This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is #breakthebias. From being the first transwoman (and yes, before someone can object – TRANSWOMEN ARE WOMEN) to take up space in a general assembly to giving the world the ray of hope in its darkest hour, we are looking at 7 women who broke the bias and shattered the glass ceiling.
Danica Anthony Roem is a Democratic Party politician and journalist in the United States. She is the first openly transgender person to be elected to the Virginia General Assembly, and in January 2018, she became the first openly transgender person to be elected and serve in any state legislature in the United States. In 2018, Roem received the Victory Institute’s “Tammy Baldwin Breakthrough Award” for her commitment to the LGBTQ community. Her perseverance should serve as an example to us all.
Jhulan Nishit Goswami is a former captain of India’s national women’s cricket team and an international cricketer from India. Goswami was born into a middle-class family in the Indian town of Chakdaha, in the Nadia district. In 2002, at the age of 19, she made her international debut against England in a one-day international match. She has also been named a bowling consultant for the Indian women’s cricket squad. She also has a biopic titled ‘Chakda Xpress’ being made on her.
She obtained her PhD in Film and History from SOAS in 2010. She is a British-Indian director and screenwriter working in London. She is best known for co-writing and directing the Pakistani film Zinda Bhaag with Farjab Nabi in 2013. Meenu received a lot of appreciation from Pakistani film directors and reviewers for bringing Pakistani cinema back into the spotlight. Zinda Bhaag became one of Pakistan’s highest-grossing films and received numerous awards and honours, including an official selection for Best Foreign Language Film at the 86th Academy Awards, making it only the third Pakistani film to be presented to the Oscars in 50 years.
Halima Aden is a Somali American model who grew up in a Kenyan refugee camp. She made history as the first woman to compete in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant while wearing a hijab. She was also the first model to appear in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue wearing a headscarf and a burkini. Aden was appointed as a UNICEF ambassador in 2018. Her work focuses on the rights of children. She was selected one of the BBC’s 100 Women in 2021, which is not only unsurprising but also extremely well deserved.
Alanoud Al Sharekh
Another fellow SOAS alum, she obtained both her MA (1998) and PhD (2003) from SOAS. She featured on BBC’s 100 Women in 2019. She is a researcher, scholar, and activist whose areas of interest include youth and gender demography, GCC security, and bi-cultural trends, with an emphasis on Arab Feminist Theory. She is the director of Ibtkar Strategic Consultancy, which focuses on empowering women and youth in leadership and the NGO space. She also serves as an advisor to several local and international governmental bodies and NGOs, providing her perspective on a variety of cultural and sociopolitical issues in the region.
Immaculata Abba is a Nigerian writer and photographer who is primarily interested in the concept and practice of ‘making a living,’ which she investigates in Africa through labor, housing, health, and wellness issues. She holds degrees from the Queen Mary University of London and the University of Oxford in history, literature, and cultural theory. She currently works as a freelance journalist at African Arguments (Royal African Society).
Özlem Türeci was born in Germany to Turkish immigrants. She is the co-founder of the biotechnology company BioNTech, and is not only a scientist, but also a physician, an entrepreneur, and a worldwide health leader. Her company developed the first licenced RNA-based vaccination against COVID-19 in 2020, providing much-needed hope amid an extraordinary year of disaster. Since 2018, Türeci has worked as BioNTech’s chief medical officer. She formerly served as the chief executive officer of Ganymed Pharmaceuticals, which she co-founded in 2001.
Surabhi Sanghi is a SOAS Digital Ambassador, pursuing a master’s degree in South Asian Studies and Intensive Language (which also means she gets to be in London for one whole extra year). She has a background in history and is interested in the religions of South Asia. She is a dog person and her only wish is to be able to pet all the dogs in London.