Across the world, there has been women that have played as huge role in fighting for women and human rights. In honour of Women's month, here is a compilation of the 10 most inspirational women from historical figures till today.
SEE: International Women's Day: SA women are doing it for themselves
1. Emmeline Pankhurst - England
Emmeline Pankhurst was a staunch supporter of women’s rights and first founded the Women’s Franchise League in 1889 which fought to allow married women to vote in local election. Her biggest fight being the suffragette movement to win women the right to vote. Pankhurst was known for her radical and militant tactics, including window smashing, arson and hunger strikes.
In 1903 she helped found the more militant Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) which was the first organisation to be referred to as ‘suffragettes’.
2. Marie Curie- Poland
First woman to ever be awarded the nobel peace prize, and the first woman to win to win it twice. It was awarded for her services to the advancement of chemistry. She was a Physicist and chemist who conducted pioneering research into radioactivity.
Marie Curie’s most famous achievement was the development of the theory of radioactivity, which has become a key part of medical advancements and research. Marie Curie remains to this day a key inspiration for women in STEM, a field in which women remain underrepresented.
3. Simone de Beauvoir - France
Writer, political activist, social theorist and prominent feminist, best known for her book The Second Sex.
Simone de Beauvoir was an influential figure whose musings of feminism and existentialism has had significant impact on feminist movement and theory over history. De Beauvoir’s other notable works include her novels She Came to Stay and The Mandarins.
4. Frida Kahlo - Mexico
Painter known for self-portraits which were an uncompromising exploration of the female form and experience.
Frida Kahlo has been heralded as a feminist icon and influence for her work and her depiction of women. Kahlo’s work explores her suffering and self-image - including her experience of miscarriage – which was a diversion from the traditional depiction of female beauty in art.
5. Rosa Parks - USA
Known as “the first lady of civil rights” , Rosa Parks became a notable figure for civil rights when in 1955 – a time at which racism was rife in her hometown of Alabama – she refused to give up her seat on the bus for a white passenger. The incident sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott which lasted 381 days.
She has received many honours for her work including NACCP’s 1979 Spingarn Medal, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.
6. Aung San Suu Kyi - Burma
Aung San Suu Kyi is the first ever woman to serve as the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Myanmar and is renowned worldwide for her political work, human rights activism and her attempts to bring democracy to Myanmar.
She is listed as one of Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Women and a Nobel laureate.Since her release in 2010 she has continued to fight for democracy in Myanmar and in 2015 she led her party to a majority win in Myanmar’s first openly contested election in 25 years.
7. Obiageli Ezekwesili - Nigeria
Co-founder of the anti-corruption organization Transparency International and champion of the global #BringBackOurGirls campaign, Obiageli Ezekwesili is known worldwide for her role in leading the #BringBackOurGirls campaign.
Her #BringBackOurGirls campaign brought global attention to the issue in Chibok and trended worldwide with many powerful celebrities lending their support to the campaign.
She continues her campaign work to find the other missing girls and remains a notable voice in women and human rights.
8. Li Tingting - China
Campaigner and activist for gender and LGBTQ equality, who is known for her controversial public demonstrations.
Tingting is openly homosexual, in a country where LGBTQ discrimination remains rife. In 2012 Tingting arranged a demonstration to raise awareness of domestic violence by wearing a blood-splattered wedding dress in the streets of China.
In 2015 Tingting and four other female activists, known as the ‘Feminist Five; were detained on the eve of International Women’s Day for their plans to protest against sexual harassment on public transport This sparked an international outcry and the women were released after 37 days.
9. Laxmi Agarwal - India
Laxmi was a campaigner for regulation of the sale of acid and make acid attacks easier to pursue in court.
Laxmi Agarwal was the victim of an acid attack – a crime which predominantly targets women in India – aged just 15, at the hands of an older man whose marriage proposal she had refused. Laxmi launched a social media campaign called Stop Acid Attacks. Her petition to curb acid sales garnered 27,000 signatures and was successful in leading the supreme court to order that the sale of acid be regulated and acid attacks become easier to pursue in court. She is now the director of Chhanv Foundation which is dedicated to helping the survivors of acid attacks in India, and in 2014 she received an International Women of Courage award from Michelle Obama.
10. Malala Yousafzai - Pakistan
The youngest ever person to receive a Nobel Prize honour, Malala advocates for women’s rights and education in her hometown in northwest Pakistan, where the Taliban has previously banned girls from attending school. Malala’s fight for human rights rose to the forefront when aged 11-12 she wrote a blog for BBC Urdu - under a pseudonym - about her life under Taliban occupancy. Malala then became the subject of a New York Times documentary and began giving interviews about her experiences. She survived an assassination attack by the Taliban in 2012 and has since moved to the UK. Her fight for human rights has become an international movement, having set up her own charity; co-authored a book; inspired an Oscar-nominated documentary and been awarded the first ever Pakistan National Youth Peace Prize; the 2013 Sakharov Prize, and the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize.
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