International Women's Day: Kickass female role models we need on our radar
It's International Women's Day on the 8th March, so we've been taking a look at some of the many kickass female role models our children should know about: from popstars to activists, politicians to athletes, there's so many amazing women, past and present, to admire.
While many of us are most familiar with Emma Watson as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter movies, she's actually grown up to become one of the generation's most prolific voices of feminism, as well as a Goodwill Ambassador and a huge advocate for women's educational rights and says, "Feminism is not a stick with which to beat other women with. It's about freedom. It's about liberation. It's about equality." We love you, Emma.
Beth Mead OBE
Not only did 25-year-old Beth Mead play a pivotal part in England's Euro 2022 victory last summer, but she also does tons for supporting women when it comes to reaching their own football potential in a male-dominated profession. In 2022 she launched the Beth Mead Scholarship to support dual career students who have the potential to reach professional, national or international level within women’s football, and each of the Beth Mead scholars receive a bursary of £1,200, as well as bespoke sport science support to help them unlock their full potential. She also joined #WePlayStrong, a social media campaign by UEFA launched in 2017, to help increase participation levels among 13-17 year-old girls by shifting perceptions of women’s football. Her commitment to raising awareness for women's football doesn't end there either: In August 2022 she launched the Trainline 'Tenner off Match Day' initiative offering fans £10 off rail travel when travelling to WSL fixtures, and a month later Mead became McDonald's Fun Football ambassador, which aims to give every child, from every background, gender and ability, the opportunity to enjoy football for free. Beth Mead IS a literal kick-ass female.
Malala is a 24-year-old Pakistani activist who survived an attempt on her life by the Taliban when she was just 15. Since then she has gone on to study philosophy, politics and economics at University of Oxford, set up the Malala Fund, which is focused on challenging systems, policies and practices so all girls, no matter where they are in the world, can access 12 years of free, safe, quality education. She's also the youngest Nobel Prize laureate: a kickass role model of a woman if ever there was one.
Who only knows what life would be like for equal rights today if it wasn't for Emmeline Pankhurst and the Suffragettes taking a stand for all women in the late 19th and early 20th century. She initially became involved in women's suffrage in 1880 and formed the Women's Social & Political Union (WSPU) when her local branch of the Independent Labour Party refused to admit women members, and by 1928 women were finally allowed to vote. Equal rights still have plenty way to go, but Emmeline Pankhurst was certainly a trailblazer who made a huge difference for all women in the UK.
Sylvia might have sadly passed away back in 1963, but she remains a great example of a brave and bold woman who was not afraid to put her semi-autobiographical battle with depression, a taboo subject in the day, into the world for generations to come to read, understand and empathise with.
Driven, talented, intelligent and awesome, Beyonce is a modern girl who manages to juggle the pressures of being a wife and mum alongside her rather successful career in the pop world. On top of that she set up BeyGood, which provides school supplies for underfunded schools, as well as regularly speaking out on gender equality, body positivity and environmental awareness. We would very much like to be her friend...
Coretta Scott King
Although most well known for being married to Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta dedicated much of her life to women's equality. She helped found NOW (National Organization for Women) back in 1966, an organisation devoted to achieving full equality for women through education and litigation, and she also became the first woman to deliver the class day address at Harvard.
The fact that actress Emma Thompson dedicated her first Best Actress Oscar in 1993 to "the heroism and the courage of women..." speaks volumes about why she makes a fantastic role model for women. She's also a patron of the Refugee Council and the Tim Parry Johnathon Ball Foundation for Peace, as well as an ambassador for the Helen Bamber Foundation, an organisation that offers therapeutic treatment to those traumatised by violence and abuse.
We might not be American, but that doesn't stop us having huge respect for Michelle Obama who uses her position as one of the most famous women on the planet to help projects around the world including anti-obesity initiatives and equal education rights for women. When she wasn't busy being First Lady, she launched Let Girls Learn, a U.S. government-wide initiative to help girls around the world go to school and stay in school, and just to add to her fab she's also a lawyer and a writer. Also, she never, ever seems to have a hair out of place: Michelle, we love you!
Ellie Simmonds OBE
Not only does Ellie Simmonds have a smile that lights up a room, but this British Paralympian swimmer has four Paralympic gold medals and 10 world records to her name - as well as an OBE! It's no surprise that she was named BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year in 2008 at just 14-years-old, which was also the same year she won her first gold medal. Mega kickass.
