5 Women Who Changed Our World for the Better
This month is Women’s History Month and as we’ve just celebrated International Women’s Day too (which was on 8th March), I thought it was perfect timing to celebrate some amazing women who have truly changed our world for the better. It is women like the ones I am about to share with you who I think are wonderful examples to our younger generation of girls, showing exactly what a woman can achieve when she sets her mind on something.
Today I share with you 5 female Nobel Peace Prize winners who inspire me to become the change I wish to see in the world, each and every day…
Mother Teresa is a shining example of how you can achieve great things and even change the world by working on small things diligently and selflessly, every single day. This beautiful human being left the security and comfort of her Christian convent to follow her calling from God: “I was to leave the convent and help the poor while living among them”. She set out to establish a community dedicated to serving the poorest of the poor and this she certainly did, devoting her entire life to the cause. By the time she died in 1997, she had established an international religious family all serving selflessly to help the “unwanted, unloved and uncared for” – in her own words. Today, because of her work, her society’s members help people on every continent while preserving and spreading her message. What I find remarkable about Mother Teresa’s story even more so, is that for decades she suffered from her own inner turmoil (this was discovered after her death through written letters and journal entries) but despite her own suffering she still went out on to the streets every single day to serve those who needed her. What a selfless and wonderful human being.
Jody Williams is an American peacemaker lighting the way for others to follow. Her story begins from childhood, when she witnessed her older brother Stephen, who was born deaf, being tormented by school bullies. Always defending him and others who suffered, something was born in her from a young age to stand up for weaker parties. She was outraged by the Vietnam War and joined protests against it and seeing the destruction caused by war, she went on to become the driving force behind getting landmines banned – an outstanding achievement. She said, “Guns go home with soldiers, but landmines are designed to kill – mindlessly, out of control, for years.” Now aged 68, her work continues in the defence of human rights (particularly women’s rights) and promoting new ideas of security in today’s world.
Shirin Ebadi has achieved a number of firsts in her life thus far: she was the first female judge in Iranian history as well as the first Muslim woman and the first Iranian, to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. She is known for being a huge defender of human rights, particularly the rights of women and children and what strikes me particularly about her is her non-violent stance; not reacting to world problems, but rather coming from a place of action and peace in order to achieve change. Believing completely that human rights are a universal standard (“it is a component of every religion and civilisation”), she founded the Defenders of Human Rights Centre in Iran and in 2004 was named by Forbes magazine as one of the 100 most powerful women in the world.
Wangari Muta Maathai
Wangari Maathai was Kenyan and the first woman in East and Central Africa to gain a doctoral degree. Passionate about the environment and women’s rights, she started a project called The Green Belt Movement, planting trees with women’s groups in order to help the environment and improve the quality of women’s lives in Africa at the same time. She was internationally acknowledged (despite facing a backlash from people in her own country who believed she was going against what it was to be ‘a traditional African woman’) for her struggle for democracy, human rights and environmental conservation, and served on the board of many organisations. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 and to date, the Green Belt Movement has planted over 51 million trees in Kenya!
And now we have the youngest of our Nobel Peace Prize winners, Pakistani Malala Yousafzai who was awarded the peace prize in 2014 at the tender age of just 17. She was just a child when she became an advocate for girls’ education in Pakistan, resulting in the Taliban issuing a death threat against her, subsequently resulting in her being shot in the head. Surviving this, her fire was only fuelled further and she continued to speak out on the importance of education; working against the suppression of children and young people, and the rights of all children to an education. Being a Pakistani woman myself, there’s a special place in my heart for this young woman as I believe her courage and defiance in the face of the Taliban is an experience that we could all take something from. She demonstrates that in being so passionate about a cause that you are willing to die for it, you can accomplish the greatest of things.
I hope you will join me in celebrating these 5 wonderful women and sharing their stories and messages with all of the women in your life, too.
Here’s to strong, determined and passionate women –
may we know them, may we be them, may we raise them.