Women We Admire

All around the world, women leaders are inspiring hope for a better future. They are out in their communities advocating for social change at all levels. Here are just seven women, among many others, using their voice to stand up against injustice. 

20.05.21

Grace Tame

Grace Tame was named 2021 Australian of the Year for her activism and advocacy for survivors of sexual assault. In 2019, she spoke out about her own experiences of sexual assault and launched the #LetHerSpeak campaign. The campaign aimed to change laws in Tasmania, Victoria and the Northern Territory that prohibited survivors from identifying themselves in the media without a court order. In 2020, her work led to a change in Tasmanian legislation. Now, survivors can speak their truth and share their stories. Grace continues to break down stigma and use education as a tool to prevent sexual assault and support other survivors in reporting abuse.

Shirley Colleen Smith

Shirley Colleen Smith, or “Mum Shirl”, was a Wiradjuri woman and humanitarian who advocated for the justice and welfare of Indigenous Australians. She helped to set up services like the Aboriginal Legal Service, the Tent Embassy, and Aboriginal Children’s Service. Shirley was committed to finding homes for children and helping displaced children to reunite with their parents. She dedicated her life to uplifting and supporting others and championed the pursuit of justice and humanitarian work in Australia.

Anisa Rasooli

Anisa Rasooli is a trailblazer. She was the first woman to sit on the Supreme Court of Afghanistan. She was an avid advocate for women working in the judicial system, speaking out about the need to bring more women into these positions. Today, thanks to her advocacy, a record number of women sit on the bench in Afghanistan. It is women like Anisa who are paving the way for generations to come and allowing them to make their mark on society.

Malala Yousafzai

At just 15-years old, Malala Yousafzai began to publicly advocate on behalf of girls and their right to education. Her fearless actions came after the Taliban took over her town in Pakistan, banning girls from attending school. In 2012, Malala was targeted and shot by a masked gunman in response to her activism. But following this life-threatening event, Malala didn’t stop advocating for the rights of girls and women and at the age of 17, she became the youngest Nobel laureate. Now, she is a leading feminist, advocating for the rights of girls and women across the world.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Alexandria is an American politician and Congresswoman that has fought for change, advocating for humanitarian and environmental causes. Alexandria is the youngest woman to ever serve in the U.S. congress, paving the way for other young women to make their own mark on politics. Her unwavering defence of feminist and other social justice issues has gained her a strong following, as she leads the charge towards social progress in the United States.

Arundhati Roy

Arundhati is an Indian author and political activist who has been outspoken in her support for human rights and environmental causes. Her work has received critical acclaim, receiving the Booker Prize for her first novel The God of Small Things in 1997. Since the success of this book, she has written a number of essays commenting on contemporary political and social issues. Arundhati has consistently dedicated her platform to exposing and speaking out about social and political injustices.

Oodgeroo Noonuccal

Oodgeroo Noonuccal was an Aboriginal Australian poet dedicated to campaigning for the rights of First Nations Australians. As a poet, she was the first Aboriginal Australian person to publish a book of verse. Her poetry explored the experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Oodgeroo was a known activist who worked against injustice. She became the Queensland state secretary of the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. Oodgeroo was a leading figure in pushing for Australian constitutional reform to allow Indigenous Australians full citizenship. 

At ActionAid, we support women leaders around the world in their pursuit to create a better world. We believe that there is a need for more intersectional feminist leadership, so that we can face global contemporary challenges such as climate change, COVID-19 and economic injustice.