Image for International Women’s Day: 15 trailblazing women making the world better

International Women’s Day: 15 trailblazing women making the world better

To mark International Women’s Day, Positive News celebrates some of the brilliant female pioneers, leaders and creators driving change, from conservation to gender equality

To mark International Women’s Day, Positive News celebrates some of the brilliant female pioneers, leaders and creators driving change, from conservation to gender equality

Zandile Ndhlovu, Black Mermaid Foundation

The Black Mermaid Foundation brings diversity to blue spaces by teaching South African black children how to swim, snorkel and beach clean.

The sea is a ‘white space’, said founder Zandile Ndhlovu, the country’s first black African freediving instructor. In addition to a systemic cultural fear of the sea, she explains that barriers stem from the inherited “historical trauma of the transatlantic slave trade” and apartheid when black South Africans were “forcibly removed from their ocean-facing homes”.

Her workshops inspire children from Soweto to become ocean guardians.

Read more here.

Image: Zander-Botha

International Women’s Day
Silvia Dan, Romanian folk singer

Romanian folk singer Silvia Dan, 80, has released her debut album, Interbeing, to help regenerate the landscape that inspired her grandmother to write this traditional music.

She lives in the remote village of Nucsoara, surrounded by forests inhabited by lynx, wolves and bears. But this ‘Amazon of Europe’ is threatened by illegal logging.

Album sales fund a project called Forests without Frontiers that plants native trees that are protected by law. “It has been devastating to see the destruction, and this project gives me hope,” said Dan. 

Read more here.

Image: Marius Sumlea

Solveiga Pakštaitė, Mimica

While studying industrial design and technology at London’s Brunel University, Solveiga Pakštaitė created a way to reduce food waste by updating the expiry date system.

Bump (first called Mimica Touch) is a plant-based gel incorporated into a bottle cap or product label that changes to a bumpy texture when food spoils. She has developed labels for red meat and dairy, seafood, juice and smoothies.

“The fact this came from a university project and we’ve got a waiting list of customers in the food industry makes me incredibly proud,” said Pakštaitė.

Trials show that the Bump Cap enabled 97 per cent of households to use orange juice for up to six days longer than they would have with current guidance. (Sign up here to add your name to the waiting list for Bump Cap).

Read more here.

International Women’s Day
Stephanie Brobbey, Good Ancestor Movement

Finding out that the UK’s food banks outnumbered McDonald’s outlets inspired high-flying lawyer Stephanie Brobbey to stop advising the mega-rich how to get richer. Now, she runs the country’s first wealth management company for wealthy people with a social conscience.

At the Good Ancestor Movement, her growing team runs a bespoke three-month-long event programme that engages her millionaire clientele with topics including slavery and divestment. 

“We’ve all been socialised to keep taking from the system and to keep winning,” she said. “So to have someone say, ‘I don’t want an ISA because I don’t believe it was designed for someone like me’, that’s a big thing.”

Read more here.

Image: Samer Moukarzel

International Women’s Day
Beth Dunn, Women’s Street Watch Newcastle

More than 50 volunteers in pink hi-vis patrol the streets of Newcastle on a mission to help vulnerable women get home safely at night.

Beth Dunn co-founded Women’s Street Watch Newcastle following the murders of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa. A pink van provides a safe space for women – including university freshers, clubbers and those who are homeless – to wait, charge their phone or book a free taxi home.

“I believe we’ve intervened and supported women during some quite difficult and dangerous events so I’m incredibly proud of our team,” said Dunn. 

Read more here.

Image: Women’s patrol. Courtesy of Women’s Street Watch Newcastle

Joeli Brearley, Pregnant Then Screwed

Being sacked the day after she told her boss she was pregnant inspired Joeli Brearley to highlight the discrimination of working mums and campaign for women’s rights. She launched her charity Pregnant Then Screwed on International Women’s Day in 2015, and provides help and support to thousands of women through a free advice hotline, useful resources, a mentor scheme and workshops.

Brearley, who published her book The Motherhood Penalty last year, believes women need support to access the justice they deserve as much as they need help “to recover from the mental health impact of discrimination”. 

Read more here.

Image: Courtesy of Pregnant Then Screwed

International Women’s Day
Tobi Asare, My Bump Pay

Many women feel isolated from their careers during maternity leave. A new online community for working mums aims to empower thousands to smash the glass ceiling when they have a baby on the way and beyond. 

“It’s [about] how to bounce back from those situations where you’ve just come back from maternity leave and your confidence is really low,” explained Tobi Asare, founder of My Bump Pay.

Asare hopes her new book, The Blend, (published 9 March) will help women to find a mix of parenting and career that works for them throughout working motherhood.

Read more here.

Image: Amanda Akokhia Photography

Nan Goldin, Prescription Addiction Intervention Now

A documentary film, All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, takes a close look at grassroots political action through the story of Nan Goldin.

