5 inspiring women who are changing the world for the better

From women’s suffrage to equal parenting and representation in politics, International Women’s Day (IWD) has celebrated the social, cultural, economic and political achievements of women for more than 100 years. Increasingly, International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities. Here we give you 5 inspirational women who are reshaping the world for the better.

Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi is a political leader of the National League of Democracy in Burma. She spoke up against the brutal rule of dictator U Ne Win and initiated a nonviolent move towards achieving democracy and human rights. Her nonviolent approach was influenced by her Buddhist beliefs. She was held under house arrest by the government for 15 years during the period 1989 till 2010.

She was also the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won a landslide victory in the 8 November 2015 general elections. However, she is barred from becoming president because of the constitution’s article 59 (f), which says anyone with a foreign spouse or children cannot hold the executive office. Despite this negotiations on changing the constitution are taking place and it is hoped she will take office at the end of March.

Oprah Winfrey

With a net worth of more than $1 billion, an Academy Award nomination, a hit television show, a successful magazine (O, The Oprah Magazine) and a cable channel (Oxygen Media), there seems to be little else that Winfrey can do to add to her status as an international media phenomenon.

Winfrey is also a vocal advocate for the education and well-being of women and children around the world, giving to those in need via Oprah's Angel Network and her personal charity, the Oprah Winfrey Foundation.

Hillary Clinton

As First Lady of the United States, a US Senator, and a hugely popular candidate for President of the US, Hillary Clinton has been a trail blazer for women in politics. Having come closer to being nominated for President by a major party than any woman before her, Clinton has encouraged women to join the political process and pursue their dreams.

Whether you’re her biggest fan or her staunchest critic, Hillary Clinton is probably the most recognised woman in world politics. As her husband’s second term as President drew to a close, Hillary succeeded in being elected US Senator from the state of New York, making her the first ‘First Lady’ in US history to run for (and win) an elected office.

J.K Rowling

Not counting the Bible, Harry Potter has reached more people than any other book series in hisory. Her books have sold more than 450 million copies. The next highest series is "Lord of the Rings," by J.R.R. Tolkien, at a comparably paltry 150 million copies. She wrote the first book as a single Mother, struggling to make ends meet, but is now one of most successful self-made women in history.

Malala Yousafzai

As a young girl, Malala Yousafzai defied the Taliban in Pakistan and demanded that girls be allowed to receive an education. She was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman in 2012, but survived. In October 2014, Yousafzai received the Nobel Peace Prize, along with Indian children's rights activist Kailash Satyarthi. At age 17, she became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

In congratulating Yousafzai, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said: “She is the pride of Pakistan, she has made her countrymen proud.” For her 18th birthday on July 12, 2015, also called Malala Day, the young activist continued to take action on global education by opening a school for Syrian refugee girls in Lebanon. The school was designed to admit nearly 200 girls from the ages of 14 to 18.

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© November 2015 Updated by Andrew Phillips.

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