This year so far has been a triumphant one for women all over the world. We continue to push boundaries, to go further, to speak up, and to get sh*t done. Naming just eighteen inspirational women is hard enough, when there are heroes amongst us every day, demanding change, speaking up, and pushing themselves to new heights.
This year was the year of the woman. The year we stood together, we raised our voices, and we accepted each other as we are. These are the women who inspired us this year. The women who reminded us that we are all in this together and that we are stronger than we’d ever thought possible…
Emma Gonzales’s speech against gun violence propelled her into the spotlight this year. As a survivor of the Stoneman Douglas High School Shooting, she co-founded the gun-control advocacy group Never Again MSD.
Standing in front of crowds of people, her emotional speech garnered support from all over the world. She has made many media appearances and organized the March for Our Lives. Speaking out and supporting something she believes in 100%, despite those who go against her and who publically tear her down, that’s brave and inspiring – no matter if you support her views or not.
Dame Tessa Jowell
Dame Tessa Jowell was a British MP. She had done a lot in her life, but the defining moment of this year was her speech at Parliament on the type of brain tumor she had been diagnosed with, the prognosis, and the lack of funding and research available to her. She died shortly after the speech but received a rare standing ovation for it. She wanted to improve the survival statistics of people diagnosed with the type of cancer that she had, and her passionate speech inspired people and raised awareness.
“In the end, what gives a life meaning is not only how it is lived, but how it draws to a close. I hope this debate will give hope to other cancer patients like me. So that we can live well with cancer, not just be dying of it.”
Loujain Al-Hathloul was arrested and detained for 73 days after an attempt to cross the border in her car from the UAE to Saudi Arabia. She was arrested on charges related to defying the female driving ban. In 2017 she was arrested again, after signing a petition to ask for the male guardianship system to be abolished.
On the 15 May 2018, she was detained again after campaigning for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia. Yet, she continues to stand up for what she believes in. To campaign for the right to drive, to live, to exist equally, despite the multiple threats to her freedom. She is facing 20 years in prison.
Oprah continues to use her voice for good, this year was the year of her powerful speech after accepting the Cecile B. Demille award. Her speech was perfect, it was executed beautifully and, with the sentiments behind the #metoo campaign fresh in everybody’s mind, Oprah hit the point home about creating a better future for our children, about learning from these events, about the strength of abused women and men, and about working together for the greater good.
Serena Williams has had a crazy year this year. She was criticized for the outfit she wore to play tennis, with the outfit being banned shortly after, she fought against sexism not only after the birth of her baby but during her play time on the courts. Her ranking was affected while she was on maternity leave, she went from No.1 ranking to No. 451. And yet, Serena shows us the power of dedication. The power of showing up, standing up, and speaking up for what you believe in. She showed that strength after the birth of her baby when she argued with the medical professionals, knowing something wasn’t right, knowing she was prone to blood clots and that she needed medication.
She showed it again when she was accused of coaching during a game. She speaks up, she is unafraid to speak her mind, and she will fight against adversity to claim that number 1 spot.
Malala Yousafzai continues to do the great work she started out with when she was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman in retaliation for speaking out and defending education of girls and women. Since then she has started the Malala Fund and continues to campaign for better living standards and educational standards for women and girls all over the world.
This year, she partnered with Apple with the initial goal of getting 100,000 girls into education in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon, Turkey and Nigeria. This has since expanded to Latin America, awarding grants and sponsorships to help fund school systems and educate more girls than ever before.
Meghan Markle always inspired women. At the forefront of a media storm, Meghan’s marriage to Prince Harry has been talked about in the press for months. Meghan has since announced that she is pregnant, but what’s truly inspiring is how she showed up, joined the Royal Family with poise and grace and has shown kindness and class in everything she’s done. A feminist and campaigner for equality, the things she does and the way she treats fans always shows class and decorum.
Meghan stood alone on the steps before her wedding, happily linked arms with Prince Charles and introduced the world to her elegant, humble mother, who sat alone and shed a tear or two of pride for her daughter. Meghan will continue to work towards causes she cares about and highlight issues that mean something to her, using her position to make a change and a difference.
Janelle Monae wears a lot of hats. She’s a singer, songwriter, rapper, actress, and model. She is an activist, and she works damn hard to be as good as she is at everything. Janelle wants to inspire LBGTQ+ groups with her music, allowing them to feel included in the music she creates. She is also open about her struggles growing up and shows us that with hard work anything is possible.
“I was born in Kansas City, Kansas, and I was born in one of the poorest counties — Wyandotte County. Growing up there, my resources were pretty limited, even at school. I always had to work hard. I always had to get a job. My parents were working and I was working. I was helping pay bills. I was getting consumed with grown-up things at such a young age. I was using my money from talent shows to help pay the light bills, just contributing what I could.”
There was a time when being a pop princess meant nothing more than being a manufactured part in a machine. Dua Lipa is certainly not that. Her studio albums smashed records, her YouTube video made history with one billion views.
