2020 gave us an abundance of stories of powerful and inspirational women. In the US, Vice-President elect Kamala Harris made history when she became the first female vice president, the first African American vice president and the first Asian vice president. The passing of Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg brought to the forefront of our minds everything she had achieved for women’s rights throughout her career.
But not every woman who was influential during 2020 found themselves on the front of magazines. Here are some inspiring women who may or may not have made it onto your radar this year.
During the 2020 Belarusian election, activist Svetlana Tikhanovskaya stepped in at the last minute to run against the authoritarian president Alexander Lukashenko. This came after her husband, who had been running against him in the same election, was arrested.
She continued her election campaign even after receiving threats of violence and threats to the safety of her children from authorities. Although Lukashenko declared he had won the election, Tikhanovskaya’s bravery and defiance of his authoritarian rule acts as a powerful symbol of freedom in Belarus and beyond.
Not an influential woman, but rather a group of influential women. Founded by Edinburgh University students in 2017, Sanitree looks to tackle period poverty here in Scotland and abroad. The group works to produce period products that are more environmentally friendly than standard ones and raises awareness around period poverty. The historic bill that was passed in Scotland this year making period products free and available to anyone who needs them was considerably aided by the group’s campaigning.
Although the development of the first COVID-19 vaccine might be the most famous scientific breakthrough of the year, the woman who is mostly responsible for its development is not quite as well known. Ozlem Tureci is a German scientist and entrepreneur and the Chief Medical Officer at Biontech, the company she cofounded. Her work this year will undoubtedly save millions of lives around the world.
As with everything in this day and age, activism has expanded out onto an online space. Activists can now reach more people than ever through platforms such as Instagram, Twitter and even TikTok. Chidera, who can be found at @theslumflower on Instagram, uses hers to speak on issues such as racism, sexism, body positivity and much more. The accessible way she talks on these issues are what really make her so influential; her books and Instagram posts can be understood by anyone and everyone and allow people who would otherwise be excluded from these conversations to get involved. This year she released her second book, How to Get Over a Boy, which focuses on dating and self-love.
Another influential woman you might not have heard about this year is an 82-year-old Indian activist that has been described as “the voice of the marginalised”. In protest of a bill that would prioritise immigrants seeking citizenship in India based on religion (which amounted to preventing Muslims gaining citizenship), Bilkis and others carried out a three-month sit in in Shaheen Bagh, a neighbourhood in Delhi. Acknowledging she was unlikely to live to see the equality she dreamed of in her country, she said she protested for the ‘children of this country’.