Greta Thunberg is the Swedish teenager who skipped school (no, kids, that bit we don't advocate!) and inspired an international movement to fight climate change. She has become a leading voice, inspiring millions to join protests around the world, and at just 19-years-old has been credited with shifting people’s views and behaviours regarding climate change, an influence that has become known as “the Greta effect”. This is one teenager not afraid to speak out on what she believes in.
Okay, so we might not have totally gotten over the whole Brad - Ange - Jen thing, but given her extensive work as a UN diplomat, actress and philanthropist, plus her public bravery in 2013 when she chose to share her double-mastectomy story, Angelina is definitely a role model worthy of mention.
This Taiwanese President, who has a PhD in Law from the London School of Economics and Political Science, became the first female presidential candidate in Taiwan in 2012, and four years later went on to become the first female president in its history. Recently she has been globally praised for her handling of the coronavirus crisis: Taiwan went without a locally transmitted Covid-19 case for 255 days — a world record — between April 12 to December 22 2020. She was also responsible, despite a ton of opposition (grrr), for Taiwan passing the vote for same-sex marriage, the first country in Asia to do so.
Nicola Adams OBE
A pillar of determination and strength, Nicola Adams OBE is a British former professional boxer who retired with an undefeated record and held the WBO female flyweight title in 2019. She was the first female boxer to win an Olympic title and she says, “I had no female boxers to look up to when I was younger, all my idols were men. My message to women is to never be scared — if you don’t take risks, you’ll never achieve anything.” If that's not a great bit of advice for International Women's Day, then we don't know what is.
One of the world’s greatest poets, Maya Angelou may have passed away in 2014, but she was definitely one of the most important female role models of her time. In her own quietly powerful way, this American author, actress, screenwriter, dancer and civil rights activist managed to change a generation's perceptions on black women, and made literary history as the first African American woman to publish a nonfiction bestseller, 'I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings', a harrowing but essential read on her own experiences with sexual trauma as a child.
Dr. Elizabeth Garrett Anderson
Dr. Elizabeth Garrett Anderson was the first female surgeon and physician in the UK, but that wasn't enough for this amazing woman. She also went on to become the first female medical doctor in France, the first woman to be a dean of a British medical school, the first British female mayor, and a co-founder of a hospital staffed by women. It might be over 100 years since she died, but women in the medical profession have her to thank for paving a much easier path than the one she campaigned for all those years ago. In fact, she was instrumental in the 1876 act passed on which meant that women were finally being allowed to enter medical professions. Woohoo for her!
Continuing a search back in the history books, and turning our mind to another inspirational woman, Harriet Tubman was an American abolitionist and political activist who herself escaped slavery in 1849. She then went on to rescue around 70 other enslaved people, including family and friends, using the network of antislavery activists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad.
A trailblazer for transgender women, Janet Mock has used her career as a journalist to advocate for trans rights. She's strived hard to change minds about what it means to be trans, and launched the #GirlsLikeUs social media campaign to create a space online “by and for trans women.” Her first novel “Redefining Realness,” which is a biographical account of her teenage transition, paints a picture of hope for trans youth, but also keeps it real about the tough time trans people still face on a day-to-day basis. Definitely a woman to be admired by ourselves and our children.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Not only was Ruth a kickass U.S. Supreme Court Justice, only the second woman ever to be appointed to the position, but she was responsible for the historic decision in 1996 that made it illegal for the military to deny women into its ranks. She also helped legalise same-sex marriage in all 50 U.S. states, co-founded the Women's Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and campaigned her whole life to make sure women's voices were heard in law. She also said, "Women will only have true equality when men share with them the responsibility of bringing up the next generation." Totally. On. Board. With. That.
Born in June 1990, Laxmi is the survivor of an acid attack in New Delhi, which happened when she was just 15, and all because she turned down the advances of a 32-year-old man. Since her attack she has worked tirelessly to raise awareness in the surge of acid attacks happening in India, and campaigned successfully for central and state governments to regulate the sale of acid. She also helps other acid attack survivors, and in 2019 was honoured with an International Women Empowerment Award by UNICEF, and received the International Women of Courage Award from Michelle Obama in 2014.
Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna
These two kickass ladies come as a pair here as they were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2020 “for the development of a method for genome editing.” Known as CRISPR/Cas9, their research enables scientists to change the DNA of animals, plants and microorganisms which might in the future help to cure intractable diseases, viral illnesses and genetic conditions.
If you can do read Jazz's insightful read, 'Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen' which is the
memoir of how she's been bullied, discriminated against and rejected while on her journey to becoming her true self, and how mainstream attitude has been changing towards the transgender community. She's amazing.
Like this read? Here's some more by London for Kidz that you might find useful:
Tips for managing your child's mental health
Ways we can be more eco-friendly as a family
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