassionate Counterterrorism: The Power of Inclusion in Fighting Fundamentalism.
Her work ranges from politics, entrepreneurship, sustainability, climate action, and equitable economic growth, among other topics.
Irene Khan: Lawyer
Irene Khan is the first woman to be appointed to the United Nations Special Rapporteur for freedom of expression and opinion in 2020. She helped create Concern Universal which is an international organization for development and emergency relief. She was the High Commissioner for Refugees for the UN for 20 years, and was the youngest person to be a UNHCR for India country representative. She prides herself on fulfilling her career as a human rights activist through the means of the law.
Rihanna: Singer, Actress, Businesswoman
Rihanna is a world famous singer, actress, and businesswoman and has sold over 250 million records worldwide as of 2018. She has won 9 Grammy Awards, 12 Billboard Music Awards, 13 American Music Awards, 8 People’s Choice Awards, 6 Guinness World Records, and so on. She is the only artist to surpass RIAA’s 100 million cumulative singles award threshold. She has also released various fragrances, founded Fenty, a fashion brand, Savage X Fenty, a lingerie brand, and Fenty Beauty, which has revolutionized the way cosmetic brands approach diversity in marketing and product creation. She is an outspoken human’s rights activist and uses her platform to highlight certain areas of concern.
Veronika Tsepkalo: Political Activist
As a current business development manager for Microsoft and wife to Valery Tsepkalo, Veronika is an outspoken political activist. She represented her husband at campaign rallies after his registration as a presidential candidate. Fearing the loss of her freedom due to the rising pressures from the government during the election, Veronika fled the country on the eve of the 2020 Belarusian presidential election and met her family in Moscow. Sources say the Tsepkalos were last sighted in Ukraine.
Dominique Rolin was a Belgian novelist who developed a unique, feminist voice when writing. Her career took off during World War II with her ability to blend together writing styles of autobiography and fiction. She won a Femina Prize and was a member of the Belgian Royal Academy.
Marie Sharp: Entrepreneur
Marie Sharp is internationally recognized for her habanero based pepper sauces. She has been producing the sauces since 1981, and was inducted into the Hot Sauce Hall of Fame in 2016. Before founding Marie Sharp’s Fine Foods Ltd, she was a school teacher. She has been awarded multiple times for her sauces including Gold in the 20th Food & Beverage Competition of Düsseldorf, Germany.
Angélique Kidjo: Singer and Activist
As a four-time Grammy Award winner, winner of the 2018 German Sustainability award, 2016 Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience award, and so many more, Angélique Kidjo is one of the most well known singers from Benin. She also travels the world advocating on behalf of children as a UNICEF and OXFAM Ambassador.
Kunzang Choden: Writer
Kunzang Choden is the first female Bhutanese author to write a novel in English. She has worked for the United Nations Development Program in Bhutan as well. Her first book was published by Penguin Books in India and titled The Circle of Karma which was published in 2005. During the COVID-19 lockdown, Choden recorded herself reading her books which were posted on Youtube for children stuck at home.
Carmen Rosa: Cholita Wrestler
Carmen Rosa changed everything about El Alto wrestling when she formed her own Cholitas (indigenous) Wrestling Foundation. By doing this, Carmen began to fight repression and started to inspire other Bolivian women to do the same.
“I don’t feel like an ambassador, but I do feel that I want to show the entire world that women, Bolivian women, Aymara women, can take part in all different kinds of sports and that they have the ability to do many different things.”
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Vesna Bugarski: Architect
Vesna Bugarski was Bosnia and Herzegovina’s first ever female architect. While studying in Belgrade she was the only female in her class. She specialized in interior design, tapestries, and planning and design. In August 1992 during the Bosnian War, Vesna was killed by a grenade fired from the hills. Most of her work at her home was destroyed during the war but her work is still inspiring other architects that they can do anything.
Unity Dow: Judge and Activist
Formerly the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Dr. Unity Dow is a Motswana judge and human rights activist.
She successfully challenged the law that argued citizenship was inherited by children from their fathers and not their mothers. She also argued in favor of gay rights. She co-founded the first AIDS specific NGO in the country, AIDS Action Trust. As a judge, Dow fought for human rights no matter their walk of life. She was awarded the Prominent Women in International Law Award in March 2009 and has continued to win honors and awards.
Dilma Rousseff: 36th President of Brazil
Dilma Rousseff was the first woman to be the President of Brazil and is also an economist. As a socialist in her youth, Rousseff was captured, tortured, and jailed for two years in the 1970s. After a difficult start in her political career, Rousseff rose to various roles in Brazil’s government. Since she was Brazil’s first female President, she was also the first female President to be impeached. On 31 August 2016, the Senate voted guilty of breaking budgetary laws. Even if the outcome of her Presidency was not ideal, she still broke the glass ceiling for all women in Brazil, showing just what all they could accomplish as well.
Sharifah Czarena: Aviator
Sharifah Czarena is the first woman from Brunei to captain a commercial airliner. She has flown Boeing 767s and Boeing 787 Dreamliners thanks to her time with Royal Brunei Airlines. In 2016, Czarena made history as the Captain of the first all female flight crew to land in Saudi Arabia, which at the time did not allow women to drive.
“Being a pilot, people normally see it as being a male dominant occupation. As a woman, a Bruneian woman, it is such a great achievement. It’s really showing the younger generation or the girls especially that whatever they dream of, they can achieve it.”
Kristalina Georgieva: Chair and Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund
Before joining IMF as the Managing Director in October 2019, Kristalina Georgieva was the CEO of the World Bank. She was the European Commission Vice President for Budget and Human Resources and oversaw the EU’s response to the Euro Area debt crisis as well as the 2015 refugee crisis. In 2010 she was named “European of the Year” and “Commissioner of the Year” by European Voice.
Christine Kafando: HIV/AIDS Activist
Recognized for her HIV/AIDS prevention and response efforts by Burkina Faso’s Order of Merit and France’s Legion of Honour, Christine Kafando has devoted her efforts to HIV/AIDS related work. She is the first Burkinese woman to publicly disclose her HIV-positive status and is credited with encouraging then -president Compaoré to support her efforts and to be tested for HIV.
Lydia Nsekera: Former President of the Football Federation of Burund
Lydia Nsekera was the first woman to be co-opted onto the FIFA Council and was the first woman to be elevated for a full four year term. She was the President of the Burundi Football Federation, the first female to hold this position, and was later elected to the International Olympic Committee.
Dona Tututa: Pianist & Composer
Considered a legendary figure in Cabo Verde Dona Tututa wrote many songs like Vida Torturada, Mãe Tigre, and Grito d’ Dor, Sentimento. In 2008 she was honored by a poem written by Albero Rui Machado titled Tututa. After having 12 children, Dona picked up her career and launched her record at the age of 47. Two of her daughters are singers and have recorded some of her songs.
DJ Nana: Radio DJ and TV Personality
DJ Nana is breaking taboos in Cambodia by allowing listeners the ability to talk about topics like relationship advice, sex before marriage, and family troubles.
Dr. Olivette Otele: Professor and Historian
As the first Black woman to be appointed to a professorial chair in the UK, Dr. Otele’s work focuses on the history of slavery and geoplitis in relation to French and British colonial pasts. She was listed on the BBC’s 100 Women 2018 list and the Institute for Historical Research created the Olivette Otele Prize to be awarded “for the best paper submitted to the History Lab Postgraduate Research Seminar by a Black PhD research student based in the UK.”
Kim Raine, PhD, RD, FCAHS: Professor, School of Public Health
Exploring the social and environmental determinants of the emerging obesity epidemic, Dr. Kim Raine’s research is to understand how social means impact obesity and chronic diseases. She wants to highlight how social forces shape the health of society. “My philosophy has always been to make the healthy choice the easy choice.” She is a professor at the University of Alberta.
