It is a truth universally under-acknowledged, that a woman living in Earth’s Anthropocene must be in want of a free, fair and prosperous life.
A life which, in the face of untold consequences from the world’s matrix of interrelated crises, is becoming disproportionately blurrier.
That’s why female activists should be celebrated, not just because it’s Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, but because they are prominent arbiters of progress, pragmatism, equality, compassion and of change – against all odds.
However, rather than just celebrated, these pathfinders should be listened to, because in using their unique voices to inspire the world to imagine a better tomorrow, they are catalysing the social, psychological, political and existential metamorphoses required to manifest it.
Whether by advocating on behalf of other women, the environment, the silenced, or of society as a whole, they are transforming the brightness of the future from a mirage into a materiality.
Who are the women reinventing tomorrow?
There are of course a legion of women worldwide making a difference, and to try and distil female activism down to a discrete list of “Top 15” advocates would be an act that undermines the central mission of them all – nevermind impossible, there are a lot of incredible women doing incredible things.
But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t shine the spotlight on as many of them as we can.
Therefore, in celebration of International Women’s Day 2023, Women’s History Month, of women of the world, and of a better world in general, here’s a list of 15 individuals who are helping the caterpillars of our global society to look past the familiar yet flawed walls of their chrysalises, see the world in a different light and put that fresh perspective into action.
Hopefully before we all get squashed by the weight of the missteps of humanity.
Fierce 11-Year-Old Climate Activist
“Clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, and a clean planet to live in” are the urgent requests of Licypriya Kangujam, an outspoken young leader of India’s climate movement.
Advocating on behalf of the world’s children since she was just six, Licypriya has spoken at over 400 events in 32 countries (including the UN climate summit, COP27, last year), has helped establish pollution-curbing laws and mandatory climate change curricula in India, and is the founder of both The Licypriya Foundation and The Child Movement.
Her unique voice, wisdom and ambitions are exponentially bigger than those five times her age, whom she rightfully asks:
“If you don’t know how to fix the world, why do you continue to break it?”
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Illustrator and Social Visionary
In her own words, Florence Given is “Not Taking Anymore Sexist B*******,” and she implores women across the world to do the same.
As an artist, best-selling author and LGBTQ+ and women’s rights activist, Florence is attempting to use her feminist manifesto to redefine modern feminism and intersectionality, unite females across the world and encourage women to live on their own terms one graphic tee at a time, with some of her most famous lines being:
“Women Don’t Owe You Pretty”
“It’s A Wonderful Day to End Period Poverty”
“Refuse to Find Comfort in Other Women’s Flaws”
“Women Do Not Exist to Satisfy the Male Gaze”
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AI Ethicist and “Poet of Code”
From her MIT media research lab, Joy Buolamwini uncovered how systemic racial and gender bias is embedded into the facial recognition algorithms used by big tech companies, findings which later went on to inspire the Netflix documentary, “Coded Bias.”
She is an internationally acclaimed researcher, speaker, writer, artist and poet, and even presented her AI gender bias research as a spoken word poem titled, “AI, Ain’t I A Woman?“
She also sits on the European Commission’s Global Tech Panel, informing world leaders and tech giants on the threats of AI and how to safely navigate them.
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Luxury Fashion Designer With a Conscience
As the Creative Director of the luxury sustainable fashion brand, “Mother of Pearl,” Amy Powney is on a mission to weave circularity, environmentalism and transparency, through her own fashion house’s garments as well as the industry as a whole.
With the collections she has showcased at London and Copenhagen fashion weeks and sold at prestigious retailers like Net-a-Porter, Harrods, Saks Fifth Avenue and Goop, Amy celebrates individual expression in a way that accounts for social impact and doesn’t “cost the earth.”
Described by critics as a film that “every fashion lover – and every fashion brand – needs to see,” “Fashion Reimagined” (out in cinemas now) is a documentary which follows Amy’s design journey from “field to finished garment.”
“Half of me is ocean, half of me is sky storyteller”
At the UN climate summit (COP27) last year, Pakistani climate justice advocate and bold voice of the Global South, Ayisha Siddiqa, used poetry as a “quiet protest” against the lack of humanitarian aid directed to the floods in Pakistan, delivering a poignant verse to world leaders at the conference titled:
“So much about your sustainability, my people are dying.”
