3 inspiring women that are changing the world, but you’ve probably never heard of

If you asked people to name a few women who are making inspiring contributions to the world  today, especially in terms of human right and development, then many might say Nobel Peace Prize  winner and girls education activist Malala Yousafzai, or maybe Aung San Suu Kyi, the well known  leader of the National League for Democracy in Burma.  Some may even list Emma Watson and  Angelina Jolie for their work on ending gender based violence and rape in conflict.

However, I  wonder how many would say the names Jenni Williams, Fahma Mohamed or Dr Ola Orekunrin –  three  women for whom I have tremendous respect and whose contributions to the wider world might  have passed you by. If they have,  then here are the highlights of their achievements.

Jenni, Human Rights Campaigner
Jenni, Human Rights Campaigner

Jenni Williams

Jenni Williams is a Zimbabwean human rights campaigner and founder of the organisation Women  of Zimbabwe Arise (Woza ), and was once described by The Guardian as ‘one of the most  troublesome thorns in Mugabe’s side’.

Williams founded Woza in 2003 as a way to empower women  across the country to take up peaceful protest calling for the government to cease human rights  abuses and to tackle the problems faced by the Zimbabwean economy. Since then Woza’s  membership has grown to over 70,000 supporters, made up of both men and women.

Williams has  been arrested over 40 times for her involvement with Woza, despite the organisations continued  commitment to non-violent action, while her husband and three children have had to leave  Zimbabwe among increased security fears.

Although not very well known among the general public  Williams has received tremendous recognition for her work. Amnesty International has invited her  to speak at a number of events, including their AGM and Annual National Student Conference, and  on  International Women’s Day  in 2012 they awarded her the Ginetta Sagan Fund  prize.

In addition to  this Williams has also won the US government’s  International Women of Courage Award   and the  Robert Kennedy Human Rights Award.

Fahma, FGM campaigner
Fahma, FGM campaigner

Fahma Mohamed  

In 2014 Fahma Mohamed, then aged 17, became the driving force behind a UK national campaign to  place education at the very forefront of tackling FGM. This campaign, which was backed by The  Guardian, called on Michael Gove, who was Education Secretary at the time, to write to schools  urging them to safeguard girls against this practice.

She set up an online petition which received over  250,000 signatures and gained support from Malala Yousafzai, the Nobel prize winning campaigner  for girls education, along with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Her campaign proved successful,  with  Gove first meeting with Mohamed and finally agreeing to write to teachers about this issue. She  was recognised for her achievements by Good Housekeeping’s who awarded her Outstanding Young  Campaigner of the Year in 2014.

Dr Orekunrin, Founder of Flying Doctors Nigeria
Dr Orekunrin, Founder of Flying Doctors Nigeria

Dr Ola Orekunrin

At the age of just 24, not only was Ola Orekunrin one of the youngest medical doctors in the United  Kingdom after graduating from  the University of York Medical School  at the age of 21, but she was  also the founder of Flying Doctors Nigeria.

Orekunrin was inspired to found the air ambulance  service whilst still at medical school after her 12 year old sister, a sickle-cell suffer, fell ill whilst on a  trip to Nigeria. When the nearest hospital in Nigeria could not deal with her sister’s condition  Orekurnrin’s family tried to find an air ambulance service that would be able to take her to a facility  that could, but found that the closest one was in South Africa. By the time they were able to reach  her Orekurin’s sister had already died.

This experience later prompted Orekunrin to combine her  love of aviation with her medical knowledge in order to found Flying Doctors Nigeria – the very first  air ambulance service in West Africa. In 2013 she was listed as one of the Young Global Leaders by  the World Economic Forum.

By Lizzy Norman. Lizzy volunteered with Restless Development as an ICS Team Leader in Tanzania in 2013 after working alongside community and campaign groups in the UK for a couple of years. Whilst in Tanzania Lizzy identified that lack of aspiration and positive female role models were a problem faced by young girls in many communities in both Tanzania and the UK, which is what led to her interest in gender equality.

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3 inspiring women that are changing the world, but you’ve probably never heard of

by wearerestless Reading time: 3 min