Central African Republic
Catherine Samba-Panza: Former President of Central African Republic
Catherine Samba-Panza made history by serving as the first woman to hold the post of head of state in the Central African Republic. She was also the eighth woman to do this in Africa. As the Mayor of Bangui, she was known for her neutrality and incorruptibility, a reputation that continued throughout her presidency.
Marie-Christine Koundja: Diplomat and Writer
As the first published female author is Chad, Marie-Christine has written two novels in 2001 and 2009. She worked in many Chadian state agencies and was named the Minister of Foreign Affairs at the Embassy of Chad. Her novels have been recognized as symbols, fighting social issues in Chad and to advocate a culture of forgiveness.
Gabriela Mistral: Educator, Poet, Diplomat
Lucilla Godoy Alcayaga, known as Gabriela Mistral, was a Chilean poet, diplomat, and educator. She was the first Latin American author and fifth woman to receive a Nobel Prize in Literature. She is an international figure who is known for her powerful works in the form of poems, magazine articles, and collections. “We are guilty of many errors and many faults, but our worst crime is abandoning the children, neglecting the fountain of life.”
Chien-Shiung Wu: Experimental Physicist
Best known for conducting the Wu experiment, which proved that parity is not conserved, Chien-Shiung Wu is known as the First Lady of Physics, the Chinese Madame Curie, and the Queen of Nuclear Research. One of the notable projects that Wu was part of was the Manhattan Project where she helped develop the process for separating Uranium into uranium 235 and uranium 238 isotopes by gaseous diffusion.
Shakira: Singer & Songwriter
Known as the Queen of Latin Music, Shakira is one of the most well known signers of her time. She has sold over 80 million records, has certified gold, platinum, and multi-platinum albums in various countries worldwide, as well as multiple number one songs in multiple countries.
She has won many awards for her work and helped bridge the gap between Latin and American music. She also works on various philanthropic outreach programs all around the world. She performed at Super Bowl LIV which at the time was the highest viewing of a halftime show on Youtube.
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Hadjira Oumouri: Politician & Midwife
“I think the fight of the woman is every day… You know, men like for us all to work together, but to take their place is difficult. They don’t give up their positions, so you have to go look for them and snatch them.” After spending 49 years advocating women’s health and rights, Hadjira Oumouri is the second-ever woman Member of Parliament in the Comoros. She was the director of the NGO ASCOBEF from 2001 to 2014, and founded the women’s association Femme en Moucement in the Mbadjini region.
Sister Brigitte Yengo: Roman Catholic Nun
Sister Brigitte Yengo has been serving her community in multiple ways such as heading the Sister Yengo’s Children, Inc which assists people in sub-Saharan Africa and is a member of the congregation of the Sisters of Notre-Dame of the Rosary. She has a medical degree and chiropractic degree. In 1998, she began to work with the children of incarcerated single mothers. She was also the Program Director of the Special Olympics for the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Laura Chinchilla: 46th President of Costa Rica
Laura Chinchilla was the first female President of Costa Rica and the eighth woman President in Latin America. Under her government, a network of care centres was created to benefit children and mothers who want to enter the labor market.
Education, security, environmental protection and sustainability were also important for her government. She was awarded with the “Women of the Decade in Public Life and Leadership Award” at the Women Economic Forum in Amsterdam.
Véronique Tadjo: Poet, Novelist, Artist, Educator
Having lived and worked across the African continent, Véronique Tadjo is a poet, novelist, artist, and educator who feels herself as a pan-African. She has facilitated workshops on writing and designing children’s books, as well as participating in a project where African writers traveled Rwanda to testify to the Rwanda genocide ans its aftermath. She has won multiple awards for her works. Her book Monster was picked as one of Africa’s 100 Best Books of the 20th Century.
Slava Raškaj: Painter
Considered to be the greatest Croatian watercolorist, Slava Raškaj was born deaf and defined all the odds. Her works were exhibited around Europe including the 1900 Expo in Paris. In December 2000 the Croatian National Bank issued a silver commemorative coin with Slava’s portrait. The Slava Raškaj Educational Centre in Zagreb, specializes in inclusive education for deaf students and those with communication impairments.
Mireya Luis: Volleyball Player
At only 5 feet 10 inches, Mireya Luis was a dominant volleyball star who had a vertical leap of 11 inches. She was on the Gold winning Olympic team at three Olympics, and in 1986 she helped Cuba win a silver medal at her first World Championship just weeks after giving birth to her daughter. She is an influential role model for young players around the world.
Androulla Vassiliou: Politician
First Lady of Cyprus, the European Commissioner for Health, and European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth are just a few of the notable positions Androulla Vassiliou has held. She has also been the President of the Cyprus Federation of Business and Professional Women. She has participated in many human rights conferences and was made an honorary President of the World Federation of United Nations Associations after two terms.
Eliška Junková: Automobile Racer
Regarded as one of the greatest female drivers in Grand Prix motor racing history, Eliška Junková is the first woman to ever win a Grand Prix event. After co-racing with her husband she soon began to race on her own. Not only was she the fastest female motor racer of her time, she regularly competed throughout Europe against the best male drivers. She was awarded the title Meritorious Sports Champion.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Julienne Lusenge: Human Rights Activist
Julienne Lusenge is the co-founder and President of Female Solidarity for Integrated Peace and Development and director of the Congolese Women’s Fund. She is an advocate for survivors of wartime secual violence. She has been recognized by international agencies and has been awarded the 2018 Women’s International Rights award from the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy and the Human Rights Award from the Embassy of France. The French Government also named her a Knight of the Legion of Honour. She has been inspiring all with her work for human rights globally.
Helena Christensen: Photographer & Model
Helena Christensen is a former Victoria’s Secret Angel, beauty queen, fashion designer, and photographer. She is a supporter of funding breast cancer organizations, and other philanthropic charities. She is the co-founder and original creative director for Nylon magazine. “The more people explore the world, the more they realize in every country there’s a different aesthetic. Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder.”
Moumina Houssein Darar: Police Officer
Recognized by the US Secretary of State in 2019 as a Woman of Courage, Darar is a specialist in anti-terrorism investigations. Darar has helped stop multiple terrorist attacks and was involved in an investigation that resulted in the conviction or expulsion of many Al-Shabaab terrorists. She has created a neighborhood charity to help children in need. It also provides other services and assistance for the local community.
Jean Rhys CBE: Novelist
Best known for her novels Wide Sargasso Sea, After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie, Voyage in the Dark, and Good Morning, Midnight. She is also known for writing short stories which have been published as collections. She was appointed a commander of the Order Of the British Empire (CBE) for her writing.
“There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish.” – Michelle Obama
Josefina Baez: Theatre Director, Performance Artist, Writer
Josefina Baez is the Founder and Director of Ay Ombe Theatre. She has written Dominicanish and Comrade, Bliss Ain’t Playing, both of which are performance texts. She uses her writing and performance as a way to comment on race and identity. She embraces her blackness and Dominican heritage in her works to help bridge the gap between her two cultures. This is a theme that she uses throughout her performance of Dominicanish.
Nemonte Nenquimo: Indigenous Activist
President of the Waorni of Pastaza and co-founder of the Ceibo Alliance, Nemonte Nenquimo is bringing hope to Indigenous communities by leading the campaign and legal action which resulted in a court ruling protecting 500,000 acres of Amzonian rainforest. This has set a precedent for Indigenous rights in Ecuador especially when it comes to large oil companies. She continues to be a voice and advocate for her community and people, and inspires people from around that world that your voice matters.
