Women Who Are Changing the World: International Women’s Day March 8

March 8th is International Women’s Day.  It is part of the larger celebration of Women’s History month,  a time to highlight the many magnificent things women have contributed to our society. International Women’s Day dates back to 1911.  It wasn’t until almost 70 years later in 1980 that President Carter acknowledged  women’s contributions were much too vast to only span one mere day of recogniztion,  He made a Presidential proclamation declaring the week of March 8th Women’s History Week. In 1987 Congress designated March as Women’s History Month.

In honor of March and particular International Women’s Day, we highlight some amazing women from around the globe. Please share with us your stories of other amazing women!

 

Malala Yousafza

 

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The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions, but nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage were born. Malala Yousafza

Just 16 years old, Malala Yousafza has already established herself as an amazing international hero.  A Pakistani student who has spoken up for the rights of women to receive education in her country, she is from the Swat Valley where the Taliban had banned female students from receiving an education. At age 11 she started blogging  for the BBC, highlighting her experiences and beliefs as a schoolgirl in the region.  In 2012,  at age 15, she was shot 3 times, including once in the face, by a gunman in retaliation for her beliefs.  However this has not stopped Malala; she has remained a devoted activist speaking worldwide for the rights of women to receive and education.  July 12, 2013 was designated Malala Day. On this day, her birthday,  the United Nations convened a panel of international activists in support of worldwide education for all children, particularly girls, by 2015.

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf

Brasília ? O presidente Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva recebe a presidente da Libéria, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, no Palácio Itamaraty

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All girls know that they can be anything now. That transformation is to me one of the most satisfying things. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

The first female elected head of state in Africa, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf took  office as president of Liberia in 2006. Sirleaf received a Masters in Public Administration at the Kennedy School of Government and later worked for the World Bank and Citibank. She returned in 1985 to Vice President on the Liberian Action Party ticket but lost to then president Samuel Doe’s party. She had been critical of Doe’s government and the elections,which were considered fradulent, and was placed on house arrest. She was later released and returned to the United States. After two civil wars-first against the Doe regime and later against Charles Taylor who succeeded him, she returned to Liberia and was elected president.  She has been widely praised for her leadership and promotion of women’s rights.  She shared the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize with Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkol Karman for “nonviolent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.”

 

Aung San Suu Kyi 

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It is not power that corrupts, but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it. Aung Suu Suu Kvi

Living under house arrest in Burma (Myanmar) for a number of years, Aung San Suu Kyi is chairperson of the National League for Democracy in the country.Born in Burma and educated largely abroad for her advanced studies,  Suu Kyi returned to Burma in 1988 where she became a leader of the pro-democracy movement. Using Buddhism and Gandhi as her models of non-violence, she founded the National League for Democracy in 1988. That year a military junta came into power and placed Suu Kyi under house arrest in 1989.  She has spent a total 15 years under house arrest, on and off at various occasions, because of  her beliefs in favor of democracy. She won the Nobel Peace prize in 1991. She was released from arrest last in 2010 and won a seat in Parliament as a leader of the opposition party in 2012.  She has announced plans to run for the presidency in 2015.

Lubna al-Hussein

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Whip me if you dare…I am not afraid.  Lubna al-Hussein

A journalist in Sudan, Lubna al-Hussein was arrested for wearing trousers in her country. Under restrictive decency laws, she and 12 other women were arrested for their attire. While 10 of the women accepted the punishment of public lashing, al-Hussein asked for a trial where she risked getting more severe flogging and imprisonment. When offered immunity from the UN she refused so that she could go to trial. She did face a brief period of imprisonment but was not flogged.  She continues to stand up for the rights of women.

Shirin Ebadi

Ebadi

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Human rights is a universal standard. It is a component of every religion and every civilization. Shirin Ebadi

Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian lawyer, founded the Defender of Human Rights Center in Iran.  She is known for defending dissidents, including many members of Iran’s intellectual community.  She is also a defender of children’s rights and drafted text for the law against child abuse in the country. In 2003, she won the Nobel Peace Prize.  It was reported that she had her prize seized by the Iranian government, though this was officially denied by the government.  She has been in exile in the UK since 2009 but has continued to lecture for human rights around the world.

 

 

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