Empowering Women Today


Image by Madeline Del Rio

This Women’s History Month, The Scroll looks at women who inspire today.

Madeline Del Rio, Wellness Editor

As March is Women’s History Month, we explore the inspiring females who fought for their rights long ago, empowering women who live today to continue to break through barriers and give people courage. Countless ladies presently prove their will and power by actively fighting for their beliefs and rising above obstacles thrown their way.

One very empowering woman today is Malala Yousafzai, a feminist activist who grew up in Pakistan when girls were banned from going to school. Malala began speaking on the behalf of all girls expressing their right to be educated, but this made her a target. When she was around fifteen, a masked gunman shot her on the left side of her head. Malala woke up ten days later in a hospital in England, and the doctors and nurses informed her that people around the world were praying for her recovery. After months of surgeries and rehabilitation, she joined her family in the U.K. “It was then that I knew I had a choice,” Malala explained according to the Malala Fund. “I could live a quiet life or I could make the most of this new life I had been given. I determined to continue my fight until every girl could go to school.” With her father, she established the Malala Fund, a charity dedicated to giving all girls the opportunity to reach their desired futures. In recognition of her work, Malala received the Nobel Peace Prize in December 2014 and became the youngest ever Nobel laureate. 130 million girls worldwide remain out of school today. To help contribute to a better future with education for all, donate at www.malala.org .

Revealing the strength and perseverance a woman can have, Bethany Hamilton continues to inspire and empower. Born in Hawaii in 1990, Hamilton began competitive surfing when she was eight. Her promising career was hindered however, when a 14-foot tiger shark bit off her arm. Hamilton lost 60% of her blood and underwent several surgeries, and any future career in surfing seemed impossible. However, Hamilton remained determined and resumed surfing just one month after the attack. Her will and persistence allowed Hamilton to win a national title in 2005 and she has continued winning championships and titles since. Hamilton is involved in numerous charitable efforts including her own foundation, Friends of Bethany, in which there are many programs. One is Beautifully Flawed, a retreat designed to encourage and inspire young women who have experienced traumatic limb loss. The champion surfer has proven that not even the loss of a limb can prevent one from accomplishing her dreams. Hamilton describes how, “Life is a lot like surfing. When you get caught in the impact zone, you need to get right back up because you never know what’s over the next wave. If you have faith, anything is possible, anything at all.” 

Additionally, Oprah Winfrey became a successful businesswomen and influential speaker through her strong-mindedness. Winfrey was born in the rural town of Kosciusko Mississippi, and during her adolescent years was sexually abused by a number of male relatives and friends of her mother. However, Winfrey rose above these traumatic challenges and went to take over as anchor on A.M. Chicago, a morning talk show. She changed the emphasis of the show from traditional women’s issues to current and controversial topics and it was renamed the Oprah Winfrey Show which became largely successful. Winfrey was named Woman of Achievement by the National Organization of Women and has become the highest paid entertainer in the world and the first African-American woman to own her own production company. Other accomplishments of hers include starting Oprah’s Book Club which encouraged literacy and made many obscure titles bestsellers, and strongly contributing to getting The National Child Protection Act, informally known as the Oprah Bill, passed. This Bill established a nationwide database of all convictions, crimes, and charges, so that background checks are provided before a job applicant can be trusted with children. Winfrey has won many honors and rewards despite her troubled past, and reminds us all to, “Turn your wounds into wisdom.”

Next, actress Emma Watson has spread her feminist beliefs worldwide as an exceptional activist. Watson was named a U.N. Goodwill Ambassador in the summer of 2014, bringing awareness to important issues that impact women around the globe. Making a difference in fashion, Emma Watson helped People Tree, a fair trade fashion brand, design a line of eco-friendly clothing. Working to end child marriage, Watson traveled to Malawi and met with chiefs and young girls who had been married under the age of 18. Watson actively advocates for countries to outlaw child marriage for it contributes to the cycle of poverty and makes it difficult for those girls to receive an education. One of Watson’s biggest accomplishments is spearheading and being the face of the U.N. Women’s He for She campaign, urging everyone to pursue a feminism that strongly rejects man-hating. Encouraging a love for learning and literacy, Watson started a book club centered around female empowerment in 2016. Open to anyone on Goodreads, the club is called Our Shared Self. It has also been discovered that Watson leaves books in public places to encourage people to read. Watson clearly is a strong activist that fights for what she believes in and makes an impact on the world. Malala Yousafzai herself expressed that Watson inspired her to identify as a feminist. “Don’t ever hear in your own head, ‘Who am I to say something?’ You are a human being. You are a person. You can 100 percent change the world. It’s the little things that really count. Be brave,” urges Emma Watson.

The first African American First Lady, Michelle Obama, has made an enormous impact on the country, initiating movements that have solved major issues. In 2010, she launched Let’s Move!, a nationwide effort to address the issue of childhood obesity. This program has provided healthier foods at schools, helped kids become more physically active, and urged companies to market healthier foods to children. Next, in 2011, Mrs. Obama and Dr. Jill Biden launched Joining Forces, a nationwide program calling all Americans to rally around veterans, service members, and their families, and support them through wellness, education, and employment opportunities. In 2014, Mrs. Obama began the Reach Higher Initiative, inspiring youth across America to reach their goals and dreams by completing their education past high school. Reach Higher exposes students to college and career opportunities, helps them understand financial aid eligibility, encourages academic planning and summer learning opportunities, and supports high school counselors who do essential work to help students reach their goals. In 2015, Mrs. Obama and her husband launched Let Girls Learn, a U.S. government-wide initiative to help girls around the world both go to school and stay in school. Mrs. Obama called on countries across the globe to help educate and empower young women and helped spread the stories and struggles of these women to inspire a commitment to education. These movements have had a large impact on the world, revealing the power and influence a woman can have.

Breaking all racial and gender barriers, Serena Williams has moved on to become the champion of women’s tennis. The first African American woman to win a grand slam singles title in the open era, and winning more of these titles than any other woman or man in the open era, Serena Williams has achieved her dreams and goals through hard work and perseverance. However, Williams is not just an amazing athlete who has won four Olympic gold medals, but works to change the world as well. Williams currently serves as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF, and works to establish schools in an effort to provide quality education for vulnerable children through UNICEF’s Africa program and Schools for Asia initiative. Since 2015, Williams has volunteered to help immunize children in Ghana by helping spread a large vaccination campaign. Williams runs her own charity called “The Serena Williams Fund”, which works to impact a variety of issues around the world from race relations to inequality. Building the Serena Williams Secondary School in Kenya and the Salt Marsh Basic School in Jamaica through her partnerships with Build African Schools and the Helping Hands Jamaica Foundation, Williams has allowed children throughout the globe to have an education. Partnering with many other organizations as well, Williams continues to have an impact on the globe.

In essence, thousands of women still living today have proven that females can powerfully make a difference in lives throughout the world. Malala Yousafzai, Bethany Hamilton, Oprah Winfrey, Emma Watson, Michelle Obama, and Serena Williams, to name a few, have offered solutions for major world issues, risen above challenges to accomplish their dreams, and have fought for their beliefs. No matter one’s gender or race, every human can influence the world.