We don’t need to tell you it’s International Women’s Day today.
But we do need to tell you about the young women around the world who are campaigning and working tirelessly to improve the lives of their local communities, their countries, and other women around the world.
Here are some of those women who deserve to be recognised for their incredible, inspirational work.
Lina Khalifah, Jordan
Lina is the woman behind SheFighter, the first gym in Jordan to provide specialised self-defence and martial arts training for women.
Lina decided to teach self-defence after watching a colleague being physically abused by her brother. Her gym has now trainined more than 3,000 women and aims to expand outside Jordan.
SheFighter was even name-checked by Barack Obama during a speech at the White House on entrepreneurship.
Esther Marshall, UK
Esther suffered domestic abuse at the hands of a former partner.
Her experiences led to the launch of Stand Tall, a web-based platform which seeks to protect and help women worldwide that are being, or have been abused in order to empower them.
Esther has spoken at One Young World’s Bangkok summit, and has also written about domestic abuse in the Jewish community.
Aya Chebbi, Tunisia
Aya, 28, is an award winning Pan-African Tunisian blogger and activist. She is the co-founder and Chair of the African Youth Movement, co-founder of the Voice of Women Initiative and the youth advisor of CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation.
Following Tunisia’s revolution, she has been widely speaking about social movements worldwide for conferences and rallies in the United States, Canada, Poland, Germany, Turkey, Kenya, Rwanda and South Africa.
Aya produced a documentary called “Kenya’s conscious transformation” as part of Africa Inspire Project that aims at changing the negative narrative about Africa.
Aya considers her life’s mission uniting North Africa with the rest of the Africa based on her pan-african vision, fighting racism and terrorism inside the continent and promoting the youth agenda internationally.
Nyasha Duri, UK
Nyasha is a 19-year-old Zimbabwean-born UK-based entrepreneur. She has been contributing to the movement for gender equality from an early age and is currently volunteering with Stemettes teaching girls to code.
She is now launching her own digital design agency alongside running a youth political engagement platform, which she launched after noticing how many of her friends and peers were unable or unwilling to engage with the UK political system.
Mercy Mwikali, Kenya
Mercy works with Build Africa to improve education and work with local communities.
“I am helping the rural community of Machakos County through capacity building on the simple, affordable yet empowering village based micro-finance model (VSLA-
Village Savings and Loans Association).
“We focus on economically empowering women to improve their income sources and financial ability, as well as paying school fees for their children. The project has reached out to 4,223 women in the rural community.
“I also assist the local community leaders in forming Child protection watch groups, which serve as the community watchdogs for ensuring that Child Protection is upheld. We help improve access to child education and ensure that there is no child labour or violation of child rights within the community.”
Mercy also helps operate ‘exposure visits’ for school kids who have never seen developed urban areas, such as schools, supermarkets and roads.
“This gives them motivation and more hope that they can dream big and achieve much more than what they have grown up with in their rural communities.”
Meltem Avcil, UK
Meltem, from Turkey, was locked up in a detention centre in Bedfordshire for three months when she was just 13 years old.
After seeing what her Kurdish mother went through, she started a campaign to ask the government to protect vulnerable women in detention centres.
“I worry that many women like my mother are still being locked up. If a woman has already experienced rape, torture, imprisonment in her home country then it is really hard for her to be locked up here. Women become depressed and suicidal in detention.”
Aliçia Raimundo, Canada
Aliçia has been working in mental health advocacy for six years. Using the idea of mental health superheroes, she shows young people that fighting mental illness makes them strong.
“I talk about how many of us are like Spider-Man, living two separate lives and fighting our mental illness in secret. I hope that one day, we can all be iron men and women, proud of what we have overcome, but honest what we are going through.”
Aliçia has published research, spoken at TEDx, was the keynote speaker at the UN international youth day in 2014, published a book for the the Canadian school curriculum about suicide, and spoken at the Clinton Global Initiative.
“When I am not speaking, I helping build the bechange incubator, a space for youth to grow their big mental health ideas with support and resources, lead the ACCESS youth council, a $25m project to change mental health service delivery in Canada, and build online communities around peer support.”
Laura Coryton, UK
Laura responsible for leading the campaign for tax-free sanitary items.
The Goldsmiths student is dedicated to getting tampons and sanitary towels classed as “necessary items”.
“Periods are no luxury. You can ‘opt-in’ to extravagance. You cannot choose to menstruate.”
Laura’s petition has sparked rallies, parliament discussions and finally, Osborne agreeing to donate the proceeds of ‘tampon tax’ to women’s charities – although the student is vowing to fight on.
Wanja Maina, Kenya
24-year-old Wanja is A World At School Global Youth Ambassador for education. In February, she walked 50km to raise money for the school fees of 24 girls with disabilities. She has also climbed Mount Longonot to raise funds for Kenyan children with visual impairments.
“I am also doing this to change perceptions of women with disabilities. Mostly they are viewed as victims but this walk will also show the world that we can also be agents of social change.”
Asha Budha Magar, Nepal
On April 25th 2015 when the earthquake struck Nepal, Asha Budha Magar was reading the newspaper in her apartment.
“It sounded like a blast, like bombs, because of the collapsing houses.”
