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Blog, Our Commitment, Women

DATE

Mar 8, 2022

International Women’s Day takes place annually on March 8. This year the claim chosen by the UN to celebrate this day is Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow, a premise that coincides with Optiva’s values and social responsibility. Once again, we are celebrating this day. On this occasion, we want to take a look at ones of the most inspiring and influential women from around the world for 2021. These women are playing their part to reinvent our society, our culture and our world. 

Here are just a few of the women who shaped our year, shared our hopes, and stood up for all of us. They set bold examples, acted with purpose, and demonstrated exceptional compassion and courage.

Mackenzie Scott

An American novelist and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott tops this year’s World’s 100 Most Powerful Women according to Forbes list. She has donated her wealth at an unprecedented scale. She has given away $8.6 billion of her fortune in charitable donations. She received 25% of Amazon stake in 2019 when she divorced Jeff Bezos who was her husband for 25 years. Just some months later, shortly after she announced the terms of the divorce on Twitter, she signed the Giving Pledge, promising to give away at least half of her wealth over the course of her lifetime. Scott employs a “no strings attached” style of giving, wherein the nonprofits to which she donates have full control over how to best deploy the new funds.

Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris is an American politician and attorney who is the 49th and current vice president of the United States. On January 20, 2021, Harris became the first woman, the first Black person, and the first South Asian-American to become U.S. vice president. After being confirmed as vice president-elect, she addressed the nation saying, “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last, because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.” She’s no stranger to firsts: In 2016, Harris was the first Indian-American woman to be elected to the United States Senate. Furthermore, in 2010, Harris became the first African-American and first woman to serve as California’s attorney general.

Women against Covid-19

In the middle of all our worries due to Covid-19 there is a reason to cheer: four women were working around the clock to produce safe, effective vaccines, breaking records and stubborn expectations about women in science with their ingenuity and persistence.

The first one is Katalin Karikó and her fixation with the potential of RNA to transform human health. She joined BioNTech in 2013 to head its messenger RNA (mRNA) program. When in January 2020, Chinese researchers published the genetic sequence of the new coronavirus causing COVID-19 she had already created in partnership with immunologist and physician Drew Weissman “the perfect vehicle for targeting any virus or pathogen”, a vaccine decades in the making, ready and waiting for the right virus.

Next one is Kathrin Jansen, Pfizer’s head of vaccine research and development known for developing vaccines for human papillomavirus (HPV) and pneumococcal disease. Beginning in March 2020, Jansen led a team of 650 experts, in collaboration with German startup BioNTech, to develop a successful vaccine against COVID-19.

Also, we have to talk about the immunologist Kizzmekia Corbett of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH). She collaborated with Moderna to develop its vaccine in record time. Corbett helped design the vaccine, led preclinical studies for the clinical trials, and then offered her voice and her time to communicate with her hundreds of thousands of social followers about the importance of getting vaccinated, helping her audience overcome vaccine hesitancy.

Last but not less important, Sarah Gilbert, a vaccinology professor at Oxford University’s Jenner Institute and one of the scientists behind the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. Shehad already developed a vaccine for another coronavirus disease, MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome), when she turned her attention and her team to COVID-19, using the MERS vaccine as a blueprint.

Katalin Karikó

Kathrin Jansen

Kizzmekia Corbett

Sarah Gilbert

Amanda Gorman

She was the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history. Gorman, who struggled with a speech impediment as a child, turned to writing and poetry to find her voice and now uses it to advance literacy, equality, and environmental action. She’s also a pathbreaker in the realm of writing and publishing. She became the brand’s first Global Changemaker as part of a three-year partnership that includes a contribution of $3 million by the female-founded company to Writing Change, a new literacy initiative aimed at fostering opportunity and equality.

Mia Mottley

Named a 2021 Champion of the Earth for Policy Leadership by the UN Environment Programme, Mottley has been a reliable and respected voice against delaying climate action. She is Barbados’ first female prime minister since the country’s independence in 1966 and under her leadership, the country has promised to become the first island country to phase out fossil fuels by 2030 and to plant 1 million trees to help mitigate climate change effects. The country’s “Roofs to Reefs” national resilience program was launched to place the island on a path of sound sustainable development. She also make history at the 76th UN General Assembly in September when she railed against inequity and inaction in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, the digital spread of fake news, and the risky and inadequate response to global climate change, a challenge that will disproportionately affect the people of her island nation.