Heba Atef: First Egyptian Flight Attendant with Down Syndrome
On a special flight, “Journey of Humanity” from Cairo to Khartoum, Heba Atef became the first ever Egyptian flight attendant with Down Syndrome in 2019. She accompanied passengers with special needs during the flight which was sponsored by the UN International Committee. With a customized flight attendant’s uniform, Atef said that her experience did not frighten her.
Wendy Beatriz Caishpal Jaco: Disability Rights Activist
As a spokesperson for the rights of disabled people and survivors of armed conflicts, an entrepreneur, activist, and motivational speaker, Wendy Beatriz Caishpal Jaco is a true inspiration from El Salvador. She founded “Ahuachapaࠥn Sin Barreras which promotes and protects the right of disable people. “We must love what we do, and how we do it.”
Mari Carmen Ecoro: Former Minister of Social Affairs and Gender Equality
As the former Minister of Social Affairs and Gender Equality, Mari Carmen Ecoro worked on promoting gender equality and to reduce gender based violence. During her time, Equatorial Guinea had women present at all senior government levels. “[A woman] should be trained and given the opportunity to contribute as a member of society. Maybe that’s where [Equatorial] Guinea should be a model.”
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Bisrat Ghebremeskel: Cyclist
Bisrat Ghebremeskel is a road racing cyclist who competed internationally for Eritrea from 2016 to 2019. Her last victory was in the African Continental Championship in 2018. She continued to compete in 2019 before retiring. At the end of her career she was the 1,053 UCI Ranking woman.
Karoli Kindriks: Entrepreneur
After becoming the youngest inventor in Estonia after a patent for soft pedestrian reflector, Karoli Kindriks is now the Founder and CEO of jobbatical.com. She helped launch MTV in Estonia in 2006 and became the youngest MTV CEO ever afterwards. In 2016, she was selected as one of Europe’s most influential women in the startup space by EU-Startups.
Thabile Cynthia Dlamini-Bediako: Eswatini’s First Female to Study Aerospace Engineering
Thabile Cynthia Dlamini-Bediako is not only the first female to study aerospace engineering but also the first Swazi female pilot to land an aircraft at Sikhuphe. She dreams of starting a sports academy and a sports NGO because she believes that sports help young people become better members of society.
“It’s my understanding that it doesn’t help you to say, ‘I’m the first person to do this in my country’ if you’re going to remain the first person and nobody else follows you because you need that team of people in case you want to implement something.”
Yetnebersh Nigussie: Lawyer and Disability Rights Activist
After losing her eyesight at five, Yetnebersh went on to study law. Her work revolves around creating awareness for inclusive development and the rights of all citizens. She co-founded the Ethiopian Center for Disability and Development where she serves as the Executive Director. She has also set up a kindergarten and primary school in Addis Ababa, and has won many awards such as Most Influential Women in Business and Government in Africa.
Janet Lotawa: Co-Founder and Director of Rise Beyond the Reef
Rise Beyond the Reef was created by Janet Lotawa and her husband. The mission is to bring together remote communities, governments and the private sector in the South Pacific in a sustainable way. Janet says that what inspires her the most about Fijian women she works with is, “Their strength and ability to navigate so many factors that are really challenging.” She hopes to help safeguard communities while engaging in supporting the growth, tourism, and economics of the communities.
Sanna Marin: Prime Minister
Prime Minister Marin was the youngest head of government in the world when she was sworn in in 2019. Her government is notably young and female- 12 out of 19 at the time of the cabinet’s formation. She was the first person in her family to attend university and has won many awards during her career. She is continuing to change the way people view women in politics especially after a photoshoot where she received sexist criticism for her outfit.
Marie-José Chombart de Lauwe: Sociologist, World War II Resistance Fighter
Devoting her entire life to the study of childhood, Marie-Jo, her nickname, started down this path by protecting the children of Ravensbruck concentration camp. During the war she was arrested by the Gestapo and was sent to La Santé Prison where she was almost executed. In 1996, she became the Chair of the Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Déportation.
Aïda Touré: Artist, Painter, and Composer
Globally recognized as an artist who has exhibited her spiritually-inspired works, Aïda Touré has attracted much attention. Her work has been featured in textbooks published in the US and Canada, and her privately owned paintings are mostly located in the US, France, Gabon, and Mali. She launched an innovative jewellery line in 2010.
Jaha Dukureh: Activist
In 2018, Jaha Dukureh was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for her work helping to combat female genital mutilation and ending child marriage in Africa. She is the CEO and Founder of the NGO Safe Hands for Girls, which provides support to African women and girls who are survivors of FGM.
“These issues are personal to me, they’re part of my life history. We won’t have equality until girls can grow up with control over their own bodies and futures.”
Anita Rachvelishvili: Mezzo Soprano
Making international debuts in the new production of Carmen at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, Bavarian State Opera in Munich, Teatro Regio in Turin, Royal Opera House- Covent Garden, and Teatro dell’Opera in Rome, Anita is a true leading artist. In 2018 her debut solo album was released to great acclaim. If able, she will tour 2021 in various roles around the world.
May Ayim: Afro-German Poet, Educator and Activist
After writing a thesis titled, “Afro-Germans: Their Cultural and Social History on the Background of Social Change” which was the first scholarly study of Afro-German history, May Ayim became a well known writer and educator of Afro-German history.
As an activist, she worked to unite Afro-Germans and combat racism in German society. She co-founded the Initiative of Black People in Germany in the late 1980s to help with her activism. After struggling with depression, she lost her battle in 1996. Her legacy lives on through various awards and honors named after her, along with a street in Berlin.
Farida Bedwei: Software Engineer
Born with cerebral palsy, Farida Bedwei is a software engineer and the co-founder of Logiciel. She is known for her knowledge of software architecture and deploying mobile services for banking apps. She has won many awards across Africa for her work in the tech industry and her activism of promoting disability awareness. In 2018 she helped create the first comic book featuring a superhero with cerebral palsy – Karmzah.
Helene Glykatzi – Ahrweiler: Historian
Helene Glykatzi-Ahrweiler is a well known professor of Byzantine history. In 1964 she became the Director of the National Center for Scientific Research in France and in 1976 became the first female Rector in History of the Sorbonne University. She has been awarded many distinctions during her academic career. She is considered to be one of the most influential modern figures in the academic world. She is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for Greece.
Her Excellency Dame Cécile La Grenade, GCMG DStJ OBE: Governor General of Grenada
After training as a Food Scientist in the US, Dame Cécile La Grenade was appointed as the Governor General of Grenada in 2013. She has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, and a master’s degree and doctorate in food science. She comes from a family of groundbreaking women as her grandmother was the first woman in the British Windward Islands to be elected to the country’s legislative council.
Sara Curruchich: Singer & Songwriter
Sara Curruchich embraces her Mayan Kaqchikel origin through her music and became known in the country after her song, “Ch’uti’xtän” was released in 2015.
She is also a women’s and indigenous people’s right activist. She spent 2020 compiling music by indigenous women and dreams of turning it into a music festival. Curruchich is a collaborator with UN Women Guatemala and is outspoken about violence on women.
Hadja Aicha Barry: Founding Member and VP of PWYP Guinea
With an impressive academic record, Barry had devoted her life to supporting women through ensuring good governance. She also founded the Coalition of Women for Mining and Sustainable Development. “Our aim is to attract as many women as possible into governance, to improve their participation in the public debate on the extractive industries, which is a heavily male-dominated sector.”
Titina Silla: Freedom Fighter
Killed in an ambush by the Portuguese, Titina Silla is considered a martyr of the Guinea-Bissau War of Independence against Portugal. She was a remarkable leader and soon became well known as a freedom fighter during the war. Now, many landmarks in Guinea-Bissau are named after her to honor and remember her.
