Begum Sufia Kamal (1911-1999) was a poet and political activist from Bangladesh. She
was a civil society leader in her country and part of the Bengali nationalist
Her literary career started in 1937 and
offered her national visibility. She promoted peace between Hindus and Muslims
in Bangladesh, and later focused on women’s rights, founding the Women’s Struggle
Group in 1969. She received numerous international awards for her activism,
and was the first woman to have a state funeral in Bangladesh.
So-yeon (b. 1978) is a Korean astronaut and
biotechnologist. She is the first person from her country to fly in space.
She obtained her doctorate in biotech
systems in 2008, and went on to become an Engineering Physics Professor at
Everett Community College. Her pioneering space mission took place in the same
year; she conducted eighteen different science experiments on her flight. She
also worked for the Korean Aerospace Research Institute.
Mammadbeyova (1922-2006) was a notable Azerbaijani scientist. She
was the first female forensic medical expert and the first female chief
pathologist in her country.
She was the director of the
pathological laboratory at the Research Institute for Clinical and Experimental
Medicine in Baku, a position she held for four decades. She was also the first
female professor of pathology in Azerbaijan.
Begum Rokeya (1880-1932) was an
author and social activist in British India, today Bangladesh. She is
considered a pioneer of women’s rights and female education on the Indian subcontinent.
She has written extensively, both fiction and
nonfiction, advocating for equal treatment of the genders and better
educational opportunities for women. In 1909 she founded the first school for
Bengali Muslim girls in Kolkata, and in 1916, the Muslim Women’s Association,
an organisation which fought for equal education and employment rights.
Ruth Pfau (1929-2017) was a
German nun and physician. She dedicated her life and career to fighting leprosy
She studied Medicine at the University of Mainz and later joined a Catholic
order. She travelled to Pakistan and spent most of her life there, helping
people affected by leprosy all across the country. Due to her efforts, Pakistan
became one of the first countries in Asia to keep the disease under control –
dropping from almost 20,000 thousand cases to just over 500 in 2016.
Khaleda Zia (b. 1945) served as the Prime Minister of Bangladesh for two terms,
1991-1996 and again 2001-2006. She was the first female head of a democratic
government in her country, and the second in a Muslim-majority country.
During her time as Prime Minister, the GDP
of Bangladesh increased considerably, and the country opened to international
investment. Her government also worked to alleviate poverty and support female
Simin Dāneshvar (1921-2012) is seen as the first major female author in her native country of Iran. She wrote extensively about the lives of Iranian women and social issues.
In 1966, she published the bestselling A Persian Requiem, the first published novel by an Iranian woman. Also hers are the first collection of short stories and first volume of translated stories published by a woman in the country.
Ra’ana Liaqat Ali Khan (1905-1990) was a key figure
in the Pakistan Movement during the 1940s, when the country was forming. She
was named the “Mother of Pakistan” for her influence.
She worked to create political awareness among Muslim
women, and initiated a number of reforms in support of women and children’s
rights. She especially tried to create opportunities, such as medical training,
for women to take up professions beyond the domestic life that was expected of
them. She founded the Pakistan Women National Guards and the Women Naval Reserves.
Olga Rypakova (b. 1984) is a track and field athlete from
Kazakhstan. She won several gold medals in national and international
She has won a total of 17 medals in major championships,
10 of which were gold. She was Kazakhstan’s national champion in 2001, and represented
her country at the 2012 Olympic Games, where she won gold in the triple jump
was an artist and women’s rights activist. She spent a significant amount of
time in Japan, and was a member of the team who wrote the country’s
constitution after World War II.
worked as a translator, as she was fluent in English, Japanese, and other three
languages. She was assigned to work on the section on human rights in the
constitution, and was responsible for drafting the language on the equality of
genders, offering more rights to Japanese women in the process. She was also
the Performing Arts Director of the Japan Society in New York.