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.

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.

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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.

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.