Far from fragile: 10 Inspiring female champions of social justice

Following on from my previous post about female fragility, I’d like to share some more stories of 10 women who’ve battled against injustice, fought for equality and who really are an inspiration to both men and women out there!

There are obviously many, many more (known and unknown) so this is but a mere snapshot in no particular order. See how many you know!

1. Princess Diana (1961 – 1997, UK)

Humanitarian and philanthropist


Known as the “People’s Princess”, Princess Diana was an incredible humanitarian. She supported the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and a range of other causes/charities including working surrounding HIV/AIDS, children’s health (Great Ormond Street Hospital), leprosy, homelessness in London.

After her tragic death, The Princess Diana Memorial Fund was established and by the time it was closed in 2012, a staggering £138 million had been generated.

2. Shirin Ebadi (1947 – present, Iran)

Lawyer and human rights activist

Credit oVERSEAS DEVELPOPMENT INSTISUTE (CC BY-NC 2.0)Shirin is a renowned lawyer and human rights activist. A former judge, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her work in human rights in particular regarding women and children and is president and founder of the Defenders of Human Rights Centre in Iran. Over the years she has been active, Sherin has been awarded a host of other titles and honours for her incredible contribution to the field of human rights and is quite possibly the most prominent Iranian-born human rights defender.

3. Elizabeth Fry (1780 – 1845, UK)

Philanthropist and social reformer


Born in England in 1780, Elizabeth was a Quaker and philanthropist who fought for prison reform, campaigning for the rights and welfare of inmates including women and children.

She also set up a night shelter to serve the homeless in London and campaigned for the abolishment of the slave trade.

4. Dame Millicent Fawcett (1847 – 1929, UK)

Political activist and suffragist

Millicent_FawcettOne of the most influential women in British history, Dame Fawcett was an intellectual, a feminist and advocate for women’s education most well-known for her campaigning as part of the women’s suffrage movement. A leader of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS), she was a key element in the success of women eventually gaining the right to vote in 1918, although differing from suffragettes in their campaigning methods.

5. Emmeline Pankhurst (1858 – 1928, UK)

Political activist and suffragette

Emmeline_Pankhurst,_seated_(1913).jpgEmmeline was the leader of the UK suffragette movement which fought for women to gain the right to vote. Believing that the work of the suffragist movement was not achieving enough, she founded the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in 1903 with ten other colleagues which was later embodied with the concept of “Deeds, not words”.  Emmeline has since been listed as one of the most important people of the 20th century (TIME, 1999).

6. Rosa Parks (1913 – 2005, USA)

Civil rights activist

Rosaparks.jpgNamed “the first lady of civil rights” and “the mother of the freedom movement” by the United States Congress, Rosa was instrumental in US Civil Rights Movement. On 4th December 1955 in Montgomery Alabama, Africa-American Ms Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white person and was later arrested.

The day after, the Montgomery Bus Boycott was launched and a year later, the US Supreme Court declared that the laws which enforced racial segregation on buses were unconstitutional. From there on throughout the 1960s and onwards, Rosa was highly instrumental in the Civil Rights Movement with her legacy continuing today.

7. Malala Yousafzai (1997 – present, Pakistan)

Human rights activist and humanitarian

CREDIT UNITED NATIONS PHOTO (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).jpgThe youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Malala is a global phenomenon known for her campaigning for women and children’s education. In her home town of Mingora in the Swat region of Pakistan, she was active blogger and human right campaigner, working with international journalists to document life in the area, being later nominated by Desmond Tutu for the International Children’s Peace Prize.

On 9th October 2012 she was then shot by the Taliban on the way to school and sought asylum in the UK. Malala went on to found the Malala Foundation and receive the 2013 Sakharov Prize, 2014 Nobel Peace Prize and was listed by Time as one of the world’s most influential people (2013-15).

8. Eleanor Roosevelt (1884 – 1962, USA)

Politician and human rights activist

Eleanor_Roosevelt_portrait_1933.jpgReferred to as “The First Lady of the World” by former US President Harry S. Truman for her achievements in the field of human rights, Eleanor Roosevelt was the first chair of the UN Commission in Human Rights in post-WWII society.

She was instrumental in the formation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – the leading declaration for the basis of current subsequent human rights legislation worldwide such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), from which the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) was derived and  ranked ninth in Gallup’s List of Most Widely Admired People of the 20th Century (1999).

9. Rebiya Kadeer (1946 – present, China)

Human rights activist 

Credit European Parliament  (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).jpgRebiya Kadeer is a Uyghur human rights activist from the Xinjiang province of China (formely known as East Turkistan). Having been imprisoned in China for her political activism in defence of the rights of the Ugyhur ethnic-religious minority, she is now living in exile in the US where she continues her activism. Rebiya was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013 and is current President of the organisation World Uyghur Congress.

10. Asma Jahangir (1952 – 2018, Pakistan)

Lawyer and human rights activist

Image credit UN Geneva (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).jpg

Asma was a prominent lawyer and human rights activist both in her native Pakistan and across the globe who was co-founder and chair of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. From 2004 – 2010 she worked as the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and investigated human rights violations in Sri Lanka and joined a fact-finding mission on Israeli settlements. She won a series of awards for her work including the UNESCO/Bilbao Prize for the Promotion of a Culture of Human Rights and received the French Legion of Honour.

What an amazing bunch of women! Not a “fragile flower” in sight! So let’s ignore these toxic gender stereotypes and march on sisters, hand in hand! Fellas – are you with us?


Image credits

Feature image: UN Geneva (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Images: #1: Joe Haupt (CC BY-SA 2.0), #2: Overseas Development Institute (CC BY-NC 2.0), #7: United Nations Photo (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0), #9: European Parliament (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0), #10: UN Geneva (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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