The 8th of March has been observed since the early 1900s as International Women’s day. There are incredible women all over the world partaking in wonderful initiatives to better the world; we take a look at a few influential women that inspire us.

In 2012, 15-year-old Malala protested to demand that young girls be allowed to receive education in Pakistan. For her activism, she received death threats and was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman while travelling home from school. She recovered and continued to speak out and campaign for the importance of education for young girls. In 2014 she went on to receive the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize at the age of 17, making her the youngest winner ever.

She has since published her first book, I Am Malala. She joined forces with her father to establish the Malala Fund, which is devoted to empowering women of all ages and nationalities through education. Her organisation focuses on areas of the world where women and girls are struggling to get basic education. She also strives to create environments that are safe for women to seek educational opportunities. This brave young woman is a beacon of hope for the young girls of Pakistan. Her strong, passionate stance on education and her consistent fight for this basic human right is inspiring and makes her one of the world’s most powerful voices of her generation.

“One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world”. - Malala Yousafzai

At the tender age of 16, Sibulele, lost both her parents to HIV. Having gone through a turbulent childhood, as a young adult she started working with the social activism organisation, LoveLife, where she started her movement towards educating young women and children about HIV and AIDS. Since then she has spoken on global stages and started her foundation the Sibulele Sibaca Foundation to support and educate young girls and women. She has partnered with the United Nations Girl Up Club, and many other sponsors and non-profit organisations to educate and empower girls. 

Her aim is to make these girls she works with economically and financially free. She does this by hosting events in schools all over the country, teaching young women about sexual and reproductive health services and their rights. As a motivational speaker, she also travels the world to talk to people from all walks of life about the challenges she faced and works together with communities to prevent HIV.

Sibu believes that had she had access to these facilities and information, things could’ve been easier for her growing up. The work she does comes from a place in her heart that deeply understands the struggles and hardships of living with HIV. She has an enormous passion for women’s issues and is motivated to change the face of HIV city-by-city and country-by-country.

“People often ask me why I am so sure that I am going to succeed despite what has happened to me? And my answer always is ‘because when I was born I had a purpose to fulfill, a role to play on the stage called life“.

We all know and love her as the celebrated TV talk show host, and one of the wealthiest women in the world. Oprah Winfrey left her talk show after 25 years of being on the air and moved on to bigger and greater things in the entertainment industry. With the astronomical influence she acquired, Oprah started a number of humanitarian projects and philanthropy organisations that help better the lives of others all over the world. Oprah has donated millions of dollars to various charities and organisations, with most of her money going to three foundations: The Angel Network, The Oprah Winfrey Foundation and the Oprah Winfrey Operating Foundation.

One huge example of the projects that she works with directly is the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, right here in South Africa. It’s been more than 10 years since Oprah established OWLAG(Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy For Girls) with the philosophy of leadership development in girls, integrated into academic and social activities. The spirit of Ubuntu is central to Oprah’s mission, her students are taught to harness their leadership skills to serve and inspire those around them and build a generation of dynamic women leaders. 

The school’s mission is to provide a nurturing educational environment for academically gifted girls who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. To date, 450 OWLAG graduates have attended colleges and universities around the world, and since opening in 2007 it has enriched the lives of 754 young women.

“When you educate a girl she takes what she learns back to her community. When you invest in a young woman you are investing in the future, not only of South Africa, but also of the world.” – Oprah Winfrey

Angelina Jolie is a famous actor and filmmaker, but she is also known for her passionate humanitarian work. In 2006 she and ex-husband Brad Pitt co-founded the Jolie Pitt Foundation to aid humanitarian causes around the world. They launched the charity by making two huge contributions of $1 million dollars each to the Global Action For Children organization, and Doctors Without Borders to help families in extreme poverty and those affected by HIV and AIDS.

After years of service as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations, she was appointed the envoy for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in 2012. Her work with refugees around Africa and the world is incomparable, working with charities focusing on protecting the interests and rights of orphaned and abandoned children. In 2012, Angelina cofounded the initiative with former Foreign Secretary Lord William Hague of Richmond to combat sexual violence in global conflict zones. 

Angelina has visited several refugee camps around the world including those in Syria, Jordan, Thailand, and Iraq, and has played a major role in finding solutions for people forced to flee their homes. We could all learn a thing or two from Angelina's charitable heart, she is a mom of 6 children, a businesswoman, and she still makes time to give back to those in need.

“I think we all want justice and equality, a chance for a life with meaning. All of us would like to believe that if we were in a bad situation, someone would help us.” – Angelina Jolie

On the 14th February 2018, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida USA, hit the headlines because of a mass shooting that occurred on the school premises where 23 students and teachers were shot and killed. Emma Gonzalez survived the attack and together with some of her school friends co-founded the gun-control advocacy group Never Again

She caught America’s attention when she gave a moving speech against gun violence that went viral worldwide on the 24th March 2018 at the March Of Our Lives Rally in Washington D.C. In her speech she named all that died at the shooting and paused for six minutes and 20 seconds, which is the time it took the shooter to kill 17 people and wound 15 more. The silence was significant in that it allowed the crowd to truly understand and imagine the terror that must have occurred during the shooting. She finished her speech saying “Fight for your lives before it’s someone else’s job’. 

She has continued to be an outspoken activist for gun control in America, making high profile media appearances, organising marches and challenging politicians and the NRA (National Rifle Association) on their policies for stricter gun laws. She ’s fresh out of high school yet Emma Gonzalez has taken on a mammoth task to help prevent further school shootings. She is a brave young woman for standing up for what she believes in.

“To young women who are growing up in an era of female empowerment, it is important to remember that quote from Eleanor Roosevelt: ‘No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.’ Many people in this world are not raised to understand the concept of consent, in all walks of life, and it’s important that abusers of consent not be treated as victims when they are rightfully exposed”

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