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7 influential women to watch in 2023

Words by Amy Packham

On International Women's Day 2023, we at Smiley News want to celebrate the women who are paving the way to a better, more healthier and happier world.

Some women you may never have heard of, others you may know – but they're all united by one mission: making a positive impact.

Whether it's improving wellbeing, reducing inequalities around our world, or educating others about the injustices in our world, these women are all trying their best to make a difference.

This International Women's Day, the theme is #EmbraceEquity.

"Imagine a gender equal world," they say, "a world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that's diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated. Together we can forge women's equality. Collectively we can all #EmbraceEquity.

"IWD belongs to everyone, everywhere. Inclusion means all IWD action is valid."

So to celebrate women's achievements, here are 7 women doing their bit, as recognised by Smiley News.

Nokuzola Ndwandwe

Nokuzola is an award-winning period activist working in South Africa. She has had many victories so far, including having tampon tax scrapped, and garnering huge financial support for ending gender inequality.

Powered by the driving force of personal experience, Nokuzola set out to create Team Free Sanitary Pads, a campaign group to tackle gender inequality and period poverty across the country.

Her prime focus for 2023 is expanding on the need for a menstrual rights law in South Africa and globally (Scotland with Monica Lennon & recently Spain).

Yasmin Benoit

Out of all the letters in LGBTQIA+, the ‘A’ is one of the ones which often gets forgotten. Still a novel concept to many outside the LGBTQIA+ community, ‘asexuality’ – a lack of sexual attraction to others – is perhaps dismissed the most in a world that revolves around sexual attraction.

Yasmin Benoit, 26, activist, heavy metal fan, lingerie model and cake hater, feels very differently. From a young age, she knew she didn’t feel romantic or sexual attraction in the same way her peers did – but it took until her mid-teen years to discover the term ‘asexual’ on the internet… and even longer to decide if it applied to her.

She partnered with Stonewall to launch the UK’s first-ever asexual rights initiative. The Stonewall x Yasmin Benoit Ace Project works to research the problem of ACE discrimination in the UK, in the hopes of making this a better, and more accepting world.

Meg Zeenat Wamithi

Meg Zeenat Wamithi is CEO at Mindmapper UK and global mental health educator.

As a teenager, she struggled with her mental health and felt like she couldn't get the support she needed. So rather than sit back, she decided to do something about it. “I had two options: either wait for someone else to do it… or do it myself," she told Smiley News.

Using her strength, she now inspires people in schools and workplaces around the world through Mindmapper UK, which delivers talks and workshops focused on mental wellbeing and personal development.

Holly Bruce

Holly is a councillor for Glasgow City Council, one who is taking the UK by storm as she puts a feminist lens on one thing you thought it would never matter for; city planning.

The book Feminist City: Claiming Space in a Man-Made World inspired Holly to act and, when the opportunity rose to join a leadership programme in Glasgow for young women under 30, she jumped at the chance.

“What I’ve started is more of a policy shift and a structural shift and will change how we decide how our cities are built or adapted,” explains Holly. “And the cultural change is a whole other conversation.”

Though the motion was unanimously backed by Glasgow City Council, movement will be slow to start; beginning with shifts in data collection and policies, before real physical, structural changes are able to be implemented.

Rhiane Fatinikun

After an accident several years ago where she was nearly run over, Rhiane Fatinikun was diagnosed with PTSD. 

“After that, I just wanted to find something new to do – for my wellbeing more than anything,” she tells Smiley News. Rhiane would have the idea to go hiking – and now, that idea has blossomed into Black Girls Hike.

Four years after their inception, Black Girls Hike has had success after success. From TED Talks to visits to Windsor Castle, to joining forces with the Duke of Edinburgh award, Black Girls Hike is opening up the countryside and proving that nature is there for everyone.

Kazna Aska

Involved in fundraising from an early age, integrating community values into her clothing line was natural for young designer Kazna Asker.

“I became very community-based when I moved to Sheffield,” explains Kazna, whose family is from Yemen, while she was born in Liverpool.

Kazna’s work combines streetwear with Islamic wear and Islamic modesty. Kazna’s work prioritises community and doing good, whether that is highlighting marginalised communities in her work and the models who wear it or raising funds and awareness for charities.

Inspired by the Dutch social enterprise Makers Unite, Kazna decided she wanted to use fashion and her designs to help people. It is important for Kazna that the money goes straight to the refugees who need it the most, and so she makes sure to donate to M.A.PIsra-UK and Saba Relief.

Sally Orange

As the only person who has run a marathon on every continent dressed as a piece of fruit, Sally Orange’s history is nothing to be sniffed at.

An avid mental health campaigner, military veteran and adventure athlete, Sally has recently taken on the ultimate challenge – The World Marathon Challenge. She ran 7 marathons in 7 days on 7 different continents.

For the World Marathon Challenge, she chose 7 charities; The Duke of Edinburghs Award (DofE), The Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA)Marathon Kids UK, Armed Forces, Para-Snowsport Team (AFPST)Ripple Suicide PreventionWalking with the Wounded and Scotty’s Little Soldiers.

“I have raised money for over 50 charities in the past, so it was kind of quite hard to just pick one!” she said. “So I thought well, it’s 7-7-7; it fits well to do seven charities. That means that I can get the message further and wider.”

This article aligns with the UN SDG Partnerships for the Goals.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs