Hellen Keller has said and I quote, “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” As one of the most inspirational figures of this century, she went on to achieve greatness, making people believe that you can do what you want and more if you just believe. Over the years there have been women in every field, from politics, to the arts and the humanitarian services who have risen from being ordinary with their actions and work, to inspire people all over the world. Some of these women are:
10. Aesha Mohammadzai
A brave heart in the middle of the worst kind of torture imaginable, Aesha Mohammadzai led a life that most of us cannot think of, even in our nightmares. Uneducated and poor, she was married off to a Taliban fighter by her father, to pay off a debt. Physically and mentally abused, she was forced to sleep in the stables with the animals. When she could not take it anymore, she ran away but was caught and put in jail. After five months, she was handed to her husband by the judge and that night he took her to a mountaintop, and after tying her hands and feet they cut off her nose and ears as punishment and left her to die. Barely conscious and in extreme pain, the bleeding girl dragged herself to her grandfather’s house, and was then transported to a medical facility in America by her father. A symbol of the oppression in Afghanistan, she came forward with her story and was featured on the cover of T.I.M.E magazine in 2010, and is attempting to help others confront abuse and be strong. After a series of painful surgeries and reconstructions, she finally has a new nose after three years. She now lives with a foster family in the States and is finally happy.
9. Sophie Hayes
An ordinary girl in the U.K, Sophie’s life became a nightmare when a seemingly romantic getaway to Italy to meet her boyfriend of five years,almost ruined her life. A typical romantic story, she met him at a nightclub when she was only 18 and four years of phone calls later, he tricked her into coming to Italy, and once she was there he used her as a sex slave to pay off his debts, and threatened to kill her twin younger brothers if she tried to escape. Beaten at gunpoint, thrashed with sticks, she spent six agonizing months sleeping with up to 30 men at night, until she finally managed to escape. After that it took her five more years before she could put her ordeal into words and came out with her book ,’Trafficked’, revealing the story of the first known girl sex trafficked out of the UK. She helped the police catch the guy who did this to her and opened up an anti trafficking charity, ‘The Sophie Hayes Foundation’ to help victims everywhere. Apart from appearances in front of the Parliament, the U.N and the Vatican, she also recently released a campaign to raise awareness and support survivors.
8. Khalida Brohi
In a country overrun with terrorism and political instability, Khalida Brohi of Pakistan rose as a flame to guide other women like her towards education and empowerment. A youth activist and social entrepreneur, this young girl, who began her work at the age of 16, is the leading face of the Sughar program which is trying to end grotesque customs such as honour killing, by promoting other traditions and imparting knowledge to tribal women. A strong willed and independent girl, she is one among 5 sisters and dedicates her success and education to her parents. She said and I quote, “In a society where I live, life for a girl is a continued struggle, especially for a girl who chooses to do something “different” – she has to fight the hardest and often has to pay a heavy price. Most of my struggles were done by my parents who fought against societal constraints and brought me to where I am today.” Doing activism work is not easy especially when elders of villages have great attachment and respect for traditions .In 2008, she had to flee to Karachi after the tribal leaders of her community revolted against their campaigning. But even after setbacks, she continues her work and at the age of 22 she became the winner of the young champion award by University of Singapore, an Unreasonable Institute Fellow and also won the fellowship award by YouthActionNet.
7. Danielle Wilson Naqvi
All of us have had personal tragedies in our lives, but how many of you can claim to turn those experiences into a movement to make sure no one else suffers the same fate or pain as you. Danielle Wilson Naqvi is one such person whose story is as sad as it is inspiring. In 2012 Danielle and her husband Akber, from Dubai had adopted a baby girl from Pakistan after a harrowing wait for adoption protocols. Zahra Beau, as the baby was named became ill soon and was diagnosed by doctors to have Glutaric Acidemia Type 2 which is a rare form of metabolic disorder where the immune system gets disintegrated. Slowly her organs failed, and she died within a matter of days. As Danielle later found out, the disease was treatable had it been detected during birth. A simple test called the heel prick test is done just after birth for babies, which can detect a plethora of diseases that require immediate treatment, but in countries like Pakistan with healthcare systems not up to the mark, it is unheard of. That’s when the ZB foundation was created by Danielle to honour Zahra Beau. Based in Pakistan, It aims to provide heel prick tests to newborns across the country, in the hope of saving more lives.
