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5 women trailblazers leading the global fight for gender equity amid the pandemic

This International Women's Day, the UN is celebrating the efforts of women and girls around the world who are helping shape a more equal future even in the middle of a pandemic.

5 women trailblazers leading the global fight for gender equity amid the pandemic
Cover Image Source: (L)Jacinda Ardern on February 05, 2021, in New Zealand. (Fiona Goodall) (M)Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on September 19, 2017, in New York City. (Riccardo Savi) (R)Amanda Gorman on January 20, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong)

This March 8, as the world celebrates International Women's Day, the United Nations is recognizing the efforts of women and girls around the world who are helping shape a more equal future even in the midst of a pandemic. Announcing this year's theme of "Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world," the organization wrote: "Women stand at the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis, as health care workers, caregivers, innovators, community organizers and as some of the most exemplary and effective national leaders in combating the pandemic. The crisis has highlighted both the centrality of their contributions and the disproportionate burdens that women carry."


"Women leaders and women's organizations have demonstrated their skills, knowledge, and networks to effectively lead in COVID-19 response and recovery efforts. Today there is more acceptance than ever before that women bring different experiences, perspectives, and skills to the table, and make irreplaceable contributions to decisions, policies, and laws that work better for all," it added. The organization pointed out that despite women being at the head of most of the countries that have succeeded in curbing the COVID-19 pandemic and responding to its health and broader socio-economic impacts, only 20 countries worldwide have women as heads of state and government.


Moreover, the pandemic has given rise to new barriers for women, including a worrying rise in domestic violence, unpaid care duties, unemployment, and poverty. Therefore, it is now more important than ever to highlight the countless women around the world who are fighting to bring about long-term change and lay the groundwork for a brighter future. Here are five among them who have paving the way for all of us:

1. Jacinda Ardern


New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's swift response to minimize the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic was praised across the globe after the country managed to successfully flatten the curve. "Ardern, 40, stands almost alone as having all but eradicated community transmission of COVID-19," NBC News reported in October last year. "While the coronavirus rages elsewhere, New Zealand has become something of a parallel universe where lockdowns, masks, and social distancing are no longer necessary."

2. Amanda Gorman


The 22-year-old Harvard graduate made countless headlines earlier this year when she became the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history during President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris's inauguration. Gorman's original poem, "The Hill We Climb," struck a powerful chord at the event as it stated the need for unity and healing in the nation in the aftermath of the Trump presidency and the January 6 Capitol riot. "It's because being American is more than a pride we inherit. It's the past we step into and how we repair it," she recited that day. 

3. Avesta Rastan


Rastan, an infographic extraordinaire of Iranian and Canadian heritage, helped combat misinformation amid the pandemic by using her creative talents to design infographics depicting exactly how COVID-19 affects the body. The 25-year-old, who is a member of the Association of Medical Illustrators, gained international recognition after she used her training in pathological illustration — the drawing of disease — to create an infographic that went viral online. The infographic is now available to download in 18 languages on her website.

4. Bibi La Luz Gonzalez


Gonzalez, the founder of the Guatemalan non-profit Eat Better Wa'ik, is on a mission to fight malnutrition through education and economics. Named a pandemic hero last year for providing healthy and nutritious food baskets to rural and urban communities, she focuses on middle to low-income urban families in Guatemala by educating parents about the food and nutrients they consume and feed to their children. She has reportedly reached over 8000 students in Central and North America through healthy meals while advocating for food security, climate sustainability, and human rights.

5. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala


Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former two-time Nigerian finance minister, recently made history by becoming the World Trade Organization's first African and woman leader. Speaking to NPR, she vowed to take on global economic and health challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. "A strong WTO is vital if we are to recover fully and rapidly from the devastation wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic. I look forward to working with members to shape and implement the policy responses we need to get the global economy going again," Okonjo-Iweala said. "Our organization faces a great many challenges but working together we can collectively make the WTO stronger, more agile and better adapted to the realities of today."

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