The earthquake exacerbated the problems already facing the young people like Asha; 40% lack work opportunities. Youths in rural areas are now increasingly turning towards establishing their own small businesses as their way to make a living.
In order to support them, Asha is leading a team of volunteers from Nepal and the UK in delivering entrepreneurship training for women and young people in the district of Aambhanjang, Makwanpur, with the help of Raleigh International.
“If we want to see visible change we have to make people economically independent so they can send their children to school. I know that youth have the greatest potential in any society, and if you want to bring any positive changes in society then they are the best agents to achieve it.
“Volunteering and helping these young people is the best way of helping yourself. If you want to help yourself, go and help someone else.”
Hayley Mulenda, UK
18-year-old Hayley was recently named the Most Inspirational and Most Influential Black Entrepreneur in the UK for under 21s.
After being bullied at school, the teen founded Inside a Dream, a motivational speaking company that inspires youngsters to live to their fullest potential.
“I travel up and down the UK motivating thousands of students and reminding them they can reach greatness because that’s where they’re destined to be. I feel it’s important I set an example for all the young girls out there to remind them they can do it too, they can live their dream because that’s exactly what I am doing.”
Chloe Reynaldo, Philippines
15-year-old Chloe is still at school but is using her talents for public speaking to inform her peers about sexual health.
Chloe travels around the Aklan province, speaking at high schools about STIs, HIV and other youth-related issues.
“I think it’s really important precisely because a lot of kids my age don’t really feel like it’s very important. One of the problems I face while talking to young people is their apathy to these issues. People say to me all the time that ‘It’s too early for young people to be thinking about that’ or ‘You’re giving us the wrong ideas’. But, I say ‘You are going to get those ideas anyway. It’s going to happen so we’re giving you the information to protect yourselves’.”
Emily Revess, UK
24-year-old Emily is a gender equality campaigner involved in several projects working toward to the empowerment of women.
Emily is the campaign coordinator for 50:50 Parliament, a cross-party campaign working for better gender balance in Westminster.
She’s previously spoken about modern day slavery at the 2013 One Young World summit and is an ambassador for the Red Light Campaign, a charity supporting female survivors of human trafficking.
Yeonmi Park, North Korea
The 22-year-old defected from North Korea and was sold as a sex slave in China.
Yeonmi has dedicated her life to raising awareness of North Korea’s civilian population, and of the plight of “helpless” refugees who manage to escape the dictatorship.
Yeonmi gained international recognition following her speech at a One Young World conference.
“I didn’t think I’d get the support of so many people,” she told HuffPost UK in an interview last year. “I didn’t know people can be good. I didn’t know people are designed to be good and help one another.
“People forget about North Korea. They treat it as if it’s in a different universe, like it doesn’t exist. But because I am alive now so I can talk about my story.”
Anzaira Roxas, Philippines
Anzaira is a project coordinator at the Family Planning Organization of the Philippines. She provides health education to affected young people, lactating mothers, and pregnant women.
Anzaira holds two degrees; she is a nurse and a midwife, and previously spent two months in the Northern Mindanao region where 30,000 people had been displaced, distributing ‘dignity kits’ to women, which contained hygienic items such as soap, underwear and sanitary napkins.
“I also trained internally displaced youth in camps and organized stress relief activities.
“Some of them now believe that despite being victims, they can rise above the situation and help others who are more in need.”
Lizzie Horgan, UK
Last March, Lizzie was diagnosed with ME – or chronic fatigue syndrome.
“Literally overnight I had lost my cognitive ability and physical strength. Previous to this I was your average 25-year-old; I loved my job, social life, sport and independence.
“With the isolation of those facing chronic illness as my driving force, I began a blog with the hope of breaking stigma.”
Lizzie now raises funds for the Association of Young People with ME, a charity helping youths to break out of the isolation.
She’s also collaborated with a sportswear company to create a panel discussion on Empowering Women, so she can tackle stigma around the disease.
Wazhma Hazratzay and Leena Shinwari, Afghanistan
Purvi Joshi via Getty Images
Due to the daily threats they face in their country, we have refrained from publishing Wazhma and Leena’s photographs, but we couldn’t not include them.
Leena currently manages a call-in centre for a non-profit where she fields numerous phone calls from women who report and seek help for handling many forms of violence. Wazhma, who is Leena’s best friend, works closely with her in the same field as a legal adviser with the Afghanistan Attorney General’s office in Kabul.
” I am always asked: How are the women of Afghanistan supposed to serve their community and society if they aren’t allowed to work?,” says Wazhma. “I wanted to do something about this situation and help the women around me so I started out by helping myself.
Leena receives around 20 threats a day, from men who say she is not supposed to work.
” Even the Taliban used to call me and say that if they knew where our NGO is situated, they would plan a suicide attack on it. When I leave my home in the morning I’m not sure if I will come back or not.”
Leena adds: “My hope is that every woman should have access to justice. Women should know their rights. They should have economic empowerment and independence and not be dependent on men.
“I hope for women, who are being mistreated to get support from their family because usually in our society they don’t. Knowing their rights is of outmost importance for women. With this they will be able to hold jobs outside their homes and be economically empowered.
“Maybe then violence against women will be eliminated. “