6. Angela Merkel
A quantum physicist by training, the German chancellor, Angela Dorothea Merkel today is one of the top ten most powerful women in the world. She has been the chancellor since 2005, and the leader of the German party Christian Democratic Union (CDU) since 2000, making her the first woman to hold either of these posts. Also her presidentship of the European council, and holding the chair at the G8 made her only the second woman to do so after Margaret Thatcher. Her methodical, risk avoidance methods and her attention to the needs of the country despite receiving flak from other world leaders, helped her triumph over the Economic crisis and helped her secure a historic win for the third term as the longest serving female government head. After crisis struck, euro zone country governments implemented drastic changes to stabilize their economy, but Germany is one such country where standards of living as well as job opportunities remained constant, and the country is moving towards prosperity, albeit slowly. Where all other governments have fallen due to their failure to dent the crisis, Angela broke the trend to move ahead with fortitude.
5. Tatyana McFadden
Perhaps one of the most inspiring people in the world, Tatyana McFadden suffered a horrible childhood and overcame it to become the world’s best Paralympics athlete. Abandoned at St Petersburg in Russia by her own parents, who did not want a disabled child, Tatyana, who was born with spina bifida which left her paralyzed below the waist, was sent to an orphanage, before being adopted at the age of 6 by the commissioner of disabilities for the United States health department, Debbie McFadden. When she arrived in the States, the doctors gave her only a few months to live,on account of severe anemia and malnutrition, but she survived. She won gold at the London Paralympics Games in 2012, in the Women’s T54 400m, 800m and 1500m events, she has won the women’s wheelchair division of 2013 Boston, London and Chicago marathon. She won gold in the women’s T54 400m, 800m and 1500m events as well as at the 2013 U.S Paralympics Track and Field National championships and the international Paralympic Committee athletics world championships, where additionally she got gold medals for 5000m event. When she won the Chicago marathon in October 2013 she set a world record for being the first person to win three major marathons in the same year. She also holds the record for being the first woman to win six medals in the same athletics world championships and her wheelchair course in the Chicago marathon as well as the women’s T54 800m event at the Athletics world championships are world records.
4. Dr. Odumakin
A Nigerian national, this human rights activist has helped better the lives of thousands of people in her country, using her education to fight for all. With more than twenty five years of experience in activism, she has been at the helm of several committees and has been to prison several times due to her open voice against the babangida dictatorship. Her considerable work against at least 2000 cases of women’s rights violations, for women empowerment and for public awareness has led to her being awarded such as “Hero of Democracy and Good Governance”, by the United Actions of Youth Nigeria, the Development Issues Initiatives Association and the National Association Of Women Journalists (NAWOJ). More recently, she was presented with the eminent international gold award by the first eminent associated for her heroism in 2013.
3. Esther Gatuma
Called little rock woman, Esther who lives in little rock, started an organization called Woman of Paradise, which aims to empower the fairer sex and to eliminate the terrible and extremely dangerous practice of female genital mutilation, prevalent in Kenya. With no benefits whatsoever, this practice of female circumcision which dates back centuries, is done for cultural and religious reasons and is known to raise the price of a bride. Done without proper supervision or sterile equipment, this has led to the death of several young women due to infections and hemorrhages. The nonprofit organization is trying to provide education to these families and help them make better choices. Extending her work, she created an inspiring video with the support of several humanitarians emphasizing on the importance of a peaceful election process in Kenya in March 2013, unlike the violent event in 2008.
2. Claudia Pazy Paz
She was one of the top contenders for the Nobel peace prize this year and although she didn’t win it, she won people’s respect and support for her superhuman efforts for justice as the first female attorney general of Guatemala. Guatemala is believed to be one of the most violent countries in Latin America, and since her assuming office in 2010, she has been campaigning against political corruption and has taken a strong stand to get people responsible for human rights violations, running drug trades, gender based violations and gang related murders to justice. Fighting against organized crime, she has used her position to finally punish those responsible for the atrocities committed during Guatemala’s civil war in 1990-1996. Fearless and law abiding, she proved what true mettle can inspire in an ordinary human being
1. Malala Yousafzai
It is difficult to believe that this formidable personality is actually just a schoolgirl and has not become an adult yet. Being a young teenager she has attempted to achieve what most of us would fear to do; she fought against the Taliban. Fighting passionately since the tender age of 11 for girls to receive education, she was catapulted into fame in October 2012 when she was shot by the Taliban at point blank range at age 16. She survived, if only just after being treated in the U.K, and still continued with a renewed passion like a phoenix that rises from its ashes. Using her sudden fame she went on to address the united nations youth assembly in new York, met the queen at the Buckingham palace to talk about the importance of education and even went on to write a book, “I am Malala”, to bring to light the pathetic conditions in her hometown where Islamic extremists impose the sharia law to prevent girls from receiving education. She became the youngest ever person to be nominated for the Nobel peace prize this year and although she did not win it, her cause attained people’s attention and though she now resides in the U.K, the Malala fund to promote girls right to education in Pakistan is keeping her campaign alive.