As 2022 draws to a close I wanted to end the year on a positive note. There is still a long way to go for women’s rights but globally there have been many wins this year. So, to fuel another year of activism in 2023 I wanted to highlight 12 inspiring stories of women around the world for the 12 days of Christmas. It’s individuals like these women and like you who change the world, they stood up for what they believe in and are making huge positive impacts and you can too.
1. To start the countdown are the protesters in Iran. This is not a positive start yet as protests remain inconclusive, but I cannot write a list of inspirational feminists and ignore these incredible people. These widespread protests started following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in custody after being arrested by Iran’s morality police in Tehran for allegedly violating the laws that require women to cover their heads with a headscarf or hijab. In response national and international protests have erupted with women in Iran risking their lives by removing their hijabs and cutting their hair in public and all protestors being subjected to tear gas, shooting, beating and sentencing to death. It is important to recognise that they are not only advocating to change the oppressive laws governing how women dress but to overthrow the entire oppressive regime.
2. Chief Theresa Kachindamoto- is the first female Ngoni chief of Dedza, Malawi. Child marriage is still a prominent issue in many African countries but in Malawi, Chief Theresa Kachindamoto, has managed to end 850 years of child marriage in only 20 years. It was a tradition for girls as young as 10 to be sent to camps where they were taught how to please a man, when they graduate, they are preyed on by older men. She found her calling after witnessing a 15-year-old girl trying to stop her baby from crying during her coronation ceremony. This was the moment she knew what she wanted to do with her newfound power. She remained strong in her aims and managed to gain support from her fellow leaders early on, they agreed to enact bylaws with consequences for perpetrators and education campaigns alongside. There was resistance from many citizens rebuking her for destroying traditions but her and the elders stood firm. They also fund education for female students who can’t afford it and have enforcement teams to ensure families keep their girls in school. Now the success of her change has drawn a lot of attention worldwide with leaders in other areas reaching out to learn about her policies and to implement similar ones. Since her adoption of the role the new rules are estimated to have saved more than 3000 girls from the initiation camps and sexual abuse.
3. Chanel Contos- is a Sexual consent activist, in Australia, who Founded the movement: 'Teach Us Consent’, which lobbies for consent and sexuality education. She launched a petition calling for earlier consent education before founding the movement. Because of her campaign, from 2023 consent education will be mandatory in all schools from year 1 (primary school) until year 11 (secondary school). The campaign has now moved to advocate for the criminalisation of the act of ‘stealthing’ (non-consensual condom removal) as well as educating about it.
4. Kimiko Hirata- is a Climate campaigner and a fierce opponent of coal power. She has been fighting for years to eliminate Japan’s dependency on fossil fuel, in particular coal. Her campaign led to 17 planned coal power plants being cancelled, resulting in her being the first Japanese woman to win the Goldman Environmental Prize. In January 2022 the independent organisation ‘Climate Integrate’ was founded, she is now the executive director. This organisation is working to tackle decarbonisation.
5. Dima Aktaa- is a runner and Syrian refugee, she is training to compete in the 2024 Paralympics as an amputee. Dima lost her leg in 2012 after her house was bombed in Syria and was told she would never walk again. After fleeing to the UK she began raising money so she could afford a specialised prosthetic leg to not only walk but run again. And now she is training to compete in the 2024 Paralympics. She is now recognised as a member of the Lionhearts, England’s alternative football team. She continues to raise awareness through social media of the strength of people with disabilities.
6. Sandy Cabrera- is a reproductive rights advocate in Arteaga, Honduras, she works for Acción Joven (Translation: Youth Action) which focuses on young peoples’ human, sexual and reproductive rights. She is also a spokesperson for an educational campaign/digital platform about emergency contraception-‘Hablemos lo que es’ (Translation: Let’s talk about what it is) and teaches about the morning-after pill. Honduras maintains strict anti-abortion laws with women having low reproductive autonomy. So, her work is not only fundamental but also very dangerous as she is fighting against embedded social and traditional norms.
7. The all-female Referee team in the 2022 world cup (disclaimer: in this list the world cup is treated as a separate entity from the host country Qatar that maintains oppressive laws that control women’s rights) The tournament is heavily male dominated in all aspects but this year Stephanie Frappart was the first female official at a men’s world cup, she officiated the game between Mexico and Poland. In the same week she was joined by assistant referees Neuza Back and Karen Diaz Medina to form the first all-female on field referee team to officiate the game between Costa Rica and Germany. It took 92 years but this is a positive step for women’s involvement and representation in this male dominated environment.
8. Sarah Chan- is the first female manager of scouting in Africa for the NBA’s Toronto Raptors. She was a professional basketball player and now mentors all over Africa, using sport to educate young people. When she was a child her and her family fled war in Sudan moving to Kenya. She managed to get a basketball scholarship to Union University in Jackson, Tennessee and played professionally in Europe and Africa. She has since founded the NGO: ‘Home At Home/Apediet Foundation’, that combats child marriages, advocates for education, and uses sports to educate young people.
9. Samrawit Fikru- is a young programmer. She founded Hybrid designs, one of the companies behind the taxi app RIDE in Ethiopia. She identified problems involved with a lack of public transport and how unsafe taxis felt for her and her friends, transport home was very limited and taxi drivers would charge extra, often haggling with passengers. So, despite only being introduced to computers at 17, Samrawit created the app, starting on less than £1,700. She went on to employ mainly female staff in attempt to inspire a new generation of women to enter the male dominated tech industry in Ethiopia. The app now employs more than 1,300 drivers and has over 50,000 downloads.
10. Gehad Hamdy- founded and currently manages a feminist initiative in Egypt called ‘Speak Up’ which shines a spotlight on perpetrators of sexual harassment and gender-based violence using social media which has helped bring a series of violent crimes against women in 2022 into focus. The initiative encourages women to speak up when they experience abuse and it also provides emotional as well as legal support. The initiative also aims to pressurise the government into acting. Their mottos is “Girls Support Girls” and they have attracted more than 97,000 followers on Instagram and over 250,000 on Facebook.
11. Asonele Kotu- founded ‘FemConnect’, a start-up in South Africa providing technology solutions aiming to alleviate period poverty and reduce unwanted teenage pregnancies. It allows users to access reproductive and sexual telemedicine such as contraceptives and feminine hygiene products the same way as ordering food online, without stigma and discrimination. This idea originated when she couldn’t find anyone to remove her contraceptive implant. She is passionate about improving access to quality healthcare, especially for marginalised people as well as the eradication of period poverty.
12. Gemma and Maya Tutton– the founders of Our Streets Now along with the rest of their team! Of course, I couldn’t write a list about inspirational women without including them! Their orgaisation started with a conversation between two sisters about how PSH restricts their lives, they decided they weren’t going to put up with it and formed a now national movement creating significant waves. They use various social media platforms to promote education and legislation campaigns.
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Madeline Trudgian (She/Her)
Politics and international relations student at the University of Nottingham, intersectional feminist and blog writer for Our Streets Now. Passionate about women's education globally as a powerful tool to dismantle the patriarchy.