In celebration of the 2018 International Women’s Day,  let’s take a moment to celebrate the achievements of 5 extraordinary, inspirational women who changed our way of seeing and being in the world.

While doing my research to curate this list, I quickly realized that white North American women are often the focus of our recognition. This list, then, is for some of the unsung heroes that don’t fit that profile.

In case you’re interested in digging deeper, check out the book by or about each of these inspirational women. Happy reading!


“Uniformity is not nature’s way; diversity is nature’s way.”



Photo credit: Paul Dunn

The daughter of a Himalayan forest conservator, Vandana Shiva is touted as a hero to anti-GMO activists everywhere. Activist, agro-ecologist, feminist and modern day revolutionary, Vandana Shiva is known for her work to protect the diversity of seeds and the rights of farmers as well as her unbridled opposition to multinational companies such as Monsanto in their efforts to control the world’s food systems.

Recommended reading by Vandana Shiva:
Who Really Feeds the World?: The Failures of Agribusiness and the Promise of Agroecology


“We realize the importance of our voices only when we are silenced.”



Photo credit: Antonio Olmos

Born in north-west Pakistan, Malala Yousafzai stood up to the Taliban and defended her right to an education. She was shot in the head by militants – and survived. She dedicates her life to speak out about the importance of education. In 2013, she gave a speech to the United Nations and published her first book, I Am Malala. She is the youngest laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Recommended reading by Malala Yousafzai:
I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban


“We have realized that change cannot come through war.”



Photo credit: Carlos Rodriguez

After surviving the Guatemalan civil war, which lasted 36 years, Rigoberta Menchu vividly recounted her experiences of injustice and hardships in a testimonial biography. She is best known for her ongoing commitment to Indigenous rights and her tenacious work pursuing genocide cases against current and former government officials. She won the Nobel Peace prize in 1992.

Recommended reading about Rigoberta Menchu:
I, Rigoberta Menchu: An Indian Woman in Guatemala


“Every great dream begins with a dreamer.”



Born into slavery, Harriet Tubman escaped in 1849 and became the most famous “conductor” on the Underground Railroad, leading hundreds of slaves to freedom. She subsequently served as a scout and a nurse for American Union forces and was paid so little that she had to support herself by selling homemade baked goods. After the Civil War Tubman became an active participant in the struggle for women’s suffrage.

Recommended reading about Harriet Tubman:
Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom


“No matter who or where we are, or what our capabilities, we are called to do the best we can.”



Born in Kenya in 1940, Wangari Maathai was the first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate degree. She was elected to Kenya’s National Assembly in 2002 and won the Nobel Peace Prize for her “holistic approach to sustainable development that embraces democracy, human rights, and women’s rights in particular.” She founded the Green Belt Movement, a community initiative that still today empowers women through environmental action.

Recommended reading about Wangari Maathai:
Unbowed: A Memoir


This list of inspirational women is by no means finished. Let’s keep it at the forefront of our days not only to be continually inspired, but so that we can add to it, too.

Who would you include in your list?


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