Anyone that knows me, knows I'm inherently lazy. Anyone that doesn't know me, well... I'm telling you now. I'm lazy. I plan to do things, I plan blog posts I want to publish on certain dates, and then come said dates, the post surprisingly aren't ready yet. Case in point, yesterday.
March 8 is International Women's Day - a day to acknowledge our call on others, and ourselves, to help forge a more inclusive, more gender equal world. It is also a day to celebrate and acknowledge women; how they inspire us, how they support us, how they nurture us.
I wanted to share with you seven women who are living proof there's nothing women can't do. These seven individuals are women who I personally get huge inspiration from, and who make me strive to be a better person. They are the epitome of leading by example. Maybe you know them, (in which case I hope you'll agree with my praise) and maybe you don't, in which case I'm thrilled to have the pleasure of introducing you to such powerhouses. So, although I'm a day late, here's to International Women's Day, here's to strong women everywhere, and here's to overcoming gender inequality.
My absolute idol, Jane Goodall works extensively to bring the message of conservation to every corner of the globe. At 82 years old, she works tirelessly, spending more time on the road than she does at home. Her ambitious endeavour extends far beyond the ground-breaking work with chimpanzees for which she first became known. Her aim and wish for us all is three-fold; help mankind, help the animal kingdom, and help the environment, all in order to create a sustainable world. Notably, her Roots & Shoots campaign gets young people actively involved in conservation; she cites the younger generation as her greatest source of hope. Her undertaking is undoubtedly ambitious, but there can be no question that she leaves a mark on everyone whose path she crosses, be it on screen, in writing, or in one of the hundreds of talks she gives every year. Her ongoing impact is colossal. If you haven’t already, make it a priority to see the documentary about her life and work, Jane’s Journey… it’s the single most inspiring film I’ve seen yet. Thank you Jane, for making me want to be a better person.
A female chief from Malawi, Theresa Kachindamoto is responsible for terminating over 850 child marriages. In a country rife with the exploitation of young girls, Theresa is making a huge difference; not only ending child marriage in her district, but also the horrific practise of “sexual initiation” of young girls before marriage. In a country where exploitation of girls – not even yet women – is so rife, Theresa is giving them the childhood they deserve. Having spent 6 weeks in a conservative rural African community myself, I appreciate in a way I never did before that half the battle is purely in mindset... it's a battle that's hard to win. Crucially, by taking such a strong stand against these practises, Theresa is opening the eyes and minds of the wider population in her region to an alternative to the only option they know... if actions speak louder than words, this women has one hell of a roar. A true inspiration.
It strikes me as wildly unjust to introduce Katie Piper as an acid attack victim - she is so very much more than that - but the brutal attack she fell victim to in 2008 has arguably shaped everything she has done since. After the horrific incident in which an which an ex-boyfriend arranged to have sulphuric acid thrown on her face, Katie suffered horrific injuries, including losing sight in one eye and was forced to go through a painful healing process, which continues to this day. Throughout, Katie has not only weathered it all like a true warrior, she documented the process, connected with others who suffer burns and other physical ailments, brought her own and their stories to the public in a series of TV shows, penned several books including her latest on self-confidence and overcoming hurdles in life, and regularly gives talks to the public. Inspiration incarnate.
A woman who needs no introduction. The more stylish half (I’m sorry Barack... you know it’s true) of the couple who is the closest America has ever come to royalty. Michelle embodies the notion of leading by example; she is the height of class and grace and strength. Her speeches are legendary, she is adored by not only the American people, the masses of whom called for her to run for President in 2020 (somehow I get the feeling she’d win, too) but by people around the world. Unlike so many figures in politics you just know, when it comes to Michelle, she truly cares. One line for which she become known as she supported Hilary Clinton last year was, “when they go low, we go high.” A-friggin’-men. I don’t know if this is appropriate, given she’s no longer first lady and all that, but let’s be honest, she’ll always be first lady of our hearts so, Mrs Obama... I salute you. (I'm literally sitting in front of my computer right now saluting the above picture. Too much?)
As a writer, of course Jo inspires me, what with being one of the most successful authors of all time, whose imagination and creativity is beyond most people’s wildest dreams. But there’s so much more I love about this woman, not least of which is her determination on calling out bullshit where she sees it. For someone whose talent lies in the writing of novels, Jo is exceptionally adept at delivering hard-hitting messages in just 140 characters. She’s constantly cropping up on news feeds for yet another Twitter triumph (see here for some of her best) or for a beautiful act of kindness to fans around the world. As her Dumbledore says, “Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic.”
When I think about what I had accomplished at 19 years old, and I look at what this extraordinary young woman has done in the same space of time, I feel ever so slightly like an under-achiever. At 11 Malala became a BBC blogger, anonymously writing about life as a young girl under the Taliban in her native Pakistan. At 12, her school was closed, girls' schools having being banned in the area. At 14 she was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Award. At 15, she was shot in the head for her rising profile and her public stance against the Taliban. Since then, she has gone on to become an advocate for female education, acknowledged and admired around the world. She is the youngest ever Nobel Prize laureate, and she is 100% inspirational. If ever there was somebody who embodied girl power, it is this chick right here.
I know compared to the other women on this list, actress Michelle Williams might seem an odd choice, but everything I see and read about this lady makes me admire me more. Now I've loved her ever since I was watching her, a wide-eyed 8-year-old, on Dawson's Creek, but the fact I love her just as much some twenty years later is something I can say of few. As well as film choices and performances which are constantly awe-inspiring (check her out in feminist flick Certain Women, in UK cinemas now) she seems to radiate strength and dignity. Having lost beloved Heath Ledger when their daughter was just 2, Michelle has raised her daughter as a solo mum, something which I admire beyond words. Although it is so common, the older I get the more I appreciate what a task this must be, and the more I admire all the women who do it. Earlier this year, Michelle said of her best friend (Dawson's co-star, Busy Philips) ‘She’s proof that the love of your life does not have to be a man! That’s the love of my life right there.’ Shades of Sex and the City philosophy, right there. I love this woman.