Martha Ruby Holland: Music Educator
Founder of the Ruby Holland School of Music, Holland believed that music education and art were opportunities for students of all ages. She had a unique approach to teaching music and she loved highlighting students with varying talents. Martha’s son, Loris Holland, is a Grammy Award winning Producer, Arranger, Composer and Songwriter.
Hugline Jérôme: CEO of Dream Enterprises
Started from a dream, Dream Enterprises is the brainchild of Hugline Jérôme. One of her aims is to improve the professional cultural representation of Haiti. She does this by promoting artistic production with collaborators from around the world. She has revolutionized Haiti’s entertainment industry.
Sister Eugenia Bonetti: Italian Sister of the Catholic Church
Sister Eugenia Bonetti is a chairperson of the “Slaves No More” non-profit which aims to combat the trade of human beings and break the chains of modern day slavery. Through this charity, Sister Eugenia Bonetti is working on helping trafficked women find hope and dignity again. Sister Bonetti continues inspiring others do to good work no matter what the cost.
Maria Elena Bottazzi, Ph.D: Associate Dean, National School of Tropical Medicine
One of Dr. Bottazzi’s most recent projects were working on new vaccines against coronaviruses including COVID-19. She has also worked on creating vaccines for Human Hookworm, Chagas Disease and Leishmaniasis, and others. She is a spokesperson for promoting science and medicine to other women in Honduras and providing children medicines so that they can grow their cognitive and intellectual level during school.
Ágnes Heller: Philosopher
As an internationally known philosopher, Ágnes Heller devoted her life to understanding the practical and theoretical impact of socialism on society. As a core member of the Budapest School Philosophical form, Heller tried to answer the questions that plagued her such as, “how did the holocasut happen.” She has a long list of awards and honors and has an extensive list of published works and articles.
Hildur Yeoman: Fashion Designer
Based in Reykjavik, Yeoman designs fashion based on human connections and nature. Her Transcendence series was created from her time studying herbalism with Icelandic herbalists. She loves to highlight the female aesthetic and create a world that is beautiful and inspiring for all.
Kalpana Chawla: Astronaut
Kalpana Chawla was the first woman from India to go to space. In 1997, Chawla flew on Space Shuttle Columbia as a mission specialist and primary robotic arm operator. Unfortunately, in 2003 Chawla was onboard when the spacecraft disintegrated during re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. She was posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, and many landmarks, universities, and institutions have been named in her honor.
Nicke Widyawati: Business Woman
As the second female director of Pertamina a Indonesian state owned company, Widyawati has been declared the best for the role by a cabinet member in 2020. As the CEO and President-Director, she has been listed as #25 on Forbes list of Power Women in 2020. She was awarded the Women’s Work of Female Grace award from the Indonesie Asia Institute in 2013. She was also listed as one of the most powerful women outside of the US in 2020.
Enissa Amani: Comedian
Born in Iran but raised in Germany, Enissa Amani is a stand-up comic, writer and actress. She has written and produced two hit TV series, debuted on TV which generated over five million views in the first few days. She became the first woman in Europe to have a Netflix Original Comedy Special and eight months later a second special was released.
Her material on the immigrant experience, race and stereotypes created conversations of German culture. She doesn’t shy away from telling her story as an immigrant in Germany, making her a sought after guest on various talk shows and a constant viral hit online.
Safa Sultani: Financial Analyst
By the age of 25, Sultani was a board member of one of the largest companies in Iraq. She was also a financial analyst at the largest foriegn investment fund. Now, she is working in the Office of the President of Iraq with the goal of starting an Entrepreneurship Intuitive by the Presidency. She wants to help solve the problems that entrepreneurs face and hope to connect entrepreneurs to existing players in the market to help one another.
Dr. Dorothy Price: Physician
Known for introducing the BCG vaccine into Ireland, Dr. Price was the key physician to ending childhood tuberculosis in Ireland. She worked as a doctor during the Irish War of Independence and also educated soldiers on first aid. In 1949, she was appointed the first chairperson of the Irish National BCG Committee and learned German so that she could translate texts on TB. Without her research and efforts TB and the way vaccines are used in Ireland would be completely different.
Lucy Aharish: Journalist
As an Arb-Israeli journalist, Lucy Aharish has been inspiring women from all around the world. She was the first Muslim Arb news anchor on mainstream Hebrew speaking Israeli TV. She is an outspoken activist when it comes to promoting tolerance and interdenominational openness. “Today, when people ask me ‘What are you?’ I say that I’m an Israeli. I’m not ashamed of my Israeliness. Then I’m a woman, and then I’m an Arab Muslim. That’s the order: Israeli, woman, Arab Muslim.”
Margherita Hack: Astrophysicist
Margherita Hack was the first Italian woman to administrate the Triesta Astronomical Observatory for over 20 years. She was part of many associations and organizations based around astronomy and science. She founded the magazine, L’Astronomia, which helped spread the word about popular science and astronomy. She was awarded the Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic and the Gold Medal of the Italian Order of Merit for Culture and Art.
Grace Jones: Singer
The inspiration to many of today’s singers like Lady Gaga, Solange, Lorde, Rihanna, and so many more, Grace Jones is a true legend in the music industry. She was ranked VH1’s 82nd on their 100 Greatest Women of Rock and Roll. In 2008 she was given a Q Idol Award, and in 2016 she was ranked 40th of the greatest dance club artist of all time. Her distinctive androgynous apperance also inspired the cross dressing movement of the 1980s.
Naomi Osaka: Tennis Player
Naomi Osaka has been inspiring tennis fans from around the world. She was ranked number one by the Women’s Tennis Association, is the first Asian player to hold the top ranking in singles, and has won four Grand Slam Tournament Finals, the Australian Open twice and the US Open twice. She is a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement and was praised for wearing the names of those who were killed. She has also participated in protests and was named a 2020 Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year for her work in activism.
Colonel Khalida Khalaf Hanna al-Twal: Police Officer
As the highest-ranking women in security services in the country, Colonel Khalida Khalaf Hanna Al-Twal has been protecting her country and women’s rights. She is the Chief of the Public Security Directorate’s Women’s Police Department. She is a spokesperson for empowering women and promoting women’s safety in Jordan. She was presented the International Women of Courage Award by the US Department of State in 2019.
Zhansaya Abdumalik: Chess Player
Holding the titles of International Master and Woman Grandmaster, Zhansaya Abdumalik is a chess prodigy. She holds three Grandmaster norms, and has won the World Youth Chess Championship twice.
In 2014, the Zhansaya Abdumalik Chess Academy which opened when she was only 14 years old. She has won multiple titles and awards and has traveled the world competing.
Wangari Maathai: Social, Environmental and Political Activist
Wangari Maathai was the first woman in East and Central African to earn a doctorate degree. She was the Department of Veterinary Anatomy and associate professor and for both cases was the first woman to be in both positions. She has spent most of her life working on the Green Belt Movement which focuses on assisting women plant more than 20 million trees. She is passionate about promoting the rights of all while being conscious of the environment. She has won many awards and recognition for her work.
Kantaake Corbett: Chief of the Ministry of Health and Medical Service’s Information Unit
“I believe that improving the health and increasing the life expectancy of our people is truly possible.” Kantaake Corbett has spent her career helping the people of Kiribati by utilizing data and statistics to make data driven decisions. She hopes that by using this data, she can influence the way the health system is operated in the country and impact the younger population.
Montaha Al Ajeel: Fashion Designer
In 2016, Al Ajeel was awarded the International GR8 award which is the highest award a businesswoman can earn in the Middle East. She was also chosen for the World Award for Business Leaders in 2016. She has started charitable initiatives in Kuwait when she is not designing new and trendy styles. She developed the Kuwaiti derra’a which could be worn as a reception dress in the Holy Ramadan Month. She uses the Arabic calligraphy as art because she believes it is one of the most beautiful in the world.
