1. Katarina Taikon, Sweden
Katarina Taikon-Langhammer was a Swedish Romany activist, leader in the civil rights movement, writer and actor, from the Kalderash caste. Taikon’s most famous work, the semi-autobiographical book series “Katitzi” tells the story of a young Romani girl growing up in 1940’s Sweden. Written primarily for children, the series, which was televised in 1979, was also a thought-provoking read for adults as it challenges the prejudices of educated people. In 1982, Katarina suffered a heart attack and fell into a coma from which she would never wake up. She died in 1995 at the age of 63 in Sweden but her insights into a Romani upbringing in Sweden still resonate with Roma of all ages across Europe.
2. Nazira Zein El Din, Lebanon
Seventy years ago, in April 1928, a 20-year-old girl named Nazira Zayn al-Din wrote a book called Unveiling and Veiling, saying she had read, understood and interpreted the Holy Koran. Therefore, she said, she had the authority and analytical skills to challenge the teachings of Islam’s clerics, men who were far older and wiser than she. Her interpretation of Islam, she boldly said, was that the veil was un-Islamic. If a woman was forced to wear the veil by her father, husband or brother, Zayn al-Din argued, then she should take him to court. Other ideas presented by her were that men and woman should mix socially because this develops moral progress, and that both sexes should be educated in the same classrooms. Men and women, she said, should equally be able to hold public office and vote in government elections.
3. Frida Kahlo, Mexico
Frida Kahlo de Rivera, born Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderón, was a Mexican painter known for her self-portraits. Kahlo’s life began and ended in Mexico City, in her home, which is known as “La Casa Azul,” the Blue House.
4. Amina Wadud, USA
amina wadud is Professor Emerita of Islamic Studies, now traveling the world over seeking answers to the questions that move many of us through our lives. Author of Qur’an and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman’s Perspective and Inside the Gender Jihad, she will blog on her life journey and anything that moves her about Islam, gender and justice, especially as these intersect with the rest of the universe.
5. Fatema Mernissi, Morocco
One of the world’s leading Islamic feminists, Fatema Mernissi concentrates on Islam’s attitudes to women and the role women play within the religion in her work. Her first work Beyond the Veil (1975) is an unmissable text in the field of feminism and Middle-Eastern studies, exploring concepts of female sexuality within the historic context of Islam. Many of her works examine women’s spheres and physical spaces. Doing Daily Battle: Interviews with Moroccan Women (1991) saw her interview a range of women from different socioeconomic backgrounds and lifestyles in order to present an authentic, rounded picture of the realities of womanhood in Morocco.
6. Cassie De Pecol, Palau
In July 2015, she flew to the sovereign nation of Palau. But this wasn’t just any vacation. The 27-year-old from Connecticut was embarking on the journey of a lifetime: to be the fastest person and first documented woman to travel to every single one of the world’s 196 sovereign nations and break a Guinness World Record. In February 2017, this brave adventurer achieved her goal, making the voyage in 18 months and 26 days. She broke the previous record and also became the first woman to visit every country on earth.
7. Berta Caceres, Honduras
In a country with growing socioeconomic inequality and human rights violations, Berta Cáceres (d. 2016) rallied the indigenous Lenca people of Honduras and waged a grassroots campaign that successfully pressured the world’s largest dam builder to pull out of the Agua Zarca Dam. Death threats to Cáceres continued until March 3, 2016 when she was killed by gunmen in her home in La Esperanza, Honduras.