They move us with words, brains and muscle power, but above all with courage and perseverance. We’ll introduce you to five women who could not be more different. But they all have one thing in common, a strong sense of self-belief in the face of adversity.
Heiða Ásgeirsdóttir, shepherd and fighter
Here’s an Icelandic lady who dropped out of her blossoming career as a model to take over the farm of her family when she was 22. Fast forward 20 years, and she’s still happy and content with leading a life in Iceland’s solitude, looking after her sheep and her farm. And yes, she’s doing it single-handedly. What’s more, Heiða Ásgeirsdottír has become involved in national politics, representing the Green party as a member of parliament. Next to having written her own book, she occasionally makes up poems while working her land. Quite obviously, these are hard to translate into English. Here’s a try: “Not married? For all they want, blame me though/ I don’t really care, you know – this here is all but my show… I farm the land when I plough.” On occasion, she takes these poetic scintillations from her solitary life to a local pub when venturing out to take part in a poetry slam. Like an Icelandic take on a battle rap event, so to speak.
Ellen Fokkema, first woman to play men’s soccer
“In the struggle for the ball, feminine grace disappears, body and soul inevitably suffer damage, and the display of the body violates decorum and propriety.” (German Soccer Association, July 30, 1955)Today there are 173 women’s national soccer teams worldwide, but women are still considered the weaker players today. It is said that they build less muscle mass, and hence play slower than their male counterparts. This did not prevent 19-year-old Ellen Fokkema from the Netherlands from playing in a men’s team.
In Holland, mixed soccer teams have existed since 1986, albeit only in the youth category. For her dream of being an equal player among men as an adult, Ellen Fokkema eventually received a special permission in the Netherlands. Her first season has been going well so far, and the Dutch association KNVB wants to give women basic access to “men’s soccer.”
Incidentally, Fokkema previously turned down a professional contract with SC Heerenveen’s women’s team. Not only because she preferred to play in a men’s amateur league instead, but also as she’s training to become a nurse. What a great role model for aspiring ladies Ellen has become!
Gitanjali Rao, Inventor and “Kid of the Year”
Gitanjali Rao is only 15 years old, but she is already moving the world. In 2020, TIME magazine awarded her the title “Kid of the Year” for her tireless efforts as a scientist, inventor and coach. At just 11 years old, she invented a device that detects toxic substances in drinking water. Later, she developed an early-warning app that detects bullying online. Gitanjali’s goal is to solve the world’s big problems, but she also wants to encourage other children to contribute to problem solving. Gitanjali knows how hard it is to be taken seriously as an outsider. That’s why she works with schools, organizations, museums and academic institutions around the world to offer innovation workshops and share her methods. Her motto is, “Find what you’re passionate about, and don’t try to solve everything. Every solution is a part of the bigger picture of what we have to do.” She encourages many children with her message “If I can do it, you can do it, and anyone can do it.” And who knows, maybe someday a team of young scientists will succeed in solving a global problem with her help.
Amanda Gorman, Poet and activist
In 2014, Amanda Gorman was the first youth poet laureate of Los Angeles. While that in itself is a massive accomplishment, she didn’t stop there. In 2017, she was named the National Youth Poet Laureate. Only a few years later, she performed the work we’ve all come to know her by: “The Hill We Climb.” Gorman has broken down cultural walls and barriers through her writing, most often alluding to hope and togetherness in her poetry. She recently read her work, “Chorus of the Captains” at the Super Bowl. While it’s an unexpected place for such a highly regarded medium, her ability to appeal and speak to the many different faces of the United States is significant. Through her writing, Gorman has become a symbol for unity, hope, change, and the undeniable weight language holds. While her poems are mighty, so is her desire to make the world a better place. Gorman has been quoted saying; “I don’t want to just speak works; I want to turn them into realities and actions.” As an activist, she continues to inspire others through her nonprofit organization ‘One Pen, One Page.’
Greta Thunberg, Schoolgirl and environmental activist
At only 15 years old, Greta Thunberg decided that the world’s climate was more important than school. She started a Friday strike in front of the Swedish Parliament in Stockholm, and very quickly students all over the world followed her example. As they took to the streets on Fridays to demonstrate for effective climate policies, they made their voices heard. However, Greta Thunberg and the demonstrators were repeatedly met with scorn and derision. They were reproached for going to school instead of taking to the streets by adults refusing to accept their empowerment. As an icon of the Fridays for Future movement, Greta’s commitment has shown that the individual matters and nobody should feel powerless. Even in the face of adversity, she made an example of how you should express discontent with the ignorance of power and politics. For that alone, Greta Thunberg is a true hero.