Kyzzhibek Batyrkanova: Leader of Kyrgyz Space Programme
The Kyrgyz Space Programme is a scientific but also socio-educational initiative that focuses on the development of science, education, and gender equality in Kyrgyzstan.
The programme was created after women were discriminated against for going into STEM. She is the founder of the TechCamp Project which was implemented with the UN Women Country Office in Kyrgyzstan.
“Girls don’t even get to access education because of the belief that they should be getting married instead.”
Mee Moua: Politician
Mee Moua is an American politician and the former President and Executive Director of the Asian American Advancing Justice. She served as a member of the Minnesota state senator from 2002 to 2011. She also served as the Vice President for Strategic Impact Initiatives at the Asian and Islander American Health Forum for two years. She was the first Hmong American to serve in the United States legislature as well as in the Minnesota Legislature.
Baiba Skride: Classical Violinist
Performing around the world including the London Philharmonic Orchestra and New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Baiba Skride has been recognized as a wonderful violinist after winning the Queen Elisabeth Violin Contest in 2001. By the age of four she was already playing the violin and at the age of five she gave her first concert. She has been awarded multiple prizes including the 1st prize at an international music festival in Bulgaria and the Luitpold Prize at the Kissinger Sommer festival.
Raya Abirached: TV Presenter
Raya Abirached is a TV Presenter and a celebrity journalist at MBC. She is best known for interviewing Hollywood actors and directors, and has been nicknamed the Arab version of E!. She has hosted many shows such as “World Business” and American Idol in Dubai. In 2020 she launched a fundraising challenge for Ramadan and on Instagram Live she interviewed a refugee family for World Refugee Day. This was in partnership with UNHCR.
Princess Senate Seeiso: Princess of Lesotho
Patron to the Non-Governmental Organization Coalition on the Rights of the Child, Princess Senate Seeiso is unfortunately not the heir to the throne as women are currently not allowed to succeed in Lesotho. Her younger brother will become the heir to the throne. However this does not deter her from making a positive impact where she can. She works with the NGO to monitor and implement the Convention on the Rights of the Child in Lesotho.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf: 24th President of Liberia
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was the first elected female head of state in Africa and her country. Before entering politics she worked for the World Bank in the Caribbean and Latin America. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 in recognition for her efforts to bring women into the peacekeeping process. She was elected as the Chair of the Economic Community of West African States in 2016 making her the first woman to hold the position since it was created.
Salwa El-Deghali: Academic
Representing and inspiring women and being in charge of legal affairs, Salwa El-Deghali is a member of the National Transitional Council. She is one of three women on the National Transitional Council though she is the only one who has been publicly identified. She is all about representing women’s interests and is writing laws to help the government function. Along with her work on the National Transitional Council she taught at the Academy of Graduate Studies in Benghazi.
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Fabienne Wohlwend: Racing Driver
Fabienne Wohlwend is Liechtenstein’s most successful racing driver in history. She has the most race starts, pole positions, and race wins of any Liechtensteiner. She was nominated twice for Liechtenstein Sportswoman of the Year in 2018 and 2019. She competes in the W Series which is a Formula 3 championship solely for women. She was due to return to the championship in 2020 before it was canceled due to the COVID-19 lockdowns.
Raimonda Jankunaite: Founder of the Women in Business Club
Raimonda is the founder of the Women in Business international community and events. She is a serial entrepreneur, business coach, international speaker and business funding expert. Raimonda launched her first business at the age of 21 and has since pursued her entrepreneurial passion by starting
and launching more businesses as well as supporting others to do the same. Over the last 10 years in business Raimonda has learned the power of mentorship and encouragement, therefore is now passionate about helping other entrepreneurs achieve success and make a positive impact on this world.
Léa Linstjer: Chef
Léa Linster is the first and only woman to date to win a gold medal at the Bocuse d’Or in 1989. She received a Michelin star in 1987 and has been named Maître Cuisinier of Luxembourg. In 1996 she was awarded the Gastronomic Golden Key from Gault et Millau and the Michele Schumacher Award in 2002.
Christine Razanamahasoa: Politician & Lawyer
Serving as the Minister of Justice and the President of the Malagasy National Assembly, Christine Razanamahasoa was the first woman to be in this position. She was elected again in July 2019. In 2013, she was elected to the National Assembly from Ambatofinandrahana District representing the MAPAR party. After the new president dismissed her in 2014, she stayed on as the Deputy and the National Coordinator of MAPAR.
Joyce Banda: 4th President of Malawi
Following the sudden death of her President while she was his Vice President, Joyce Banda became the first female President of Malawi and the second female head of state after Elizabeth II. She was also the second woman to become a President in Africa as well as the first female Vice President for the country. She is also the Founder of the Joyce Banda Foundation, National Association of Business Women, Young Women Leaders Network, and the Hunger Project.
Anita Yusof: Motorcyclist
Recognized by the Asia Book of Records, Anita Yusof is the first woman to ride around the world on a motorcycle. She accomplished this riding solo on her FZ150i and has traveled in three continents and 54 countries.
During her travels she was also working on obtaining a PhD in Sports Science and lectured at IPG Campus Ipoh in the Physical Education Department. Her goal was to get into the Malaysian Guinness World Records as the first woman to travel around the GLobe solo by motorcycle.
Aminath Shajan: Swimmer
Aminath Shajan is a swimmer who has competed in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London and in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Her event is the Women’s 100 metre freestyle where she ranked 46th with a time of 1:05.71. During the Parade of Nations she was a flagbearer for the Maldives. Now, she has been elected into the Athletes’ Commission of the Maldives Olympic Committee. She was the first individual swimmer to win an international medal for the country when she won bronze in the 800 metre freestyle at the 2016 South Asian Games in India.
Oumou Sangaré: Singer
A Grammy award winning Malian Wassoulou singer, Oumou Sangaré has been referred to as “The Songbird of Wassoulou.” She champions women’s rights through her music which addressed topics such as polygamy, the hardship of women in western African society, and arranged marriage. She decided to take a break from singing which is when she started a hotel and concert hall, set up an automobile import business, a farm, and worked for different humanitarian agencies. She was appointed an official ambassador in 2003 of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. Oumou has been inspiring women to reach for their dreams no matter where they are from.
“The most dangerous woman of all is the one who refuses to rely on your sword to save her because she carries her own.” -r.h. Sin
Agatha Barbara: 3rd President of Malta
As the longest serving woman Member of Parliament in Maltese political history, and as the first woman to be the President of Malta, Agatha Barbara is not new to breaking glass ceilings. Her work focused on education for children all across the island and included special schools for students with disabilities. She fought for Malta’s independence and introduced equal pay for women, pregnancy leave with pay, 40 hour, five day work weeks, unemployment benefits, children’s allowances, unemployment benefits, a yearly bonus, and so much more which was aimed at improving the lives of the Maltese people. She has been awarded multiple times internationally for her work and contribution to Malta.
Hilda Heine: 8th President of the Marshall Islands
Hilda Heine was the first person to earn a doctorate degree in the Marshall Islands and is the Founder of the women’s rights group, Women United Together Marshall Island. She is the first woman to be the President of any Micronesian country and the fourth woman to serve as head of government for any independent nation in Oceania. As of January 2016, she was one of three women serving in the Nitijeļā, the country’s legislature.
