International Women’s Day was established as a day to celebrate women’s social, economic, cultural as well as political achievements and to inspire equality. Let’s be honest though, it’s extremely frustrating that in 2017 so many women still don’t have some basic rights and are not treated equally. Gender inequality is still a major global topic, which deserves more attention than it gets today.
From an economic perspective, for example, 44% of working-age women worldwide do not work in comparison to just 18% of the male population. And the World Economic Forum predicts that the gender gap regarding the way women and men are paid won’t close entirely until 2186. These numbers should not discourage you. Rather, they show how important it is for you to play an active role in changing the reality of so many women today.
But where do you start? Here are some examples of powerful women across the globe for inspiration. They make their voices heard and show what difference even one person can make.
Even in extremely challenging circumstances Aesha Mohammadzai, a young woman from Afghanistan, fought for her freedom and became a global symbol of resistance. Aesha first became known worldwide after being on the cover of the Time magazine in August 2010.
Aesha was forced into an arranged marriage at the age of 12. When she tried to run away she received a jail sentence of five months, and after that her Taliban husband and in-laws hacked off her nose and ears as punishment. Her disfigured face became a symbol for oppressed women in Afghanistan (and beyond!), and a reminder of what might come in spades if the Taliban regains control.
Aesha was taken to a shelter and eventually received reconstructive surgery for her nose and is now living in the US at 22 years old. Aesha’s start into a new life has not been easy since it was hard to find a family to take her in. But she did not give up and focused on learning math, reading and writing.
Another powerful example is Waris Dirie. Waris was born as a daughter of a nomadic family in 1965 in the region of Gallacaio, in the Somali desert on the border with Ethiopia. At the age of
five she suffered the inhumane procedure of female genital mutilation. At the age of 13, Waris fled from a forced marriage with a man who could have been her grandfather. After an adventurous escape, she arrived in London, worked labor-intensive jobs and later was discovered as a model at the age of 18.
Waris, however, had bigger ambitions, she shared her story with the world through her book and later movie “Desert Flower”, made it her mission to bring change along and was appointed as UN Goodwill Ambassador in the fight against female genital mutilation. She travels on behalf of the United Nations around the world, participates in conferences, meets presidents, Nobel Prize winners and celebrities and gives hundreds of interviews to draw attention to her mission.
You may have heard of Emma Watson, a famous actress, especially known for her roles in Harry Potter and just recently Beauty and the Beast. But it’s not all glitz and glam – she is just as powerful when not on the silver screen. And she’s also out to prove that although you may not have been a victim of an extreme circumstance like Aesha or Waris, that you have the power to make a positive impact on fighting gender inequality.
Emma is passionate about education and access to it for all. She actually sometimes leaves female-focused books for free at public places in London or New York and has led a variety of empowering activities for women. At 24 years of age, Emma was involved in the promotion of girls’ education for several years and previously visited Bangladesh and Zambia as part of her humanitarian efforts. In 2014, she was also appointed UN Women Goodwill Ambassador.
She also dedicates her efforts towards the empowerment of young women and will serve as an advocate for UN Women’s HeForShe campaign in promoting gender equality. And she’s inspiring participation from male advocates, too! Everyone from global leaders like Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to young Hollywood actors like Eddie Redmayne are helping Emma lead the charge with the HeForShe campaign’s objectives.
These women and men are truly inspirational not because they achieve the impossible, but rather because they believed in themselves and pushed harder and harder, against all odds. Be it realizing you are much stronger than you think, can follow through your dreams or use your own voice to help others – it is all possible. That is something every single one of us is capable of doing. You are so powerful and should never stop believing in yourself. It’s your life, your future, your education, your career and your freedom to protect! This is an ongoing conversation in favor of promoting women’s freedom everywhere.