10 Powerful Women Throughout History

Mar 04, 2016 1 Min Read

LDR-PDF-download-110x110Many achievements have been made throughout history by strong, opinionated and powerful women. In conjunction with International Women’s Day 2016 themed “Pledge For Parity,” let’s take a look at some of these amazing women over the past few decades.

1. Rosa Louise McCauley Parks, civil rights activist

Rosa Parks_some rights reserved

Photo credit: Cliff | Flickr

Her refusal to give up her bus seat to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama, indirectly led to some of the most significant civil rights legislation of history in the United States (US).

2. Maya Angelou, civil rights activist, poet and author

Maya Angelou_some rights reserved

At the Carolina Theater, Greensboro, North Carolina, September, 2008. Photo credit: Talbot Troy | Flickr

She made history as the first African-American woman to have a non-fiction bestseller for her memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain. —Maya Angelou

3. Irene Fernandez, director and co-founder of Tenaganita

She founded a non-governmental organisation that promotes the rights of women, migrant workers and refugees in Malaysia.

4. Zeti Akhtar Aziz, first female and current governor of Bank Negara Malaysia

She is the 7th Governor of Bank Negara and has been in this role for the past 16 years. Under her leadership, Bank Negara was active in scrutinising the 1Malaysia Development Berhad controversy that shook the nation. One also cannot forget her contribution to the country during and after the 1997-1998 Asian Financial Crisis, where she implemented several reforms, developed new financial institutions, grew the Islamic finance and built the financial industry into the solid one that it is today.

5. Benazir Bhutto, first democratically-elected female prime minister of a Muslim country

Benazir Bhutto_some rights reserved

Photo credit: Anna | Flickr 

She helped Pakistan to shift from dictatorship to democracy. She sought to implement social reforms, in particular helping women and the poor.

6. Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan, human rights activist and lawyer

Ambiga_some rights reserved

Photo credit: Nigel Sia | Flickr


She was the Malaysian Bar Council president from 2007 to 2009, and is the second woman to assume the position. A strong advocate for good governance, democracy and human rights, she organised the “March for Justice” in Putrajaya (in 2007) which called for judicial reform, among other things.

(In 2009, Ambiga was one of eight women to receive the Secretary of State’s Award for International Women of Courage from the US Department of State. She received the award from US First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.)

7. Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir, human rights activist

Marina_some rights reserved

Photo credit: Nigel Sia | Flickr 

For more than 10 years, she was president of the Malaysian AIDS Council, an umbrella body of 37 NGOs working on HIV/AIDS issues in Malaysia. She was instrumental for putting treatment for HIV/AIDS patients on the table and getting the government to provide anti-viral treatment for Malaysians living with HIV for free.

8. Yasmin Ahmad, film director

Her work epitomised our multiracial country and diversity. Her messages were always laced with humour, simplicity and accepting of each other’s differences.

It is perfect to be imperfect, because perfection is made up of many imperfections put together that makes it perfect. —Yasmin Ahmad

9. Princess Diana, Princess of Wales and children’s activist

The Wedding of Princess Diana and Prince Charles, Photograph at Buckingham Palace, July 29, 1981. Photo credit: Joe Haupt | Flickr

The wedding of Princess Diana and Prince Charles. Photograph taken at Buckingham Palace, July 29, 1981. Photo credit: Joe Haupt | Flickr 

Her sincerity won the hearts of the people. She spent time visiting the homeless and terminally-ill patients, and is known for her humanitarian and charity work.

10. Malala Yousafzai, children’s activist, women’s rights activist

She defied Taliban threats to campaign for the right to education, especially among girls. She survived being shot in the head and has become a global advocate for women’s rights, especially for the right to education.

I raise up my voice—not so I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard. —Malala Yousafzai

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Prethiba is passionate about impacting people through the written word. She believes that our lives are solely written by us, and thus the power to change for the better lies with us.

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