Aminetou Mint El-Moctar: Politician and Women’s Rights Activist
“First and foremost, I’m campaigning for change as long as impunity, discrimination, slavery, racism still exist.” Shortlisted for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015 and being the only woman from Mauritania to be so, Aminetou Mint El-Moctar has been fighting for equality for all since she was little and forced into an arranged marriage. She Founded The Association of Women Heads of Households with the goal of offering mental health support, legal aid, and medical support for sexual assault survivors. She is now working on passing a law which will give women and girls some protection as it will ban gender based violence.
Karen Foo Kune: Badminton Player
Karen Foo Kune is a two times Mauritian Sportswoman of the Year in 2004/2009 and ranked first on the African continent on several occasions. She won the bronze medals at the All-Africa Games in the women’s doubles and mixed team event, and participated at the 2008 Olympic Games. She also competed at the Commonwealth Games several times in 2002, 2006, and in 2010. Last recorded on BWF Badminton, she has 139 career wins.
Frida Kahlo: Artist
By celebrating Mexican and indigenous culture and feminism within her works, Frida Kahlo is one of the most well known artists of the world. Of her roughly 143 paintings, 55 were self portraits which showed her chronic pain from polio as a child and a bus accident when she was a teen. Her work is internationally acclaimed for Mexican and indigenous traditions and feminism for what is seen as the depiction of the female experience and form uncompromisingly.
Dr. Emelihter Kihleng: Poet
Dr. Emelihter Kihleng is the first ever Micronesian to publish a collection of poetry in the English language. She is also one from a handful of Micronesian poets to be published. Her work focuses on the Pohnpeian identity and diaspora and her first collection is titled, My Urohs. As of 2008, she has been working at the University of Guam’s Violence Against Women Prevention Program.
Maia Sandu: 6th President of Moldova
After winning a runoff election, Maia Sandu became Moldova’s first female President and the former Prime Minister of Moldova.
She was the former Minister of Education and a member of Parliament of Moldova. From 2016 to 2020 she ws the Chairwoman of the Party of Action and Solidarity, which she founded. She is working on getting into the EU and hopes that she will be able to lead the charge into the EU.
Pauline Ducruet: Diver & Entrepreneur
As the niece of Prince Albert II of Monaco, Pauline Ducruet is 16th in the line of succession to the Monegasque throne. Ducruet is a competitive diver and represented Monaco at the World Junior Diving Championships in Germany. She also competed in the European Junior Swimming and Diving Championships in Finland. She was also part of the 2010 Summer Youth Olympics as the Monaco delegation. She is now an Entrepreneur after launching her own fashion line, Alter Designs which has a gender-neutral focus.
Gangaamaa Badamgarav: Mountaineer
On the 26th of December 2016 at 9:57AM, Gangaamaa Badamgarav became the first Mongolain to become the first Seven Summitter. The Seven Summits challenge is to hike the highest peaks on each of the seven continents. She is now an honored athlete in Mongolia as she not only broke this record but also she was the first Mongolian woman to successfully climb Mount Everest.
Olivera Lakić: Journalist
Olivera Lakić is an investigative journalist for Vijesti. She was awarded an International Women of Courage Award in 2019 after she was shot in May 2018. She was wounded by a gunman in a leg after investigating corruption in the country. Because of the shooting, she has become a symbol for media reform and journalist safety.
Dr. Merieme Chadid: Astronomer
Dr. Merieme Chadid is an astronomer, explorer, and astrophysicist. She was the first Moroccan woman to make it to the heart of Antarctica and the first astronomer in the world to install an observatory in Antarctica.
Other notable projects she worked on were the installation of the Very Large Telescope, the largest telescope in the world at that time. This was located in the Atacama Desert in Chile. The aims of her research are to understand and decipher early star formation and stellar evolution.
Josina Z. Machel: Social Justice Activist
As the daughter of Samora Machel, Mozambique’s first independent President, and Graça Machel, a humanitarian and politician, and the step-daughter of Nelson Mandela, it is no wonder that Josina Machel was destined to use her inspiring upbringing to help others. She founded the Kuhluka Movement after becoming a survivor of domestic violence, which has the goal of ending the stigma of domestic violence and supporting its survivors. She also co-founded Her-Life project to provide support and services for women in emergency situations.
Dr. Myint Myint Sein: Physician
Dr. Myint Myint Sein is a true and inspiring hero. In April 2020, Dr. Sein was helping treat a COVID-19 patient who was in critical condition. Without hesitation, she took off her eye shield in order to intubate the patient as she was unable to see properly with it on. She then tested positive for the virus a few days later making her the first doctor in Myanmar to test positive for COVID-19. She made a full recovery but it shed light on the lack of resources her and her team had to work with, and the overall lack of a team that was available as Dr. Sein is one of two anesthesiologists at her hospital.
“When we have a safe working environment, we can provide safe treatment amid this pandemic…as it is unknown when this deadly virus will go away.”
Dr. Helena Ndume: Ophthalmologist
“There’s no money in this world that can pay for the joy of someone who was blind and then suddenly they regain their vision.” Dr. Helena Ndume is a world renowned ophthalmologist known for her humanitarian work. She has dedicated her life and career to treating blindness and low-vision to Namibian residents and others in developing countries. She has performed sight restoring surgeries for 35,000 Namibians completely free of charge. In 2004, she was awarded the Grand Commander of the Order of Namibia, First Class.
Barina Waqa Duburiya: Lawyer
Barina Waqa Duburiya was Nauru’s first female lawyer and is currently the Deputy Secretary for Multicultural Affairs with the Department of Justice and Border Control. She received an Australian Regional Development Scholarship in 2006 which aided her in earning her law degree from the University of the South Pacific. After graduating she was the Principal Legal Officer for the Department of Justice and Border Control before becoming the Deputy Secretary and the Human Rights Advisor to the President.
Jhamak Ghimire: Writer
Born with cerebral palsy, Jhamak Ghimire is a writer and columnist in Nepal who uses her feet to write.
Fanny Blankers-Koen: Track and Field Athlete
Best known for winning four gold medals at the 1948 Summer Olympics, Fanny Blankers-Koen became known as The Flying Housewife when she competed at 30 years old with two children. She was the most successful athlete at the event. She also won five European titles, 58 Dutch championships, and set or tied 12 world records. In 1999, she was voted “Female Athlete of the Century” by the International Association of Athletics Federations. Due to her massive success, she helped eliminate the belief that age and motherhood are not barriers to women’s success in sports.
Dame Whina Cooper, ONZ DBE: Educator & Activist
As a renowned kuia, Māori elder, Dame Whina Cooper worked tirelessly for the rights of the Māori people and particularly Māori women and their land rights. She worked to develop several land schemes for her people and became the President of the Māori Women’s Welfare League. She led a march in 1975 to protest Māori land alienation and is one of the most well known marches in New Zealand history due to the fact that she was 79 years old but also the fact that the large crowd walked 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) from one end of the North Island to the other.
Arlen Siu: Singer & Songwriter
Arlen Siu was a singer/songwriter who was one of the first casualties during the insurrection against Somoza. She was 18 when she joined the Sandinistas and two years later near a Sandinista training school in Leon, she was surrounded and was killed in an ambush with her fellow comrades. During her life, she wrote feminist works which highlighted the importance of women’s rights and the political development of women. Arlen Siu was inspiring young people then and she continues to live on through her various works and dedication to giving her life to a cause she believed in.
Nafissatou Moussa Adamou: Swimmer
Nafissatou Moussa Adamou is a Nigerien swimmer who competed at the 2012 Summer Olympics. She placed 71th place in the women’s 50 meter freestyle in London, meaning she was unable to move forward into the next round. She was 14 years old when she competed and was deemed to be the favorite in the race but was unable to move on, but she did knock off five seconds off her personal best.