At just 24, Ayisha is the founder of “Polluters Out,” a global coalition that demands fossil fuel lobbyists get out of governments and UN climate summits, and “Free Fossil University,” a 12-week training course for young climate activists warning to make an impact. She has also launched her university’s own branch of the Extinction Rebellion movement.
Ayisha’s compelling activism and artistic expression hold polluters accountable and highlight the many connections between human rights issues and climate change.
She was also named one of TIME’s Women of the Year for 2023.
“I was raised with the idea that the Earth is a living being," Ayisha Siddiqa (@Ayishas12) says.
— TIME (@TIME) March 8, 2023
Samaneh Moafi & Sarah Nankivell
“Gold Mining and Violence in the Amazon Rainforest;”
“Sheikh Jarrah: Ethnic Cleansing in Jerusalem;”
“European Arms in The Bombing of Yemen;”
“Environmental Racism in Death Alley, Louisiana;”
“Herbicidal Warfare in Gaza,”
are just some of the harrowing digital spatial modelling investigations carried out by the research non-profit, Forensic Architecture.
Alongside founding director Eyal Weizman, assistant directors Sarah Nankivell & Samaneh Moafi lead interdisciplinary teams of photographers, researchers, architects, artists, filmmakers, legal experts, engineers and designers to expose human rights violations and environmental destruction at the hands of governments, police forces, militaries and corporations.
Their platform broadcasts the voices of victims unable to speak up against the violence and political injustices faced at the intersection of conflict, border regimes and corruption.
Journalist and Free Speech Fighter – “mainly in heels”
After working her way up from graduate trainee to bureau chief at Reuters, Ginsberg later became the head of the Index on Censorship, a non-profit that defends freedom of expression, and is now the President of the Committee to Protect Journalists, another independent non-profit which safeguards #pressfreedom worldwide and empowers journalists to report without fear of persecution.
Part of her Twitter bio reads: “Free speech: in principle, in practice, in person – and mainly in heels.”
Jodie is a globally acclaimed CEO, journalist and activist fighting for her fellow journalists’ safety from the global war on censorship that silences them.
Artist, Architect and Environmental Activist
In 2021 in New York City, there was a “Ghost Forest” of 49 dead Atlantic white cedar trees erected by artist and architect, Maya Lin, after they had suffered salt-water infiltration from the rising sea levels engulfing New Jersey’s coastal woodlands.
This is just one of many “science-based” installations of Maya’s “What is Missing?” project – an ongoing global exhibition or “multi-sited memorial” to raise awareness for the dual crises of biodiversity loss and climate change.
Environmentalism is in fact a leitmotif throughout all of Maya’s work, with which she inspires climate action, encourages emissions reduction, and promotes the preservation of the natural world for collective prosperity.
“Together we can save two birds with one tree,” says Maya.
Now Open: "One Life: Maya Lin," the first biographical exhibition of the architect, sculptor and environmentalist.
— National Portrait Gallery USA (@smithsoniannpg) September 30, 2022
Oscar-winning Producer for the Planet
Ellen Windemuth is an Oscar- and BAFTA-winning producer, entrepreneur and environmentalist using storytelling to protect the planet’s future.
As the CEO of the WaterBear Network, a free sustainability-focused streaming platform, Ellen wants to provide viewers with “captivating films and thought-provoking series that empower you to lead a meaningful life.”
Through non-profit directed documentaries, docuseries, stories and short films, Ellen and her team at WaterBear aim to inspire action in viewers in line with the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), using the screen as a means to connect people to the NGOs on the ground making a difference.
Ellen is also co-CEO of Off the Fence, the independent production company behind the critically acclaimed “My Octopus Teacher” and Pope Francis’ documentary on climate change, “The Letter: Laudato Si”
Catalyser of China’s #MeToo Movement
Also known by her pen name, “Xianzi,” Zhou Xiaoxuan is a Chinese screenwriter who reported she was assaulted by a colleague whilst she was an intern in 2014.
Despite reporting the incident to the police the very next day, Xianzi’s account has been rejected due to “insufficient evidence,” with her calls for support being met with criticism.
