International Day of the Girl and women activists who inspire us

Oct 11, 2014 at 8:00 a.m. ET

Today is International Day of the Girl. Celebrate it by honouring the women who are making the world a better place to live for girls across the globe.


Photo courtesy of Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

The world might seemingly be progressing at a rapid rate, but we are still behind on too many things. To be honest, a new cellphone model comes out more frequently than laws being implemented to protect human rights across the globe. That's not very uplifting, is it?

Today is International Day of the Girl, the United Nations' response to the vast inequalities and injustices women and girls face every single day in the world. Today we are to recognize the accomplishments of female activists, celebrate our fellow women and discuss the prejudices many face on a regular basis. Today we have to talk about how we can improve the lives of these faceless women.

This initiative happens to roll in on the heels of the announcement that 17-year-old Pakistani women's rights activist Malala Yousafzai has received the Nobel Peace Prize, sharing it with children's rights advocate Kailash Satyarthi. Malala was shot in the head on her school bus two years ago for her outspoken views on women's right to education in the Taliban-occupied region of Swat Valley. She survived and continues to campaign for her incredible cause.

But Malala is an anomaly; many women and girls never get a chance to be heard or to be educated or to choose for themselves. What's worse, many of us don't even know the names of activists battling to improve the conditions for these women. So in honour of International Day of the Girl, here are just some of the female activists bettering the world for fellow women: 

1. Charlotte Bunch

Charlotte Bunch
Photo courtesy of Paul Hawthorne / Getty Images

American activist Charlotte Bunch is practically a legend. She lobbied for the U.N. to accept women's rights as a human rights issue and advocated for the creation of UN Women. The United Nations entity was finally formed in 2010 with the purpose of empowering women. Bunch was also inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1996.

2. Shae Invidiata

Shae Invidiata is a Canadian human rights activist, opposing human trafficking. She founded an organization called Free-Them, spreading awareness about prostitution and human trafficking.

3. Malalai Joya

Malalai Joya gained international recognition when, in her native Afghanistan, as an elected delegate to the Loya Jirga, she took to the podium and called out the felons among the delegates, who were expected to draw up an Afghan constitution. Her boldness sparked outrage, and she has since allegedly been a target of four assassination attempts. Joya has since reiterated her speech, accusing the government of being full of warlords who do not understand the Afghan people. She continues her activism, speaking on the behalf of oppressed women.

4. Leymah Gbowee

Leymah Gbowee
Photo courtesy of Pier Marco Tacca / Getty Images

Leymah Gbowee is a Liberian women's peace movement leader who helped bring an end to the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003. In Monrovia, the activist organized peaceful demonstrations against the war and violence against women, which attracted thousands. She received a Nobel Peace Prize in 2011.

5. Raheel Raza

Raheel Raza is an outspoken Canadian activist who speaks out about women's rights in the Muslim community. She led mixed-gender Muslim prayers in 2005 and received numerous death threats for it. She is noted for being a very liberal Muslim woman, promoting respect and acceptance of Canadian values.

6. Zainab Salbi

Zainab Saibi
Photo courtesy of D Dipasupil / FilmMagic / Getty Images

Zainab Salbi is an Iraqi-American women's rights activist who founded Women for Women International, an organization providing support to women survivors of war. She is currently said to be working on a documentary on the role of women during the Arab Revolutions.

7. Lubna al-Hussein

Lubna al-Hussein is a Sudanese journalist who gained international attention after being prosecuted for wearing trousers in 2009. al-Hussein was testing the law that prohibits "indecent clothing" in an attempt to bring attention to the prejudice against women. Despite not being sentenced to flogging or to serve jail time, al-Hussein still hopes to change the vague law for which she was arrested.

Which women inspire you?

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