International Women’s Day 2015: The Women Who Have Inspired Us
Every year, International Women’s Day recognises the achievements of women, and celebrates how far we have come in terms of equality. The theme for Women’s Day this year is ‘Make it Happen’- a call to further advance the position of women and girls and to recognise their many contributions to society. So, in the run-up to this Women’s Day, we are celebrating just a few of the amazing women around the world who inspired us in 2014!
In December, Malala Yousafzai became the youngest person to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize, at only 17 years old. Malala has been an advocate for the rights of all children to education since she was 11, and despite all obstacles she has not let anything stand in her way. This year the Nobel committee honoured her bravery and acknowledged her ‘heroic struggle’. In her acceptance speech, Malala said: “This award is not just for me. It is for those forgotten children who want education… I am here to stand up for their rights, to raise their voice.”
In August, Maryam Mirzakhani became the first woman to win the Fields Medal, the most prestigious prize in mathematics (often referred to as the Mathematics Nobel Prize!) Mirzakhani, who is Iranian, is currently a professor of mathematics at Stanford University. Mirzakhani says she was not particularly good at maths at school, but she never gave up: “The beauty of mathematics only shows itself to patient followers.”
With a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome and two younger siblings with autism, Rosie King has always wanted to make the world a more tolerant and understanding place. Rosie first gained attention in 2011 when she presented a BBC Newsround documentary called My Autism and Me. By that point she had already appeared on local news, talking about her work illustrating children’s books. In November 2014, Rosie was invited to speak to 1,000 delegates at a conference in Washington DC, and gave a talk titled ‘How autism freed me to be myself.’ In her talk Rosie challenged common misconceptions about autism, and shared what her autism has helped her achieve, including her vivid imagination and the ability to communicate with her two non-verbal siblings. Rosie closed her speech with this quote: “Instead of punishing anything that strays from the normal, why not celebrate uniqueness and cheer every time someone unleashes their imagination?”
In May, Laverne Cox became the first transgender person to appear on the cover of Time magazine. Cox says she was ‘majorly bullied’ while growing up for appearing feminine and being ‘different’. She now uses her celebrity status to fight for equal rights for transgender people, and is an inspiration to anyone who does not feel defined by society’s labels. In Cox’s own words: “We are not what other people say we are. We are who we know ourselves to be, and we are what we love.”
Most people know Emma Watson for playing Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series. But she is also a UN Goodwill Ambassador, and in September, she gave a speech to launch the UN HeForShe campaign. Her speech pointed out how narrow gender stereotypes harm both men and women, and delivered an important message: In order to achieve equality, men and women must stand together! Emma will also be hosting a special HeforShe event in London this year for International Women’s Day.
Who are some of the women who have inspired you this year? Are you doing anything to celebrate Women’s Day 2015? Let us know in the comments below!