10 Important But Not So Famous Women of the 21st Century

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It’s International Women’s Day 2019. In honouring the continued fight for equality, it’s important to acknowledge the women who have contributed so much to their communities, their families, and to their respective countries. The list of famous women in science, art, politics, and entertainment is long, varied and etched in history. But what about the ones whose names don’t really ring a bell?

See if you can recognise and remember any of these amazing women making very big strides in activism, sports, and various other important professions.

1. Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw

Image credit: Lafayette

Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw is an American Civil Rights activist, and a full-time professor at UCLA School of Law and Columbia Law School, who introduced the term “intersectionality.”

Her study and development of intersectional theory shone a light on how overlapping, or intersecting social identities, particularly minority identities, relate to systems and structures of oppression, domination, or discrimination; to which women are subjected to based on their ethnicity, sexuality, and economic background.

2. Judith Butler

Image credit: Highbrow

Judith Pamela Butler is an American philosopher, and a critically-acclaimed gender theorist, whose works on gender performativity has transformed how we think about gender, sexuality, and identity.

Her best-selling books, ‘Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, and ‘Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex’ she challenges the conventional notions of gender. Her philosophies have not only been influential for feminist and gender-queer theories, but also in many fields, including the visual arts, psychology, political theory and literary and film criticism

3. Tarana Burke

Image credit: Variety

Tarana Burke is a civil rights activist from New York, who single-handedly started the “Me Too” movement that is currently making waves in the light of sexual harassment scandals.

In 2006, Burke began using the phrase “Me Too” to raise awareness of the pervasiveness of sexual abuse and assault in society, and the phrase developed into the revolutionary movement that it is today.

4. Yusra Mardini

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Yusra Mardini and her sister, while fleeing war in their country of Syria, found themselves packed onto a boat to Greece with 20 other refugees. Upon the boat’s engine dying, the vessel was in danger of capsizing, endangering the lives on everyone on it.

Fortunately for the people on the boat, Yusra and her sister who were both competitive swimmers, put the lives of the other people before them and jumped into the open water with two others. They proceeded to swim alongside the boat for three hours before eventually reaching the Greek island of Lesvos. Yusra’s success story culminated in her moving to Germany where she went back to professional swimming, getting her selected in the Rio 2016 Olympics as part of the first ever Refugee Olympic Team.


5. Reshma Qureshi

Image credit: Trevor Collens/AFP/Getty Images)

Reshma Qureshi is a model from India, who is also a vlogger, and acid attack survivor. She is currently the face of Make Love Not Scars, a non-profit organisation that helps with the rehabilitation of acid attack survivors since 2014.

Her beginning in modeling started when she walked the runway for designer Archana Kocchar at New York Fashion Week in 2016.

6. Chun In-Gee

Image credit: National CWB Golfer

Chun In-Gee from South Korea, won the Evian Championship when she was just 22 years old in 2016 despite just becoming a full-time pro golfer. The year before in 2015, she had won the U.S. Women’s Open Golf Championship, as well as becoming the first player in history to win majors on three different tours in the same calendar year. 

Her win at the 2016 Evian Championship with a score of 21 under par, was the lowest winning score in a major tournament for either men or women.[

7. Negin Khpalwak

Image credit: Avvenire

Negin Khpalwak is a young Afghani women who fell in love with music as a teenager despite her families strong disapproval. In the midst of adversity and family pressure, she stubbornly pursued her love for music and is currently a conductor leading the Zohra–an all-women Afghani orchestra from the Afghanistan National Institute for Music.

She has expressed that when her story is told, she hopes that it will give other women who face oppresion, the strength and resilience to do what they love despite all obstacles.

8. Seyham Arman

Image credit: Life Art Sanat

Seyham Arman is a Turkish transgender rights activist, playwright, actress, and drag queen. Her activism includes speaking out against the abuse, and killings of trans people in Turkey, which has the highest murder rate of trans people in Europe.

She appears on Turkish media in the hopes of raising awareness, and changing mindsets by speaking of her own experience of being a trans woman in her country. Her message to other trans women is one of hope and reassurance that everything in life will work out in the end.

9. Sharifah Czarena Surainy Syed Hashim

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Hailing from the very conservative country of Brunei, Captain Sharifah Czarena holds the gauntlet for being the first woman pilot from her country, as well as the whole of Southeast Asia!

She not only made history with that impressive achievement, Captain Sharifah made further headlines when she captained the first all-women flight crew for Royal Brunei Airlines in 2016, successfully landing the plane in Saudi Arabia. What beautiful irony for a country which at that time, still considered it illegal for their women citizens to even drive.


10. Anita Yusof

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Our very own Malaysian, Anita Yusof, was awarded by the Asia Book of Records as the first women to ride around the world! Riding completely solo, the adventurous mother of two, explored hundreds of routes on her
loyal FZ150i motorcycle in 54 different countries.

This was a feat which also earned her an entry into the Malaysia Book of Records. Anita who is from Ipoh, is currently studying for a PhD in Sports Science, and is also a lecturer in the Physical Education Department at IPG Campus Ipoh.

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