[Image credit:ABS-CBN News)
International Women’s Day, which falls on 8 March every year, calls for gender equality and brings together governments, women’s organisations and women from all walks of life.
Over the years, there have been a number of inspirational women in history. Their achievements are seemingly impressive given the modern world we now live in, where fashion, trends and politics can alter with a hashtag as quickly as a heartbeat, meaning finding timeless inspiration can sometimes seem like an impossible task. Throughout history, women have fought courageously and tirelessly to assert themselves as individuals and experts in their field, something most men have had the luxury of taking for granted.
Ground-breaking designers, space explorers, pilots, political activists and feminists, artists, sportswomen, monarchs and leaders, or even double amputees. There is something these inspirational women all share in common: they are all warriors and continue to inspire us in our own modern lives. It’s why these inspirational women deserve celebrating and why they are as relevant now as they ever were in the past.
Ahead of this special day, we take a look at these women whom we can gather strength and inspiration from.
Jessica Cox was born with no arms, but she has made achievements with her feet that most people only dream of. She has done surfing, scuba diving and horse-riding and has even piloted a plane. The Filipino-American, whose disability was caused by a non-genetic birth defect, has also mastered everyday activities such as driving a car, tying her shoelaces, brushing her hair and putting on contact lenses and make-up. A motivational speaker who has toured more than 20 countries across six continents, she recently gave a talk in Singapore in January 2018, which is her first public event here.
Michelle Obama, the previous first lady of the United States, was raised in a one bedroom apartment in Chicago before she went on to excel in academics and study at Princeton and Harvard. During the eight years she’s spent alongside her husband in the White House, @FLOTUS (her Twitter handle, which stands for First Lady of the United States) was never in the shadows. She launched her own campaigns, spoke up loudly for causes she believes in – including girls’ rights – and criticised the racist stereotype of the ‘angry black lady’, often used to criticise her.
For Shaholly Ayers, who was born without a right arm below her elbow – a form of congenital amputation – “no” is something she’s used to hearing. As a child, her teachers told her she wouldn’t be able to participate in gym class. As a teenager, coaches told her she wouldn’t make the basketball team. As she set out to pursue her dream of becoming a fashion model, an agency she approached was blunt: It just wouldn’t work. However, she decided to pursue her dream without an agent. Now, she hopes to help others find their dream careers as a brand ambassador for Global Disability Inclusion, a consulting firm that helps companies attract and hire people with disabilities.
Angelina Jolie started out as a bit of a Hollywood bad girl, but she’s since made a name for herself as a humanitarian and an inspirational figure around the world. She became the youngest person ever to receive the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 2013 for her achievements in activism, including her work for the United Nations and her film projects related to humanitarian issues, though it wasn’t the first time Angelina’s work has been recognized, with her involvement with the UNHCR and other philanthropic duties among the many ways she makes her mark on the world.
Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani education advocate who, at the age of 17, became the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 after surviving an assassination attempt by the Taliban. Yousafzai became an advocate for girls’ education when she was still a child, which resulted in the Taliban issuing a death threat against her. In 2012, a gunman shot Malala when she was traveling home from school. She survived and has continued to speak out on the importance of education. In 2013, she gave a speech to the United Nations and published her first book, I Am Malala.