Xianzi, however, refuses to back down. She continues her fight – not just for herself – but for other women who’ve endured similar aggressions silently, and after amassing pockets of support throughout China, Xianzi’s story has sparked the country’s own #MeToo movement.
“I’m disappointed but it’s also somewhat expected,” Xianzi has said regarding the lack of support, but she also added:
“I won’t give up.”
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Alice Aedy & The Women of Earthrise
Telling “stories for a new world”
Earthrise Studio is a creative media studio run by a group of friends and climate activists, who together raise awareness for climate change through research, design and filmmaking.
Co-founded by Alice Aedy alongside twins, Finn and Jack Harries, and run by a team including Joi Lee, Isabella Noero, Beatriz Patarata, Violet Wilson, Chloe Puttock and Yasmin Jafar, the studio tells compelling “stories from the future that help us navigate the now.”
They report on the world’s most pressing issues including conflict, climate migration, fast fashion, Indigenous rights and much more, and even took their studio to the UN’s climate summit, COP27, last year, to spread an important message to their global audience:
“Another world is possible.”
“Another world is needed.”
“Another world is coming.”
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Guardian of the Amazon Rainforest
Many have criticised the former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, and 20-year-old Indigenous climate activist, Alice Pataxó, is one of them.
Pataxó is a journalism student, free speech advocate, ambassador of WWF Brazil, environmental conservationist, defender of the forest, and has been raising her voice to protect the territory, traditions and rights of her community – as well as those of the Indigenous Peoples across the entirety of Brazil – since she was 14.
“To speak of defence of the forest is also to defend the rights of human life, and of course, to denounce violations and threats to activists and traditional peoples.” – Alice Pataxó.
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Kimiko Hirata is the first Japanese woman in history to win the Goldman Environmental Prize, or “environmental Nobel Prize,” for her efforts in encouraging the Japanese government to help drive the phase out of fossil fuels and decarbonisation of Japan.
Through her Tokyo-based solution-oriented non-profit, Climate Integrate, Kimiko navigates the intersection of science, politics and society to help build a “peaceful society” through policy reform and climate action.
She has been attending the annual UN climate summits since COP3 (we’re now up to COP28, due to be held later this year in Dubai), and during this time has campaigned tirelessly against the construction of Japanese coal plants, succeeding in preventing the erection of 17 new coal plants so far.
Kimiko Hirata saw the need to shut down plans for coal plants & succeeded in Japan
The carbon impact of Hirata’s activism is the equivalent of taking 7.5 million passenger cars off the road every year for 40 years
— 𝕂𝕚𝕞 🐝 💙 (@ChaplainheArt) June 17, 2021
Gaia Vince, or “Wandering Gaia,” is a British environmental activist, award-winning science journalist, broadcaster and speaker, honorary Fellow at University College London, former senior editor at Nature and the New Scientist and is also the author of the book “Nomad Century,” with which she’s striving to change the global mindset on climate migration.
In the book, Gaia provides her own manifesto on how the world can navigate the climate crisis as billions may be forcibly displaced by its impacts in the coming years.
Gaia’s pragmatic voice should be heard by global leaders, and her “planetary perspective” – valuing the global population as one entity and changing the way we think about imposed political boundaries – is one that societies across the globe must urgently obtain.
Founder of “Free the Nipple”
No doubt you’ve heard the words “Free the Nipple” spoken many times, either in reference to the movie, the feminist campaign, but also just in casual conversation.
Well, American actress, producer, director and activist, Lina Esco, is the outspoken force to be reckoned with that founded the movement, directed the movie, and also acted as the main character in it.
Her calling doesn’t stop at women’s rights though. Lina uses her voice to raise awareness for injustices against the LGBTQ+ community, homelessness, gun violence, strict abortion laws, animal cruelty, and the war in Ukraine – to name just a few.
Her character in the hit US action show “SWAT” is a trailblazer – as she is in reality.
With these women in our corner, bring on tomorrow is all I have to say.
Correction: This article has been updated since publication to remove company names, and to amend and clarify the sections on China’s “Me Too” movement and Brazilian government.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by the authors are their own, not those of Impakter.com — In the Featured Photo: Pinky promise. Featured Photo Credit: Marcelo Chagas.