Ten amazing women from around the world, who have actively fought for women’s rights and challenged what society thinks a woman should be.
- Haifaa al-Mansour, Director
Haifaa al-Mansour is the writer and director of Wadjda, the first feature length film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia. And what makes al-Mansour’s work even more of an achievement is the lack of women’s rights in the country. Mansour herself was forced to direct some of the movie from the back of a van using a walkie-talkie because she couldn’t publicly mix with the men in the filming crew. Al-Mansour explores the issues facing women in Saudi Arabia, such as not being able to drive and patriarchy within the family, through the heartwarming story of a young girl wanting her own bicycle.
- Malala Yousafzai, Activist
Malala Yousafzai was ten years old when the Taliban took control of her region in Pakistan. Malala defied the Taliban and demanded that girls be allowed to receive an education. On the 9th October 2012 a gunman boarded Yousafzai’s school bus and asked for her by name, then shot her, but she survived. Rather than let this event stop her, Yousafzai campaigned for female education on a bigger scale than before. She set up the Malala Fund, which focuses on helping girls go to school and raise their voices for the right to education. In 2014 Malala revived the Nobel Peace Prize for her work.
- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Novelist
Chimananda Ngozi Adichie is a critically acclaimed Nigerian novelist. However her work raising awareness of feminism and publicly discussing issues facing women is the reason she is on this list. In 2013 she gave a TEDx talk where she shared her experience of being an African feminist and her views on gender construction and sexuality. Parts of this talk were featured on Beyoncé’s song Flawless, bringing awareness of feminism and what it really means to millions of people.
- Laura Coryton, Student
Laura Coryton is the women behind #EndTheTamponTax, which calls for the taxation of sanitary products as a luxury to end. Coryton is actively fighting a law that unfairly sees women having a period as a choice. She created the #EndTheTamponTax e-petition which now has over 300,00 signatures, as well as organizing a protest march. Coryton’s campaign has also snowballed into a global movement, with similar campaigns being set up in Canada and the US, showing how one women speaking up can influence others to do so.
- Samira Ibrahim, Activist
Samira Ibrahim is an Egyptian activist who brought the Egyptian military to court after they forced her into receiving the ‘virginity test’ while detained. Ibrahim had the courage to speak out after the military subjected her to this after being brought to a military prison for participating in a sit-in protest at Tahrir Square. Ibrahim’s case resulted in a court order to stop this practice being performed upon any other Egyptian women.
- Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, Professor & Civil Rights Advocate
Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw is the person responsible for the #SayHerName movement, which fights to ensure that female victims of police brutality are not forgotten. When you think of the deaths that ignited the Blacks Lives Matters movement, Trayvon Martin, Eric Gardner and Michael Brown come to mind. Women killed by police officers are sidelined. Crenshaw’s #SayHerName ensures that the names of female victims such as Tanisha Anderson, Alberta Spruill, Rekia Boyd, Kyam Livingston and Michelle Cusseaux are heard, so justice for black women can be achieved too. Crenshaw also coined the term ‘intersectionality’. The term describes the way different forms of discrimination overlap and compound each other.
- Heidi Safia Mirza, Sociologist
Heidi Safia Mirza is a sociologist who has produced work on gender, race, faith and culture using the theoretical frameworks of black feminism and postcolonialism. In 1992 Mirza published Young, Female and Black, a study on why young black women bear all the hallmarks of a fundamentally unequal society. Mirza has continued to produce work on the experiences of British Black and Asian women, a group often overlooked by scholars.
- Laura Bates, Writer
Laura Bates is the founder of the Everyday Sexism project, which exists to catalogue instances of sexism women experience on a day to day basis. The project gives women a platform to share their own experiences on sexism and shows the world that sexism does exist and is a valid problem that needs to be discussed.
- Nimco Ali, Activist
Nimco Ali is the co-founder of the Daughters of Eve, a non-profit organization focused on providing education and raising awareness of female genital mutilation (FGM). Ali publicly talks about her own experience, as she underwent the procedure at age 7 when on holiday with her family in Djibouti.
- Sonia Boyce, Artist
Sonia Boyce rose to prominence as part of the Black British cultural renaissance in the 1980s. She uses art as a medium to examine her position as a black woman in Britain, in which she explores themes like the ‘Othering’ of the black body. Boyce’s work provokes a reaction and encourages people to think about womanhood. One of her paintings is titled Missionary Position II, a pun between the role of missionaries and the sexual position. The painting shows two female figures, one praying on her knees and the other with her hand out in an act of defiance. Boyce describes how both figures represent her and depict the conflict between the multiple sides of herself as a woman. This is just one example of how Boyce’s art explores womanhood.
By Aisha Clarke