International Women's Month 2020: Achievements of Notable Women Around the World
It’s no secret that women run the world, but all this is just proof of how strong, smart, and talented women are, especially when given the chance. This March, as Tatler Philippines celebrates International Women’s Month, we focus our spotlight on the mothers, daughters, sisters, and friends who have changed lives — theirs and others’ — for the better.
Christina Koch recently made headline news as she returned from the International Space Station after a total of 328 days in space — the record for longest single spaceflight by a woman. Along with colleague Jessica Meir, Koch had also participated in an all-female spacewalk in 2019. These ventures into space provide useful insight into both the long and short-term effects of spaceflight on women, as NASA prepares to send the first woman on the moon in 2024.
Diana Nyad is an American long-distance swimmer known for her record-setting stunts and swims. In the late 1970’s, Nyad was catapulted to fame after she had stroked a 165 kilometre journey from the Bahamas to Florida. Yet, this wasn’t her most glorious victory. In 2013, at the age of 64, Nyad successfully swam 177 kilometres from Cuba to Florida. Her journey — which she had attempted and failed to accomplish four times in the past — had forced her to face some of the ocean’s toughest obstacles. These included venomous jellyfish alongside the possibility of sharks. However, after a gruelling 53 hours in the water, Nyad reached the shores of Key West, Florida, safe and successful.
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Tu Youyou is a Chinese Nobel prize winner known for greatly advancing treatments for malaria. First gathering information from local folk and herb remedies, Tu Youyou and her team eventually managed to extract artemisinin — which inhibits malaria — from sweet wormwood plants. Although the research was conducted in the 1970’s, it was only in the 2000’s that the World Health Organisation recommended artemisinin-based drugs as the frontline for malaria treatment. Tu also eventually developed a second antimalarial compound called dihydroartemisinin, winning her and her team much-deserved acclaim.
Many know Mary Shelley as the literary creator of “Frankenstein”, which many hail as the first science fiction book to have been published. Although sometimes overshadowed by her famous husband (poet Percy Shelley) and liberal parents (radical philosopher William Godwin and women’s rights defender, Mary Wollstonecraft), Shelley is in her own right, worthy of recognition. “Frankenstein” has shaped much of modern pop culture and Shelley’s other books, which include “The Last Man” and “Valperga”, are classics in and of itself.
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Saur Marlina “Butet” Manurung
Saur Marlina “Butet” Manurung is known as an Indonesian pioneer for alternative education for indigenous peoples. A recipient of TIME magazine’s Hero of the Year Award in 2004, as well as the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2014, Butet Manurung became a staunch defender of indigenous people by teaching them how to read and write. She recalls her time with the Orang Rimba people in the Sumatran jungle, the difficulties she faced in earning their trust, and her eventual success with educating their children. After having been tricked into signing contracts under false terms, the Orang Rimba were cheated out of their land, and therefore distrusted pens, books, and outsiders in general. But after Manurung’s efforts, she came to witness the Orang Rimba’s upcoming generation begin to stand up for themselves and their community through her legacy of literacy.
Saray N'kusi Khumalo
In 2019, Saray N'kusi Khumalo became the first black African woman to climb Mount Everest. An intrepid climber, Khumalo has also conquered five other mountains including Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Mount Elbrus in Russia, and Mount Aconcagua in Argentina. All of her climbs have been to raise funds for children’s education and to help build libraries in Africa.
Zuzana Caputova is Slovakia’s first female president, also the youngest at 45 years old. Having won her seat in June 2019, Caputova has vowed to fight impunity and corruption within the relatively young nation’s government. A staunch environmentalist, Caputova is well-known for having spearheaded a successful campaign that shut down a waste dump near her home; the waste dump had been thought to cause an increase in the number of respiratory diseases and leukemia patients within the neighbourhood. Caputova’s influence had also helped spark protests in 2018, which ultimately led to the resignation of Prime Minister Robert Fico, who had then been embroiled in the scandal of murdered journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee, Martina Kušnírová.
Fe del Mundo
Fe del Mundo has often been called a woman of firsts. In her lifetime, she became the first woman pediatrician to be admitted to Harvard Medical School, the first woman to be named a National Scientist of the Philippines, and also founded the first pediatric hospital in the country. A proud Filipina, she returned to the Philippines from her medical studies in the United States during the height of World War II and saved thousands of lives by helping bring medical care to rural families. In her 70-year medical career, del Mundo had made major breakthroughs in the treatment of jaundice and diarrhea. She has also been credited with studies that have led to the invention of the incubator.
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