In 2017, Goldin became addicted to OxyContin, a drug prescribed for pain that contributes to the overdose crisis. Purdue Pharma, the company that manufactured and profits from OxyContin, is owned by the billionaire Sackler family who donated millions to art galleries.

Through die-ins and demonstrations, Goldin’s group Prescription Addiction Intervention Now (Pain) calls for art institutions to terminate their association with the Sacklers.

“We’ve shown people that a small group can be very effective,” Goldin told BBC Radio 4. 

Read more here.

Image: A scene from All the Beauty and the Bloodshed

International Women’s Day
Ruth Miller, Unglamorous Music

Ruth Miller was almost 60 when she revived her own inner guitar hero and sparked Leicester’s new all-female punk scene.

“It’s kind of a hobby for us, but we’re actually producing great art rock, and that’s not been done before by ordinary women from our age group,” said Miller, who hosts Unglamorous Music workshops.

Seven new all-female bands have already formed as a result. “We’re proof that you don’t have to be young or the typical student type to start a band.” 

A compilation featuring Unglamorous Music bands is slated for release in March.

Read more here.

Image: Leicester band the Wonky Portraits preparing for a gig. Credit: Unglamorous Music

International Women’s Day
Sharon Blackie, Hags with Attitude

Psychologist and neuroscientist Dr Sharon Blackie’s new book Hagitude is a call for women to embrace menopause, reframe ageing and connect with the transformative power that can stem from the ‘second half of life’, as she calls it.

By portraying menopause as a disability or dysfunction, we are missing out on its positive and empowering possibilities, she argues.

Blackie offers a year-long membership programme for the Hagitude (Hags with Attitude) community with monthly workbooks, webinars, guest speakers and story sharing.

Read more here.

Image: Mark Griffiths

International Women’s Day
Fatima Haidari, Afghanistan's only female tour guide

With travel to Afghanistan forbidden, visits are still possible with Fatima Haidari, the country’s only female tour guide.

Following her escape from the Taliban, Haidari hosts virtual reality tours from her home in Italy using 360° videos, personal photographs and insight into history, architecture, art and culture.

In collaboration with adventure travel company Untamed Borders, she showcases national treasures such as the intricate mosaics of the Great Mosque of Herat, and takes people inside traditional teahouses, bazaars or into a caravanserai (an ornately-built roadside inn).

Her dream? “Peace, freedom, gender equality, humanity and love are my hopes for people,” she said.

Read more here.

Image: Untamed Borders

Nemonte Nenquimo, Ceibo Alliance

Rainforest defender and Indigenous activist Nemonte Nenquimo, co-founded the NGO Ceibo Alliance to fight back against oil exploration, logging and road building, which threaten the Ecuadorian Amazon.

She has used a combination of ancestral knowledge and hi-tech GPS mapping tools to build a legal case against the government. In 2019, the courts ruled in favour of the hunter-gatherer Waorani people, protecting 500,000 acres of rainforest.

“Don’t expect us to keep doing it alone,” she urged. “We need you to fight with us to protect the Amazon.”

Read more here.

Image: Jeronimo Zuñiga/Goldman environmental prize

International Women’s Day
Nicole Pisani, Chefs in Schools 

“Food can either be medicine or it can be poison,” stated Nicole Pisani, who quit her job as a top head chef to co-found Chefs in Schools, a charity that improves school dinners.

Her team retrains kitchen staff to provide fresh, nutritious meals to thousands of schoolchildren, while encouraging food education in classrooms.

One school recently opened a bakery to serve their school community. “It’s about finding solutions with positivity and care,” said Pisani. 

Chefs in Schools has just launched a free toolkit that guides schools through the process of creating a food education hub. 

Read more here.

Image: Harriet Clare

International Women’s Day
Héloïse Luzzati, La Boîte à Pépites

A French record label is highlighting the forgotten contributions that female musicians have made to classical music. La Boîte à Pépites (The Jewel Box) was founded by French cellist Héloïse Luzzati.

“How could I have spent so many years without ever having played a piece composed by a woman?” wondered Luzzati. “Too few works by women are published and therefore even fewer recorded.”

After lengthy research, in 2022, Luzzati released a three-CD box set of work by late French composer and mother-of-seven Charlotte Sohy, who died in 1955. Compositions by Liza Lehmann and Adela Maddison are works in progress.

Read more here.

Image: Capucine de Choqueuse

International Women’s Day
Holly Whitelaw, Cornwall Gleaning Network

One woman has helped rescue more than 100 tonnes of surplus, discarded and wonky vegetables from fields and farms. Her Cornwall Gleaning Network diverts good-enough-to-eat food to soup kitchens, refuges, food banks and community larders.

“Gleaning is rewarding,” said Whitelaw, whose background is in regenerative agriculture. “People are getting the freshest veg literally straight from the fields.”

Eventually, she’d love big supermarkets to fund a national gleaning network as the first step to fixing the ‘broken’ food system. 

Read more here.

Image: James Bannister

Main image: Mark Griffiths

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