Mariam “Al-Astrolabiya” Al-Ijliya: Why she kicks ass

  • She lived in the tenth century in Aleppo, Syria and was a famous scientist who designed and constructed astrolabes.
  • Astrolabes were global positioning instruments that determine the position of the sun and planets, so they were used in the fields of astronomy, astrology and horoscopes. They were also used to tell time and for navigation by finding location by latitude and longitude. They were also used to find the Qibla, prayer times, and determine starting days for Ramadan and Eid.
  • Mariam Al-Ijliya came from a family of engineers and manufacturers, like her father and many engineers, she was a student of a certain Bitolus, who was a well known manufacturer of astrolabes in Baghdad and she in turn became his student. Her hand-crafted designs were so intricate and innovative that she was employed by the ruler of the city, Sayf Al Dawla, from 944 AD until 967 AD.

Nur Jahan: Why she kicks ass

  • She was Empress of the Mughal Empire. A strong, charismatic and well-educated woman, she is considered to be one of the most powerful and influential women of the 17th century Mughal Empire. As favorite wife of the powerful Mughal emperor Jahangir, she found herself uniquely positioned to brilliantly utilize her skills in administration, politics, economics, and culture.
  • . As a result of her second husband’s, the Emperor Jahangir’s, serious battle with alcohol and opium addiction, Nur Jahan was able to wield a significant amount of imperial influence and was often considered at the time to be the real power behind the throne. She remains historically significant for not only the sheer political power she maintained (a feat no Mughal women before her had ever achieved) but also for her contribution to Indian culture, charity work, commercial trade and her ability to rule with an iron fist.
  • Since women were not suppose to appear face to face with men in court, Nur Jahan ruled through trusted males. But it was she who approved all orders and grants of appointment in Jahangir’s name, and controlled all promotions and demotions within the royal government. 
  • She sat alongside her husband on the jharoka to receive audiences, issued orders, over saw the administration of several jagir (land parcels), and consulted with ministers. She even decreed Nishan which was a privilege reserved only for male members of the royal family.
  • She took special interest in the affairs of women, giving them land and dowries for orphan girls.
  • She had coins struck in her name, collected duties on goods from merchants who passed though the empire’s lands, and traded with Europeans who brought luxury goods from the continent. Given her ability to obstruct or facilitate the opening up of both foreign and domestic trade, her patronage was eagerly sought, and paid for. She herself owned ships which took pilgrims as well as cargo to Mecca. Her business connections and wealth grew. Her officers were everywhere. The cosmopolitan city of Agra, the Mughal capital, grew as a crossroad of commerce.
  • Since Nur was well versed in Arabic and Persian language, art, literature, music and dance, and came from a line of poets, she naturally wrote too and encouraged this among the court women. Poetry contests were held, and favorite female poets from beyond the court were sometimes sponsored by the queen, such as the Persian poet Mehri.
  • In 1626, the Emperor Jahangir was captured by rebels while on his way to Kashmir. The rebel leader Mahabat Khan had hoped to stage a coup against Jahangir. Nur Jahan intervened to get her husband released. Nur Jahan ordered the ministers to organise an attack on the enemy in order to rescue the Emperor; she herself would lead one of the units by administering commands from on top of a war elephant.
  • During the battle Nur Jahan’s mount was hit and the soldiers of the imperial army fell at her feet. Realizing her plan had failed Nur Jahan surrendered to Mahabat Khan and was placed in captivity with her husband. Unfortunately Mahabat Khan failed to recognise the creativity and intellect of Nur Jahan since before he knew it she was able to organise an escape and raise an army right under his very nose.
  • Nur Jahan died on 17 December 1645 at age 68. She is buried at Shahdara Bagh in Lahore, Pakistan in a tomb she had built herself. Upon her tomb is inscribed the epitaph “On the grave of this poor stranger, let there be neither lamp nor rose. Let neither butterfly’s wing burn nor nightingale sing”

