International Women’s Day: 10 Real-Life Heroines To Follow

These fearless females are saving and inspiring lives in such diverse ways

International Womens Day 2018 Emma Gonzalez Adwoa Halima Aden

Emma Gonzalez; Adwoa Aboah and Halima Aden (Photo: Getty)

Emma González

This 18-year-old was trapped in her school auditorium in Parkland, Florida during the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting last February 2018. Since surviving the ordeal, she has become the face of a national movement to end gun violence, known as “Never Again”, and one of the leading teenage activists with over a million followers on Twitter—acquired within a span of less than 10 days—a platform she uses to emphasise the importance of gun control and call out the people, organisations and corporations who are funding this violent industry. On top of this, she also serves as the president of her school’s gay-straight alliance.


Nayyirah Waheed

Best known for her two poetry books salt. (2013) and Nejma (2015), Nayyirah Waheed has, in her own written way, helped many get through tough times with her inspiring words—from the heartbroken to victims of racism, sexism and superficial society. She also has a way of beautifully verbalising thoughts, giving her follows the feeling that she, too, understands what they are going through, and through that making honest connections all over the world.

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Adwoa Aboah

You know her face—British model Adwoa Aboah has been on covers and pages of magazines, and has walked the highly photographed runways and sidewalks of Fashion Weeks. But this 25-year-old clotheshorse has survived depression, addiction and a suicide attempt—dark times she is now sharing with the world in hopes to reach out and save others who are facing the same battles she did. She has since also founded Gurls Talk, a safe communal space online where women can discuss their feelings and seek help from each other.

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Vanessa, Joanne and Rebecca Paranjothy

On track to transform the future of women’s healthcare, the Paranjothy sisters are the founders of Freedom Cups, a social enterprise that produces menstrual cups in medical-grade silicone—a more comfortable, economical and environmentally-friendly alternative to tampons and sanitary pads. The Forbes-listed start-up works on buy-one-give-one scheme, allowing them to deliver Freedom Cups to underprivileged women in Asia, educating them about female health and hygiene while at it.


Stephanie Sinclair

Stephanie Sinclair is a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer and founder of @tooyoungtowed, a non-profit organisation whose official mission is to protect girls’ rights and end child marriage. She first encountered child marriage in 2003 while on a photojournalist project about self-immolation in Afghanistan and took it on herself to spread awareness through visual storytelling—photography exhibitions and short documentaries—many of which captured everything from victims of forced or child-age marriage abusing themselves, to the admirable efforts of some African leaders campaigning for the rights of these girls.

Fatmata, 15, sits with her nine-month-old son, Isa, in a small village outside of Kambia, Sierra Leone. Her friend Sia, 13, dropped out of school the previous year. Both girls now attend a Population Council empowerment program, created to help protect at-risk girls. . Sierra Leone’s ministry of education banned pregnant girls from attending school. The stated intent of the policy, which was formally implemented by the government in April 2015, is to prevent them from influencing their peers and to protect them from ridicule. For just over a year, there were several education centers throughout the country for school-age pregnant girls and mothers that was supported by UNICEF, along with Sierra Leone’s education ministry and others. However, in August 2016 the centers for pregnant girls closed; UNICEF says they were intended to be a “bridge” after the Ebola crisis shut down schools across the country for nine months. About 14,000 girls who were pregnant or were new mothers registered at the schools. #letgirlslearn #girlseducation #endchildmarriage #girls #women

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Halima Aden

In places where hijabs never really featured in fashion, Halima Aden has managed to shine a spotlight and shift perspectives of modest fashion. In 2016, the Muslim model shot to prominence as the first beauty pageant contestant in the US to wear a hijab, after which she was scouted and catapulted onto the high fashion runways and a campaign for Nike. On top of her modelling career, she is now a burgeoning public speaker, UNICEF partner, global face of diversity, and she hopes to one day become a UN Ambassador.

Nike Pro Hijab has arrived!! 🎉🎉

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Rebecca Eu

She’s a Traditional Chinese Medicine heiress and made her international society debut at the 2013 Le Bal des Débutantes in Paris—dressed in a Alexis Mabille couture gown, no less. But more importantly, she makes monthly trips to the Philippines to provide education sponsorships, skills training and employment opportunities to underprivileged women and children. The social entrepreneur first visited the Southeast Asian country in 2015 where she met with and heard stories from the victims. It was then did she put her plans for Love, Mei into motion, a responsible fashion brand and social enterprise that works with non-profit organisations to help provide young women with a sustainable income model while they pursue an accredited education.

I feel like this should be a Philippine Tourism ad #VisitPhilippines

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Mari Malek

Mari Malek is a South Sudanese refugee turned model-DJ and CEO of Stand For Education, a non-profit organisation dedicated to empowering girls and providing access to education, which she believes is the way to end the war. As a little girl, Mari Malek managed to escape the war in South Sudan with her mother and siblings before spending four years in Egypt where they applied for asylum and were granted refugee status. They then managed to move to the US, albeit to equally tough living situations, and she had a child at 20. After being scouted in California, she has turned into a multi-hyphenate, adding model, actress, DJ, CEO and philanthropist to her name.

Here I Am representing @stand4education & discussing with @socialmoms & @unfoundation on the refugee crisis and the issues faced by women in South Sudan and globally, especially during crisis. 🎬 Thank you @kennethcole @mr_kennethcole for supporting models and movements that are making grassroots impact across the globe! #stand4education x #thecourageousclass : : ⚠️The US Department of Defense, compared the situation in South Sudan to Rwanda, where nearly a million people died in 100 days with little action from the US or the international community. “The same thing is happening now in South Sudan,” she said. “It’s happening on Africa’s watch. It’s happening on America’s watch. It’s happening on the United Nations’ watch.”⚠️ Via @aljazeera : : STAND #withsouthsudan #withmarimalek #stand4education #womenempowerment #herstory #refugee #story #storyteller #modelswithpurpose #modelcitizen #modelactivist #model #actor #dj #fbf #wakanda #wakandastyle #blackpanthers #thecourageousclass : : To make a difference and join our movement please support @stand4education and donate and or #takeaction

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