Adv. Thulisile (Thuli) Nomkhosi Madonsela
Before we look around the globe, let’s admire a woman from our own beautiful country. Thuli Madonsela is a pillar of ethics to not just South Africans, but the rest of the world, too. She was one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in 2014, but we think she still deserves to be recognised for her continued role as South Africa’s public protector in 2015. Thuli is also a human rights activist and her office has continued to ceaselessly investigate governmental corruption this year.
Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna
These women may not have glamorous occupations in the traditional sense of the word, but their work in 2015 has far-reaching implications for generations to come. Both are geneticists and have developed a new technique of gene modifying that could help fight innumerable diseases such as HIV and even some types of cancer. The implications of their discovery are only beginning to be understood, but we know that it will change how scientists and medical professionals fight disease.
This marks the third year running where Malala Yousafzai has been included in Time’s ‘100 Most Influential People’ list. Malala ceaselessly campaigns for the rights of girls globally to receive an education, and is leading the way with excellent marks at the Edgbaston High School in Birmingham. A year ago, on 10 December 2014, Malala accepted the Nobel Peace Prize and donated $1.1 million in prize money to the financing of a secondary school for girls in Pakistan. On her 18th birthday this year, she opened the Malala Yousafzai All-girls School, which provides secondary education to Syrian girls living in informal camps near the Syrian border in Lebanon.
Malala’s continued courage in the face of life-threatening challenges to stand up for young girls’ rights inspires us to do and be better.
Eniola has one of the most recognisable faces in women’s football. She is a striker in the England and Chelsea squads, won the Player-of-the-Match Award in this year’s FA Women’s Cup Final, and to top it all off, she is also a lawyer! This multi-talented Lagos-born footballer is also known for championing better pay for England’s women football players and has been vocal about racism in the men’s game.
Syeda Ghulam Fatima
Before 15 August 2015, the majority of the world had never heard of Syeda Ghulam Fatima, but by 19 August, people from all over the globe had donated over $2.2 million to her cause. The popular photoblogging series Humans of New York spotlighted Fatima’s strength, bravery and resilience when it presented a series on the plight of brick kiln workers in Pakistan while doing an overseas series for the blog earlier this year.
Bricks make up 3% of Pakistan’s GDP. Brick kiln owners are so wealthy that despite bonded labour being illegal, they are able to force more than a million people into modern-day slavery within their businesses.
According to HONY, Fatima has undergone severe physical violence and intimidation for most of her life to end bonded labour in Pakistan, but has not been deterred in her fight to help the victims of brick kiln owners.
Fatima’s courage in the face of death and intimidation is awe-inspiring.
She may not seem like an obvious choice at first, but Meryl Streep’s generous philanthropic work has continued for 30 years. Together with her husband, she established a charity called Silver Mountain Foundation for the Arts in the early ’80s, which has donated millions of dollars to all areas of the Arts, including theatre, music, and film. She has also supported charities that focus on bringing amazing women to the fore, like the Vital Voices Global Partnership, who define their mission as “to invest in women leaders who improve the world.” She also supports the Women’s Refugee Commission and Women for Women International. Meryl has quietly continued her philanthropic work this year as she always has, which makes her one of our Women of 2015.