Maria Ressa, Michelle Obama, and Malala Yousafzai: Powerful Quotes From 10 Female Leaders and Pioneers
Men have long held leadership positions in society, but today, as more and more women become empowered, we're seeing a surge in the number of fearless female leaders and pioneers in various fields worldwide. Today, we take a look at some of the things they've said and how they've acted upon their beliefs. From presidents of nations to scientists and activists, these 10 women continue to inspire us with their actions, and with their words.
1/10 Dr. Jane Goodall
In 2002, Dr. Jane Goodall first spoke the words: "The greatest danger to our future is apathy."
As a conservationist, Dr. Goodall has over 60 years of groundbreaking work under the belt. Yet, when she first entered the field, she knew very little about chimpanzees. But she cared enough to know more, immersing herself in their habitat so as to experience firsthand their complex societies. In this way, she became a neighbour to the chimpanzees than just a distant observer, proving that while knowledge is important, it's also crucial for people to empathise and genuinely care about things they choose in their life.
Taking her words amid the turbulence of 2020, we've learned that it's important for all of us to make a decision to stand up for the causes we believe in, in both our local and international communities.
2/10 Corazon Aquino
Corazon "Cory" Aquino, the first female president of the Philippines who served from 1986 to 1992, famously said: "“There is much that women can bring into politics that would make our world a kinder, gentler place for humanity to thrive in.”
Although Cory Aquino's term as president was not smooth sailing—the administration having gone through multiple coup d'etats—the administration did successfully manage to bring about the 1986 Constitution, which is still in use today.
Aquino's quote concerning female leadership has also seemingly been proven true amid the COVID-19 pandemic, most of the countries who have fared well amid the disaster are led by women. Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, will go down in history as the first leader in the world to have defeated COVID-19. Taiwan's Tsai Ing-Wen and Germany's Angela Merkel, have also been among the roster of female leaders who have been heroically steering their countries away from the most devastating impacts of the virus.
3/10 Michelle Obama
In her bestselling memoir, Becoming, Michelle Obama writes: "Don’t ever make decisions based on fear. Make decisions based on hope and possibility. Make decisions based on what should happen, not what shouldn’t."
Although the Obamas enjoy plenty of success and popularity, they aren't exempt from tough times. Michelle herself has openly talked about the insecurities, fears, and tremendous pressures that have besieged her; these include things that range from racism to fertility struggles and her ire for current US President Donald Trump. Of course, she's also shown us how to overcome such difficulties with resilience and grace, most likely through following her own advice.
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4/10 Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey, who has been candid about her difficult past says: "Where there is no struggle there is no strength.”
By 2020, Oprah Winfrey has become a successful TV mogul and one of the richest and most influential people in the United States. But in her early childhood, she suffered greatly from poverty and prejudice. Born as an illegitimate child to a teenage mother, Oprah was constantly fostered and sometimes sexually abused by other relatives before moving to live with her father at 14.
Now, she uses her multiple platforms to inspire and to give a voice to those in need. She's been very vocal about her advocacies, which include universal education as well as safety for women and children. She's constantly giving back to people in need through the Oprah Winfrey Foundation and the Oprah's Angel Network.
5/10 Marie Curie
Marie Curie was attributed to have said: "Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less."
A renowned scientist, Curie was also the first woman to win a Nobel Prize for Chemistry and Physics. Her groundbreaking studies have led her discovery of radium and polonium, as well as the advancement of finding a cure for cancer. During World War I, Marie Curie also helped develop mobile X-ray units which were used to diagnose injuries at the frontline. Working as Director of the Red Cross Radiological Service, she toured Paris seeking donations of money and supplies to help those who were injured.
Although her arduous journey as a scientist eventually led to her death by radiation poisoning, her bravery and commitment to the field has helped benefit mankind for generations to come.
Read also: In Conversation: Eight Empowered Women Speak On The Challenges They Face In The 21st Century
6/10 Maria Ressa
Last year, Maria Ressa gave a speech at the TIME 100 gala. In it, she talked about her choice of returning to the Philippines: "I guess the first really big choices were homes. My sister chose New York. This is her home. Me, I had to wait until I was 40 because I couldn’t decide. After living a decade in Jakarta, I chose. I chose Manila, the Philippines, for better or worse."
Ressa, who has won worldwide acclaim as a pioneering journalist, was recently convicted of cyber libel alongside colleague Rey Santos. Despite this, colleagues and journalists alike continue to fight and voice their support for her and Santos.
As a journalist, Ressa has shed light on plenty of noteworthy local and international news, bringing the Philippines into the forefront of the global news community. As a Filipino, Ressa has represented the country on the covers of magazines and in various functions worldwide to spark hope and propagate the power of media. She is also a part of this year's Gen T summit, and has spoken to Tatler audiences via the Gen T Stream held online last 15 May 2020.
7/10 Malala Yousafzai
Pakistani activist, Malala Yousafzai once said: "I raise up my voice—not so I can shout but so that those without a voice can be heard."
In her home town of Mingora, Malala's father was a teacher. As a child, she enjoyed school and learning, but when the Taliban took over the their town, she was forced to stop. She actively spoke out against this, making her a target. She was even shot in the head by a gunman but continues to speak out about her experience and her advocacies in the United Kingdom. She is the youngest person to have won the Nobel Peace Price.
Read also: International Women's Day: 17 Women Who Changed the Game
8/10 Tsai Ing-Wen
Just last year, Taiwan became the first Asian nation to allow a same-sex marriage. To this, their president, Tsai Ing-Wen says: "In the face of love, everyone is equal. Let everyone have the freedom to love and to pursue their happiness."
It is heartwarming to see the Taiwanese president represent her country fiercely yet accept people openly. Although Taiwanese culture can sometimes be seen as conservative and traditional, it's impressive to see their leaders take steps towards a more progressive ideology, which includes same-sex marriage.
Although there are still a few restrictions in the Taiwanese law (such as how a marriage can only be performed if both partners come from a country that also supports gay marriage), this is still a huge milestone in terms of marriage equality. Tsai Ing-Wen's dynamic and liberal leadership has earned her recognition from the global and local community.
9/10 Miriam Defensor-Santiago
The late former senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago was famously known for her sharp mouth and witty comebacks that no one can deny her wit and style.
In 2014, during a commencement speech at UP Cebu, she said: "God is neither up above nor out there. Instead, God is found in here. In the human mind, in the human conscience."
Despite her sharp tongue and fiery temperament, Defensor-Santiago was devout in her faith. Yet, she had received a Master's Degree in Religious Studies from Maryhill School of Theology and also wrote plenty about religion. She's also debated openly about theology and has shown an open-minded stance on certain topics that would otherwise inflame the religious. In her time as a senator, she had supported the controversial Reproductive Health Bill, which aimed to give universal access to contraception and sex education.
She died in 2016 from lung cancer.
Read also: Solo Female Travel: The Highs And Lows Of Travelling Alone As A Woman
10/10 Jacinda Ardern
New Zealand's Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, shares: "I am not the first woman to multi-task. I am not the first woman to work and have a baby—there are many women who have done this before."
As New Zealand's first female Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern has been an ardent supporter of progressive ideologies. She's recently become the first New Zealand Prime Minister to join in a pride march and has also been very vocal about women's rights, having decriminialised abortion in her country just last year. She's proven time and time again how powerful women can be, serving her country while pregnant and as a new-mother to her partner, Clarke Gayford, who is a proud stay-at-home father. Despite all these feats, Ardern reminds the world that she is not the first woman to work and have a baby, giving credit to all the hardworking mothers who have sacrificed plenty for their families.