Here at BUST, we don’t need one specific day to celebrate the beyond impressive accomplishments of women across the world, but when the opportunity to party over lady power even harder than usual presents itself, we never say no. This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is “Make it Happen,” so we’ve rounded up a list of our favorite gals who’ve done and are doing just that all across the globe. Warning: this list will inspire major bouts of girl-power giddiness.
Amal Clooney (née Alamuddin)
We all remember George Clooney being arrested during a protest for aid at the Sudanese Embassy, but Amal Clooney, his Lebanese-British partner in crime, is a way bigger deal. Clooney is a London-based lawyer who spent most of her 2014 advocating for LGBT rights in Egypt. She was successful in freeing three journalists. Just recently, she spent time arguing against a Turkish politician who denied that the genocide of 1.5 million people ever happened. Although she catches a lot of attention for her humor and fashion, this woman is kicking-ass when it comes to representing in court.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This Nigerian author and bona fide MacArthur Genius has been garnering accolades for years--and for good reason. Her most recent novel, Americanah, won both the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and The Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize for Fiction. She’s sought after for speaking engagements by nearly every college campus across the U.S. (and the world). Thanks to her stellar TEDx Talk, “We Should All Be Feminists” (which was recently adapted in book form), she’s shining a much needed light on the real meaning of feminism and intersectionality.
Recipient of nearly every type of fellowship under the sun—the Guggenheim and Fulbright, just to name two—this badass writer is best known for her incredible novel The Interpreter. However, we’re most impressed with Kim’s most recent work, Without You, There is No Us. This lady got a job teaching nineteen-year-old sons of North Korea’s ruling class, living on their university campus and eating meals with them—and then wrote a book about it. It provides incredible insight into the world’s most secretive and infamous civilization, and we gotta say, it took a hell of a lot of guts to do.
Coretta Scott King
Coretta Scott King sacrificed her dream of becoming as classical singer in order to give her full devotion to the Civil Rights Movement. After the death of her ubiquitously known husband, she stepped up to be one of the main leaders of the heavily male-dominated movement. She criticized its sexism in January 1966 in New Lady magazine: "By and large, men have formed the leadership in the civil rights struggle but...women have been the backbone of the whole civil rights movement." Despite that sexism, Scott King became an advocate for her husband’s legacy, ensuring that he would be remembered. She went on to be a huge advocate for women’s rights and LGBT rights, standing up against homophobic black pastors who criticized her. She died at 78 with one of the grandest funerals, visited by four presidents and future president Barack Obama.
There have been many women who’ve sacrificed so much for the sake of worldwide civil rights, including their own lives. We want to take a moment to pay homage to the late female human rights lawyer Samira al-Nuaimi.
Al-Nuaimi was executed unjustly by a firing squad of Islamic Extremists earlier in September, but we remember her for her legal work, so much of which was pro-bono. In the Middle East, professional and educated women are often targeted by extremists for their failure to submit to militants. When al-Nuaimi denounced Isis’ destruction of religious sights, she was tried on the grounds of “abandoning Islam,” kidnapped, and tortured. However, we won’t forget that this amazing, intelligent woman defended political and underprivileged prisoners free of charge in Iraq.
Last but not least, we want to talk about the Internet’s favorite feminist (because we always do). It’s unfortunate that only a handful of women of color seem to make it into the ‘canon’ of feminist discourse, but thankfully Haitian-American writer and professor Roxane Gay has transcended that boundary. Gay’s work is a beautiful intersection of race, class, gender, sexuality, and international consciousness. Her collection of essays Bad Feminist is a powerful commentary on how feminist discourse has changed in the 21st century and how we are often hyper judgmental of our fellow feminists. Because yes, feminists can enjoy twerking (if we’re able), listening to old school Lil’ Kim, and reading bell hooks at the same time. Rarely are we encouraged to find our own way by asking questions about what feminism means and how we as women fit into the ideology while maintaining our own identities. Gay is proving that she is not only the feminist that we need, but the feminist we deserve. Her upcoming memoir Hunger will be published by Harper Collins in 2016 and we can’t wait to get our hands on it.
Since we don’t have time to include everyone we're obsessed with, it’s your turn, BUSTies: who are you favorite lady leaders?
Written with assistance from Princess Weekes and Madison Nunes.
Image c/o International Women's Day