Abi Daré: Author
After winning the Bath Novel Award in 2018, Abi Daré went on to publish her debut novel The Girl With the Louding Voice in 2020. The book is a New York Times Bestseller, a BBC Radio 4 Book at Bedtime pick, and was shortlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize for first time novelists. In 2018, she was also a finalist in the Literary Consultancy Pen Factor. She was in the list of The Guardian’s 10 Best Debut Novelists of 2020.
Yeon-mi Park: Defector & Human Rights Activist
After defecting from North Korea, Yeon-mi Park set out on a mission to help others in North Korea by advocating for victims of human rights violations in North Korea.
Once she escape, her family stayed in China where her and her mother were captured by human traffickers and sold into slavery. Part of her work focuses on ending human trafficking in China as well. She spoke at the One Young World 2014 Summit where her story was viewed over 50 million times in just two days. Her story is heartbreaking but truly inspiring as she is proof that anyone can escape from those wishing you harm.
Mother Teresa: Nun and Missionary
Honored by the Catholic Church as Saint Teresa of Calcutta, Mother Teresa is an internationally recognized figure. She founded the Missionaries of Charity, which operated with 4,500 nuns and was in 133 countries in 2012. The organization helped those with HIV/AIDS, leprosy, and tuberculosis. On top of this, it ran a soup kitchen, offered counseling programs, mobile clinics, and schools and orphanages. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 and was canonised on the anniversary of her death in 2016. She is still admired for her charitable works even today and continues inspiring others around the world.
Karen Dolva: Founder of No Isolation
Karen Dolva’s background is in user experience and interaction design, and she used this to help her co-found No Isolation. The goal of No Isolation is to help people overcome social isolation and loneliness for those who cannot use generic solutions to stay connected.
“What we’ve seen is that it is impossible for children with long-term illnesses to stay connected with their lives. They are told to focus on their own health, but the healthiest thing for them would be to stay connected with their friends. Going back to school after a long period isn’t easy, and for those who suffer from chronic illness, the loneliness never really stops.”
Safiya Al Bahlani: Artist
Born without hands and adopted at the age of three, Safiya Al Bahlani is one of the most sought after artists for her painting, graphic design and animation.
She uses art as a way to express herself and document her experiences. She has had many successful exhibitions, especially her solo show in Jordan which consisted of 38 pieces. She continues to advocate for those with special needs and tries to stay in the mainstream to ensure that representation is had for all.
Malala Yousafzai: Female Rights Activist
Malala Yousafzai is an activist for female education and the youngest Nobel Prize laureate at age 17. She has been an outspoken advocate for getting girls back into schools in Swat Valley in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where the Taliban had banned girls from attending school. In 2012, she was shot by a gunman in an assassination attempt in relation to her actisism. After her recovery, she co-founded the Malala Fund, a nonprofit organization to support and promote education for girls. She was granted Canadian citizenship in 2017 and was the youngest person to address the House of Commons of Canada.
Villaney Remengesau: Disability Advocate
Villaney Remengesau is a wheelchair user and has been partnering with various organizations and institutions to advocate for people with disabilities across the Pacific. She has served as the President and Secretary of OMEKESANG, the national despicable persons organization to promote disability awareness and rights of people in Palau and beyond. She also worked on ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
“Life is short; enjoy the best of it – but always contribute to the community and your country to benefit people, especially vulnerable populations.”
As a member of the Leadership Committee and the official spokesperson of the Palestinian delegation to the Middle East peace process, Hanan Ashrawi has been advocating freeing Palestine from Israli occupation. She founded the Independent Commission for Human Rights in 1994, MIFTAH- The Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy, and the National Coalition for Accountability and Integrity. She has been the recipient for many international awards and honors and practices politics with force, composure, honesty, and articulation.
Marta Matamoros: Dressmaker & Labor Activist
Leading strikes to help workers get maternity leave with pay and job security, Marta Matamoros became a well known labor activist along with a talented seamstress and shoemaker. She became the first woman General Secretary of the Trade Union Federation Workers of Panama where they participated in The Hunger and Desperation March which resulted in the first minimum wage law in Panama. She was awarded the Order of Omar Torrijos Herrera, and in 2006 the Order of Marta Matamoros was created to recognize those who have promoted gender equality in Panama.
Papua New Guinea
Justice Catherine Davani: Supreme Court Judge
Justice Catherine Davani was the first female judge in Papua New Guinea and sat on the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea. Along with people an accomplished lawyer, Justice Davani enjoyed sports. She played soccer at a local, national, and international level and represented Papua New Guinea in three Oceania Football Confederation World Cup qualifiers. She was also the captain of the Papua New Guinea’s Women’s National Football team.
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Margarita Mbywangi: Politician
Margarita Mbywangi is a politician and an Aché indigenous leader. In 2008, she was appointed the Minister of Indigenous Affairs, the first indigenous person to hold this position, with her main goals being gaining indigenous land rights, improving indigenous people’s access to water, food and health care, and protecting forested lands. Various news sources say that at the age of four she was captured in the jungle near her home and was sold multiple times to work for different families.
Dr. Ruth Shady: Anthropologist & Archaeologist
Dr. Ruth Shady is the Founder and Director of the archaeological project at Caral, which she is credited with the discovery of the first known civilization of Peru.
She has conducted various projects in the rain forests of Peru placing an emphasis on the study of the development of complex socio-political organizations. She is the director of the Museum of Archeology and Anthropology of National University of San Marcos. She was recognized as one of the BBC’s 100 women in 2020.
María Josefa Gabriela Cariño de Silang: Military Leader
Best known for her role as the female leader of the Ilocano independence movement from Spain, Gabriela Silang was a Filipina military leader. She was a military general and led the longest sustained revolt against the colonizers. She continues to inspire people when facing the struggle of imperialism. She continued to lead her people until she was captured and executed by the Captaincy General of the Philippines. The Philippines now has The Order of Gabriela Silang which is the sole third class national decoration which is restricted to women. She also has Asteroid 7026 Gabrielasilang named after her.
Marie Curie: Chemist & Physicist
The list of accomplishments Marie Curie gained during her lifetime could go on but her most notable moments were when she was the first and only female to be awarded the Nobel Prize twice. She also conducted pioneering research on radioactivity making her the only person to win a Nobel Prize in two scientific fields. She developed mobile radiography units to provide x-ray services in field hospitals during World War I, as well as research into neoplasms. When she discovered her first chemical element she named it polonium after her homeland, Poland.
Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo: Prime Minister
Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo was Portugal’s sole female Prime Minister and the second woman to be Prime Minister of a European country. She was a pioneer feminist and helped shape women’s rights in Portugal. She also was a chemical engineer because she wanted to demonstrate the abilities of women in a “man’s subject”. As the Prime Minister, she made social welfare universal, improved health care, education and labor legislation.
Dana Al Fardan: Composer
Dana Al Farden is currently Qatar’s only female contemporary composer. She made her London West End debut in 2019 for her musical Broken Wings at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. This is the first musical to debut on the West End with a score written by a Qatari.
“In a highly competitive industry, don’t seek to imitate, look for the elements that set you apart.”
Nadia Comăneci: Gymnast
In 1976 at the age of 14, Nadia Comăneci was the first gymnast to be awarded a perfect score of 10.0 at the Olympic Games. At the same Games, she received six more perfect 10s which helped her win three gold medals. She won nine Olympic medals, five gold medals, and four World Artistic Gymnastics Championship medals. She defected from then-communisist Romania to the US where she became a citizen in 2001.
Valentina Tereshkova: Cosmonaut
Valentina Tereshkova was the first and youngest woman to have flown to space on a solo mission on Vostok 6. In 1963, she orbited Earth 48 times and was there for roughly three days. She is still the only woman to have been on a solo mission to space. When she retired, she was ranked a Major General and soon after went into politics. She became a member of the World Peace Council in 1966 and attended many women’s conferences. Her list of awards and honors are too great to list but she truly paved the way for women around the world to, quite literally, reach for the stars.