Selin Ozünaldim

Last year, in June in Paris, Hillary Clinton, Nadia Murad, Melinda French Gates, and several country, philanthropic, and business leaders were at the Generation Equality. But, we cannot achieve Generation Equality unless young advocates lead it. Among those who attended the gathering was Özünaldim, a 19-year-old Turkish student representing the hopes of activists of all ages and ambitions. The key to equality, she says, is, “involving young people and adolescents” and “ensuring adolescent girls are given space to express opinions, make meaningful decisions, and actively contribute and shape the agenda.” Özünaldim’s path to becoming a feminist started when she reached out to UN Women to join the HeForShe campaign, which she later brought to her high school through conferences and events, and eventually, to schools across Turkey. She also founded the Istanbul chapter of Girl Up and was selected as one of 300 global Gender Youth Activists to participate in UN Women’s Generation Equality Campaign.

Maria Luisa Segoviano

The Spanish representation is María Luisa Segoviano, the first woman to preside over one of the chambers of the Spanish Supreme Court. She represents the slow advance of equality in the upper echelons of business and institutions, and makes it clear that glass ceilings are still being broken. She arrived at the Supreme Court 14 years ago, after a long career linked to the labor jurisdiction that began in 1974. María Luisa is concerned about equality and many of the rulings she has signed over the years have been aimed at defending it. Like the one that demanded a reinforced canon of justification for the dismissal of a pregnant woman with reduced working hours for childcare, which led to the legislative reform of 2019.

Fiamē Naomi Mata’af

She is the first female prime minister of Samoa and leader of the Faʻatuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (Fast) party. Fiamē Naomi Mataʻafa entered politics at the age of 27 and has also served as deputy prime minister, minister of women, community and social development and minister of justice. She is also a high chiefess and an inspiration to Samoan women aspiring to political office. Her agenda has a strong environmental focus: to fight against the climate emergency in one of the regions of the world most vulnerable to global warming.

Women from Afghanistan

We can’t finish this list without talking about women from Afghanistan. In most of the lists as BBC Most Influential Women of 2021, women from Afghanistan make up half of the lists, some of whom appear under pseudonyms and without photos for their own safety. The resurgence of the Taliban in August 2021 has changed the lives of millions of Afghans and Afghan women’s nightmare scenario has become reality: girls banned from receiving secondary education, the ministry for women’s affairs being disbanded, and women in many cases told not to return to work. This year’s list recognises the scope of their bravery and their achievements as they are forced to reset their lives

The women of Afghanistan did not go down quietly, rising up in protest in the country’s main cities to defend their right to education, work and political representation.  But arrests, harassment and murder soon followed. On November 5, the bodies of four women were discovered in a ditch near the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, riddled with bullets. Among them was Forouzan Safi, prominent campaigner for the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan.

The Taliban have promised a less brutal rule than in the 1990s, but women are still largely excluded from civil service and secondary education, and they risk reprisals if they venture outside without a male guardian. When FRANCE 24’s reporters visited Kandahar in October, female witnesses spoke of a surge in beatings, forced marriages and kidnappings. Afghan women are also on the front line of the economic crisis roiling the country, which has been largely deprived of foreign aid since the Taliban takeover.

Ones of them that we can highlight are Lima Aafshid (award-winning poet and writer, whose poetry and articles challenge patriarchal norms in Afghan culture), Muqadasa Ahmadzai (she organized a network of more than 400 young women activists from Nangarhar province, in eastern Afghanistan, to travel to nearby districts and help survivors of domestic violence), Rada Akbar (misogyny and the oppression of women are at the heart of this Afghan visual artist’s work. Rada Akbar has always used art as a medium to enable her to speak up and give women greater visibility in society) or Leena Alam (award-wining TV, film and theatre actress and human-rights activist Leena Alam is renowned for her appearances in feminist television shows in Afghanistan, including Shereen and Killing of Farkhunda, which told the story of an Afghan woman who was falsely accused of burning the Quran and was publicly lynched by a mob of angry men). If you want more information, you can find the BBC’s list of 100 inspiring and influential women from around the world for 2021 here.

Lima Aafshid

Muqadasa Ahmadzai

Rada Akbar

Leena Alam

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