Women to Watch: This Month and Beyond

In the midst of National Women’s History month, and a day after International Women’s Day, Indian parliament makes major history. As we look forward, here are women to watch.

On Monday, which happened to be International Women’s Day, India’s upper house of parliament passed the Women’s Reservation Bill. The historic move, which has been in the making for 14 years, allots one-third of lawmaker’s seats for women. The momentous event certainly echoes this year’s women’s day theme: “Equal rights, equal opportunities: Progress for all.”

While the month-long celebration inspires reflection on accomplishments and influencers of the past (all of which we would not be here without) we are also reminded of the remaining long road ahead. If we’re going to continue the journey toward “progress for all” — from improving self-esteem through positive messaging to abolishing bride burning and sex-trafficking — we’re going to need powerful women on every front: government, entertainment, activism, you name it.

As you look for inspiration, keep an eye on these dynamic women as they change the world.

Sheryl WuDunn – The female voice of Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, the effective and far-reaching manifesto suggests in its simplest terms, that educating girls and women will bring about change to, just about all the world’s biggest problems: global poverty, human trafficking and the water and HIV/AIDS crises. WuDunn and her co-author/husband, Nicholas Kristof, have successfully tapped the mainstream like no one has done before.

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Gabourey Sibide – Let’s not dance around this. Historically and categorically, Hollywood doesn’t like fat people. But the 26-year-old Oscar nominee is making everyone re-think things a bit. With confidence and grace, Sibide survived the awards season, coming out a clear favorite. And, while loudmouths like Howard Stern say she’ll never work again, Sibide is busy wrapping another film and securing a recurring role on Showtime’s The C Word starring Laura Linney. Odds are the Precious star will eventually be put through the Hollywood Styling Machine, but it was refreshing to see a young woman rise to fame on pure talent with a beautiful and honest performance.

Nujood Ali – It’s hard for most of us to even wrap our heads around the notion of child brides (hell, most of us can’t even make it to the aisle by age 30). So when 10-year-old Nujood Ali showed up in a Sanna court house demanding a divorce from her 30-something husband in 2008, she shook the Western world to attention. With the help of her lawyer Shada Nasser, Nujood is now a happy 12-year-old and  co-author (written with French journalist Delphine Minoui) of the best-selling book I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced. Book royalties provide a private school education for Ali and her sister, as well as finance the family’s home and business. Nujood’s courage sets an example for women and men everywhere that change is possible.

Tina Fey – Seriously, where the heck was Tina Fey twenty years ago when I was in serious need of a female role model? While she’s by no means the first funny, smart woman to make us laugh, she was the first female in SNL history to claim the title of head writer. She has since gone on to even greater things like tackling Mean Girls and Sarah Palin, and in 2008 the Associated Press named her AP Entertainer of the Year. And, despite a serious trip through the aforementioned Styling Machine, Fey maintains a rare down-to-earth normalcy. The best thing about being Tina Fey is that she gets to be funny, clever, say pretty much whatever she wants — and gets keep her clothes on while doing it. She has the respect of men and women alike, and that’s no small feat.

Women Marines – For the first time in military history, female Marines are being trained specifically for deployment to Afghanistan as members of the first “female engagement teams,” that will accompany men on patrols in Helmand Province. Their goal: to win the trust of women in rural Afghanistan. The US military seems to understand that it cannot move forward without the help of the Afghan people, and that cooperation, cannot be gained without half the population.

Kathryn Bigelow – In the race for Oscar gold, Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman in 82 years to take home the Best Director statue for her film The Hurt Locker. (And, let’s be honest, it’s kinda fun she beat her ex-husband.) Bigelow will hopefully be the first of many women to hold this title, and open up the playing field for women filmmakers, in an industry still largely dominated by men.

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Zainab Salbi – After witnessing rape and concentration camps in Bosnia, Iraqi American Zainab Salbi founded Women for Women International, a nonprofit focused on helping women survivors of war rebuild their lives. Under Salbi’s direction, the organization has touched the lives of over 250,000 women. On International Women’s Day, she spoke out saying, that the world ought to be ashamed at the violence and poverty still facing women today. In a call to action she urges that to reverse the startling statistics and improve the lives of women everywhere we must Break our Silence, Unite and Invest. On Mar. 8, Women for Women International organized Join me on the Bridge, a global event where men and women gathered on bridges across 18 countries to demonstrate that women build the bridges to peace.

Eve Ensler – It’s unthinkable to leave Eve Ensler, founder of V-day, off any list about the empowerment and advancement of women. Best known for The Vagina Monologues, the playwright, performer and activist continues to remain at the forefront of change. Most recently, in promoting her new book I Am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around the World, Ensler shares a moving talk on what she calls The Girl Cell. Her ever-progressive approach on ending violence against women moves from the very personal to the very global, and invites men — on a cellular level — to join the fight.

source: http://www.tonic.com/article/top-10-women/

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