Besides her music career, she also founded the Sunny Hill foundation to donate to the citizens of Kosovo, where her parents are originally from. She brings a new brand of feminism to multiple generations of women and is not afraid to write songs about the issues of modern women.
Tammy Duckworth is an American politician and former U.S Army, lieutenant colonel. She was the first Asian American woman elected to Congress in Illinois and the first disabled woman to be elected to Congress. She suffered severe wounds that caused her to lose both of her legs and some mobility in her right arm.
She made history this year by bringing her baby to the Senate floor following a rule change that allowed new mothers to bring a child under 1-year-old onto the Senate floor and breastfeed them during votes. A win for working mothers!
Cameron Russell proved this year that looks aren’t everything. Her TED talk, ‘Looks aren’t everything. Believe me, I’m a model.’ went viral at the time, and this year, she has further used her platform for positive change. She has used her Instagram account to highlight the sexism and abuse other models have faced, publishing their accounts anonymously, has spoken up and stood up for change and continually uses her platform to highlight the issues that matter.
Cecile Richards is a pro-choice activist who serves as the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. Her book, Make Trouble is all about standing up, speaking out, and having the power to lead.
She says: “I’m trying to talk to women about what it is they want to see in government and the political environment that’s not happening right now — affordable healthcare, equal pay, affordable childcare, good public schools.”
Dame Jane Morris Goodall DBE is considered to be the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees and is best known for her over 55-year study of wild chimpanzees. She works tirelessly for conservation and education on animals and has changed what we know about chimps and their behavior. She challenges our thoughts about the natural world.
In The Inner World of Farm Animals, Goodall writes that farm animals are “far more aware and intelligent than we ever imagined and, despite having been bred as domestic slaves, they are individual beings in their own right. As such, they deserve our respect. And our help. Who will plead for them if we are silent?”
You might know her best from The Handmaid’s Tale or Orange Is The New Black, an immensely talented actress, Samira won the Human Rights Campaign Visibility Award. Being openly gay, she is supported by her parents and inspires generations of women to be their very best, and truest selves. Her acting moves and inspires people, and her desire to live life to the fullest is infectious and inspiring for so many other women around the world.
“It’s interesting to me that tonight I am here receiving the visibility award…Over the past few years since my own public image has increased tenfold, I have been overwhelmed to witness the profound ways that I am able to make a difference simply by living my life openly and with love.”
Orla Doherty is the producer behind Blue Planet II. An average of 10.3 million people tuned in to see the depths of the ocean like never before, recorded with the technology we’d never used before. And it was breathtaking, and sad, and painted a picture of the world we’re in today. The final episode in the documentary was shocking. It showed animals feeding plastic to their babies, pollutants affecting animals and mountains of waste that affected the wildlife in devastating ways.
“The future of all life now depends on us,” David Attenborough said, as the camera showed the devastation we had caused to the wildlife. The message was clear, and thanks to Orla’s vision and commitment to showing the true impact humans have on the world around us, and after watching, many were inspired. With the plastic ban coming into effect, and fewer plastic bags being used, we are making steps in the right direction. This insightful documentary truly showed the modern ocean and helped inspire people to make changes now, before it’s too late.
Viola Davis is regarded as one of the greatest actresses of her generation. She is the first black actress to be nominated for three Academy Awards and is the only black woman to achieve the Triple Crown of Acting (an Oscar, an Emmy, and a Tony).
She is a proud supporter of the Civil Rights Movement, equal rights for women and women of color, and feminist movements. She uses her position to speak out about these issues, to raise awareness, and to unite women together. She has also been listed as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
Coming from Foster Care to being named one of the 100 most influential people of the world this year, Tiffany Haddish has gone far. The reason for her success is unashamedly her personality, and her Beyonce anecdotes, of course. She is herself, always, authentically, no matter what story might come out of her mouth, and she has worked hard in many roles to be where she is, fame was not handed to her. Her first role wasn’t lined up waiting for her either. She’s taken in, she wanted it, and she went out there and got it.
She shows us what can happen when you trust in yourself and aren’t afraid to just be yourself.
Sinéad Burke is an Irish writer, academic and broadcaster, popular for her TED talk on ‘Why design should include everyone’. This year, she wrote a piece as a British Vogue Contributing Editor explaining her own experiences of fashion, in it she says:
“I have Achondroplasia, the most common form of dwarfism – when standing, I reach the height of 3’5”, or 105.5cms. Though I worked as a primary school teacher through much of my twenties, I am now in the throes of a PhD and, over the past year, I have been embedded within the fashion industry, questioning the assumptions and the positioning of disabled people. My body is different to those that appear in campaigns and finding clothes that ensure I feel confident of my own beauty and self can be a challenge.”
She is speaking up about the lack of diversity in the fashion industry for physically disabled people. She is showing that no matter your background, no matter who you are, you can achieve anything you want.
Who would you add to this list? Let us know who inspired you this year in the comments box below…