Azeda Hope: Founder of Mashirika Performing Arts & Media Company
Leading the way for theatre in Rwanda, Azeda Hope is the Founder and Artistic Director of Mashirika Creative and Performing Arts. In 2005, the group performed Africa’s Hope in Kigali at the 10th anniversary commemoration of the genocide and also at the G8 World Summit. Her works have taken her all across the world and she has been recognized for her work.
Saint Kitts and Nevis
Her Excellency Dr. Thelma Phillip-Browne : Ambassador to the United States of America
With multiple medical degrees and training in Public Health, Her Excellency Dr. Thelma Phillip-Browne, is a force to be reckoned with. Once she was appointed the Ambassador to the US, she continued to practice medicine and continued to be a social and political activist. On top of all of this, she is a huge fan of sports. She played netball for the Caribbean Netball Association’s Championship Team in 1973 and continued to play for many years.
Justice Suzie d’Auvergne: Supreme Court Judge
In 1988 Justice Suzie d’Auvergne became the first Solicitor General of Saint Lucia.
She was appointed a High Court Judge of Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court in 1990 where she resided until her retirement in 2004. She was also a judge of the International Labour Organization Administrative Tribunal. In 2004, she received the Saint Lucia Medal of Honor for outstanding service in the cause of justice, and was awarded the Order of St. Michael and St. George for service to the judiciary.
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Sophia Young: Basketball Player
Retiring from the Women’s National Basketball Association in the US, Sophia Young left her mark on and off the court. She was a small forward for the San Antonio Stars, and was the fourth overall pick in the 2006 draft. During her nine year career, she was named to the Western Conference WNBA All Star team three times.
Sima Urale: Filmmaker
Sima Urale is one of a handful of Polynesian film directors in the world with more than 15 years in the industry. She has won national and international awards including the Silver Lion for Best Short Film at the Venice Film Festival for her 1996 film The Children. Her music video, Sub-Cranium Feeling won a number of awards and she was presented an award by New Zealand On Air for her contribution to music video making. In 1997 and 1999, she starred in her sister’s play which was the first play written by a Pacific Islander woman for an all female cast.
Valentina Monetta: Singer
Best known for representing San Marino in the 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2017 Eurovision Song Contest, Valentina Monetta was the first female and first singer from San Marino to qualify for the final of the contest. She was the first singer to represent a nation in three consecutive Eurovision contests since 1966. She is also tied with two other artists from the Eurovision Song Contest as the woman with the most participation in the contest.
São Tomé and Príncipe
Maria das Neves: Former Prime Minister of São Tomé and Príncipe
Maria das Neves became the first female head of government in the country and was a key figure in the Movement for the Liberation of São Tomé and Príncipe Democratic Party. Before entering politics, she worked in the Ministry of Finance in the World Bank and the UN Children’s Fund. She has held multiple government posts like Minister of Trade, Minister of Finance and Economics. She is now a member of the Council of Women World Leaders.
Loujain al-Hathloul: Women’s Rights Activist
Arrested and released on several occasions for breaking the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia in May 2018, Loujain al-Hathloul is a prominent women’s rights activist.
Along with her fight for women’s rights, she opposes the Saudi male guardianship system. She also tried to partake in Saudi local elections in 2015, but was barred from doing so. She was jailed from December 2018 to February 2021 when she was finally released after many countries called for her release.
Khadjou Sambe: Sufer
After becoming Senegal’s first female professional surfer, Khadjou Sambe has been inspiring the next generation to break cultural norms. She trains beginners at Black Girls Surf, which is only for girls and women who wish to compete professionally. She is a proud Lebou and loves that she was able to grow up near the sea, but she said that she never saw a Black woman surfing. She is hoping to show that Black women can do anything and there is nothing that can stop a woman with a dream.
Jelisaveta Načić: Architect
Jelisaveta Načić was no stranger to breaking boundaries. As the first female graduate in architecture in Belgrade, the first female architect in Serbia, and the First Chief of Architecture of Belgrade, she continued to show that women could accomplish anything they wanted to. She designed schools, churches, residential, and hospital buildings. Most of her works were destroyed during World War I which ended her architecture career as she was interned in a camp in Hungary.
Hilda Stevenson-Delhomme: Physician and Politician
Hilda Stevenson-Delhomme was the first female in Seychelles to become a politician and she was also a doctor. She was in emergency services in several hospitals in Scotland during World War II and returned to Seychelles after her studies and the war due to her mothers ill-health. She fought against tuberculosis and became a medical officer of the Red Cross in 1954. After forming her own, now defunct, political party in 1964 she was voted in as the first female parliamentarian.
Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, OBE: Freetown Mayor
In 2015, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr was recognized for her work during Sierra Leone’s Ebola crisis and was awarded an Ebola Gold Medal by Ernest Bai Koroma.
In 2016, she was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Queen Elizabeth II. Her time as Mayor has allowed her to focus on utilizing data-driven approaches to solving challenges in the city. She is a Chartered Accountant and has multiple degrees in the field.
Leo Yee-Sin: Executive Director of the National Centre for Infectious Diseases
Professor Leo Yee Sin is the Executive Director of the National Centre for Infection Diseases where her research focuses on emerging infectious diseases, Dengue, and HIV. She has led the response for Singapore’s response to outbreaks such as Nipah, SARS, and COVID-19. She has won many awards with the most prestigious being the Public Service Star in recognition for her outstanding battle against SARS. In 2020, she was listed as Fortune magazine World’s Greatest Leaders and the BBC’s 100 Women.
Henrieta Farkašová: Alpine Skier
“Impossible is nothing.”
Henrieta Farkašová is a nine time Paralympic champion and 15 time world champion in the B3 category. She won three gold medals at the 2010 Winter Paralympics in Vancouver, two golds in Sochi 2014 and four gold medals at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics. She has accomplished all of this while being visually impaired. She received the Laureus World Sports Award for Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability in 2019.
Alenka Artnik: Free diver
Setting the world record on November 8, 2020 Alenka Artnik became the first woman to freedive 114 meters (374 feet) below the surface of the Red Sea. “Focus is essential in diving. There is simply no time to make decisions. You have to be present every single second.” She accomplished this feat at the Freediving World Championships which took her 3 minutes and 41 seconds. She was able to defeat the odds of humans only being able to go 160 feet as scientists believed 50 years ago.
Dr. Leeanne Panisi: Obstetrician
Dr. Leeanne Panisi is an obstetrician in Solomon Islands where mortality rates are highest in the Pacific. Between 2011 and 2014 she was the only local obstetrician and gynecologist in the country. During that time period, she was responsible for over 5,000 births.
“My role is fulfilled when I have mothers coming through my unit – including in the other hospitals throughout the country – delivering healthy babies, and those mothers then return safely to their families.”
IIwad Elman: Social Activist
As a co-founder of the Elman Peace & Human Rights Centre, Ilwad Elman is responsible for the design and overseeing of the Centre’s programs as she is the Director of Programs and Development.
In 2016, she was voted the African Young Personality of the Year during the Africa Youth Awards. Her work focuses on human rights, gender justice, protection of civilians, peace and security, and social entrepreneurship. She was the first civil society representative invited to speak in front of the UN Security Council on the Protection of Civilians in 2015. Even when she is on the front lines of conflict, Ilwad Elman continues to do what is right to end human suffering in Somalia.
Thando Hopa: Model, Activist, Lawyer
Thando Hopa is the first woman with albinism to be featured on the cover of Vogue. She was introduced into the modeling world while she was working as a prosecutor. Her hope is to inspire others by portray