In honor of women today and everyday, here are 10 remarkable women who are making a difference in their communities, big and small.
From politicians and activists to nurses and beauty queens, these women are breaking barriers, standing up for what’s right and inspiring us to fight for a better and more equal world
1. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern
Jacinda Ardern, who announced her resignation, showed the world throughout her five and a half years as prime minister that true leaders can be kind but strong – and know when it’s their time to go.
“I believe that leading a country is the most privileged job anyone could ever have, but also one of the more challenging,” Ardern said. “You cannot and should not do it unless you have a full tank, plus a bit in reserve for those unexpected challenges.”
“I know what this job takes, and I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice. It is that simple,” she added.
Ardern, who became the youngest world leader at age 37 in 2017, has led New Zealand through a terrorist attack, a major volcano eruption and the COVID-19 pandemic and is something of an international icon.
She had a daughter while she was in office – the second world leader to ever do so – then proceeded to make history by becoming the first world leader to take maternity leave and bringing her daughter to the United Nations.
She went onto gain widespread praise for her compassionate but firm response to the Christchurch terrorist attack in 2019, when a gunman opened fire in a mosque and killed 51 people.
“This has been the most fulfilling five and a half years of my life. But it has also had its challenges,” she said. “But I am not leaving because it was hard. I am leaving because with such a privileged role comes responsibility – the responsibility to know when you are the right person to lead, and also, when you are not.”
2. Women In Iran
Women in Iran are risking everything to protest for freedom after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, a Kurdish-Iranian woman, who died after she was arrested by “morality” police for allegedly breaking the country’s mandatory hijab law.
3. Kenyan Politician Gloria Orwoba
Gloria Orwoba, a nominated senator, went to parliament with what looked like a period stain on her trousers to protest period poverty and stigma.
She was then asked to leave the parliament after she arrived in white trousers stained with fake menstrual blood.
In response, she said she was disappointed to be questioned over “an accident that is natural”.
Orwoba is campaigning for a bill to help end both issues.
“Unfortunately I have been kicked out because I’m on my period and we are not supposed to show our period when we are on our period and that is the kind of period stigma girls and women are having outside,” Orwoba told journalists outside.
4. Japanese MP Ayaka Shiomura
Japanese woman lawmaker, Ayaka Shiomura, proposed a bill to protect teens from being exploited by the adult industry, despite being laughed at by other MPs.
Shiomura was laughed at during a parliamentary session on March 28 after she called on lawmakers to create a mechanism that would allow young people to void their employment contracts for adult films.
The issue had arisen after Japan lowered its legal age of adulthood from 20 to 18 in April 2022.
Human rights advocates have raised concerns that the change may put teen girls at risk of being exploited by the adult film industry, especially those who are being coerced into appearing in adult films.
Before, underaged girls who changed their minds after appearing in adult films, as well as their parents, could void their contracts and prevent the films from being published. This is no longer possible for 18 and 19 year olds under the new law.
Shiomura has been lobbying lawmakers to address the loophole since February 2022.
5. Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska
Since Russia’s invasion, Zelenska, Ukraine’s first lady, has become a face of hope.
From raising awareness about human rights violations to the toll the war has taken on families, she is a testament of the courage of Ukrainian women.
“These have been the most horrible months of my life, and the lives of every Ukrainian,” the 44-year-old former comedy writer said in the interview with Vogue. “Frankly I don’t think anyone is aware of how we have managed emotionally.”
Zelenska shared the photos from the shoot on her Instagram, writing, “I would like you to see every Ukrainian woman here, in my place. Who fights, volunteers, settles in a refugee camp, does her job under the sound of a siren, holds on under the occupation,” she wrote. “She has the right and deserves to be on the covers of the whole world. Each of you, fellow Ukrainian women, is now the face and cover of our country.”
6. Women In Afghanistan
Despite the Taliban severely rolling back their rights, Afghan women have been on the frontline of the resistance, bravely defying the Taliban by protesting for equality and creating secret schools for girls to continue their education.
Just last year, the Taliban banned girls from going to middle and high school and ordered all higher education institutions in Afghanistan to ban women from attending classes.
Women’s rights organizations and the international community has condemned the Taliban’s mounting restrictions on women and girls.
7. Kenyan Nurse Anna Qabale Duba
Anna Qabale Duba, a Kenyan nurse who campaigns against child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM), was crowned the world’s best nurse for her work, winning a prize of US$250,000.
The 31-year-old, a FGM survivor who narrowly escaped child marriage at age 14, now holds a masters in Epidemology and works as a nurse at a hospital in Marsabit, where she works to end harmful cultural practices such as FGM and child marriage.
She is the founder of a community organization that helps improve access to education, health, social services and economic empowerment for girls and women in Kenya.
Besides teaching students how to read and write, the school teaches women about sexual and reproductive health and rights, which has led to a drastic reduction in FGM and early marriage in the community, according to Aster Guardians, the organizers of the Global Nursing Award.
8. Miss Thailand Anna Sueangam-iam
Miss Universe Thailand Anna Sueangam-iam paid a meaningful tribute to her garbage collector parents at the Miss Universe 2022 pageant by wearing an upcycled dress made from used pull tabs from soda cans.
“This gown was inspired by the familiar surroundings of my childhood,” Sueangam-iam wrote on Instagram. “Growing up with garbage collector parents, my life as a child was among piles of garbage and recyclables.”
“This unique gown was purposefully tailored-made with discarded and recycled materials, namely the ‘Can Tab’ to present to the UNIVERSE that what’s considered worthless by many actually possesses its own value and beauty,” she wrote.
9. Brazil’s First Indigenous Minister Sonia Guajajara And Environment Minister Marina Silva
Marina Silva and Sônia Guajajara, two dedicated Amazon activists, have been named as the new environment and Indigenous ministers for Brazil’s new leftist president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
The two are looking to revert the former far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro’s anti-environment policies and protect Indigenous people’s rights and land.
48-year-old Indigenous woman, Sônia Guajajara, will lead the country’s first ever Indigenous ministry.
Guajajara was featured in TIME’s list of most influential people of 2022 for her campaign against Bolsonaro’s policies.
Meanwhile, 64-year-old Silva will reassume the role of the environment minister, which she had held between 2003 and 2008 during Lula’s previous presidency.
As environment minister, she had help cut down deforestation dramatically in the Amazon.