Parveen Shakir: Why she kicks ass

  • She was an Urdu poet, teacher and a civil servant of the Government of Pakistan.
  • She started writing at an early age and published her first volume of poetry, Khushbu [Fragrance], to great acclaim, in 1976. She subsequently published other volumes of poetry - all well-received - Sad-barg [Marsh Marigold] in 1980, Khud Kalami [Soliloquy] and Inkar [Denial] in 1990, Kaf e Aina [The Mirror’s Edge] besides a collection of her newspaper columns, titled Gosha-e-Chashm [The Sight Corner], and was awarded one of Pakistan’s highest honours, the Pride of Performance for her outstanding contribution to literature.
  • Shakir held two masters degrees, one in English Literature and one in Linguistics. She also held a PhD and another masters degree in Bank Administration.
  • She was a teacher for nine years before she joined the Civil Service and worked in the Customs Department. In 1986 she was appointed the second secretary, CBR in Islamabad.
  • She primarily uses two forms of poetry in her work, one being the prevalent ghazal, and the other being free verse. The most prominent themes in Shakir’s poetry are love, feminism, and social stigmas, though she occasionally wrote on other topics as well. Her work was often based on romanticism, exploring the concepts of love, beauty and their contradictions, and heavily integrated the use of metaphors, similes and personifications.
  • Arguably, Shakir can be termed the first poetess to use the word larki (girl) in her works—the male-dominated Urdu poetry scene seldom employs that word, and uses masculine syntax when talking about the ‘lover’. Similarly, she often made use of the Urdu first-person, feminine pronoun in her verses which, though extremely common in prose, was rarely used in poetry, even by female poetesses, before her.
  • Shakir’s poetry was well-received, and after her untimely death she is now considered one of the best and “most prominent” modern poets Urdu language has ever produced. Hailed as a “great poetess,” her poetry has drawn comparisons to that of Iranian poet Forough Farrokhzad, and she is considered among the breed of writers “regarded as pioneers in defying tradition by expressing the "female experience” in Urdu poetry.“

Noor Inayat Khan: Why she kicks ass

  • She was an Allied SOE agent during the Second World War, who became the first female radio operator to be sent from Britain into occupied France to aid the French Resistance.
  • After the death of her father in 1927, Noor took on the responsibility for her grief-stricken mother and her younger siblings.She studied child psychology at the Sorbonne and music at the Paris Conservatory under Nadia Boulanger, composing for harp and piano.
  • She began a career writing poetry and children’s stories and became a regular contributor to children’s magazines and French radio.In 1939 her book, Twenty Jataka Tales, inspired by the Jātaka tales of Buddhist tradition, was published in London.
  • On 19 November 1940, she joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF), and as an Aircraftwoman 2nd Class, she was sent to be trained as a wireless operator. Upon assignment to a bomber training school in June 1941, she applied for a commission in an effort to relieve herself of the boring work there.
  • Later she was recruited to join F (France) Section of the Special Operations Executive and in early February 1943 she was posted to the Air Ministry, Directorate of Air Intelligence, seconded to First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY), and from there to various other SOE schools for training, including STS 5 Winterfold, STS 36 Boarmans and STS 52 Thame Park. During her training she adopted the name “Nora Baker”.
  • Her fluent French and her competency in wireless operation—coupled with a shortage of experienced agents—made her a desirable candidate for service in Nazi-occupied France. On 16/17 June 1943, cryptonymed ‘Madeleine’/W/T operator 'Nurse’ and under the cover identity of Jeanne-Marie Regnier, Assistant Section Officer/Ensign Inayat Khan was flown to landing ground B/20A 'Indigestion’ in Northern France on a night landing double Lysander operation, code named Teacher/Nurse/Chaplain/Monk.
  • She joined the Physician network. Over the next month and a half, all the other Physician network radio operators were arrested by the Sicherheitsdienst (SD). In spite of the danger, Noor rejected an offer to return to Britain. She continued to transmit as the last essential link between London and Paris. Moving from place to place, she managed to escape capture while maintaining wireless communication with London. “She refused to abandon what had become the most important and dangerous post in France and did excellent work.”
  • On or around 13 October 1943 Inayat Khan was arrested and interrogated at the SD Headquarters at 84 Avenue Foch in Paris. Though SOE trainers had expressed doubts about her gentle and unworldly character, on her arrest she fought so fiercely that SD officers were afraid of her.
  • She was thenceforth treated as an extremely dangerous prisoner. There is no evidence of her being tortured, but her interrogation lasted over a month. During that time, she attempted escape twice. Hans Kieffer, the former head of the SD in Paris, testified after the war that she did not give the Gestapo a single piece of information, but lied consistently.
  • On 25 November 1943, Inayat Khan escaped from the SD Headquarters, along with fellow SOE Agents, but was captured in the vicinity. There was an air raid alert as they escaped across the roof. Regulations required a count of prisoners at such times and their escape was discovered before they could get away. After refusing to sign a declaration renouncing future escape attempts, she was taken to Germany on 27 November 1943 “for safe custody” and imprisoned at Pforzheim in solitary confinement as a “Nacht und Nebel” (condemned to “Disappearance without Trace”) prisoner, in complete secrecy. For ten months, she was kept there handcuffed.
  • She was classified as “highly dangerous” and shackled in chains most of the time. As the prison director testified after the war, Inayat Khan remained uncooperative and continued to refuse to give any information on her work or her fellow operatives.
  • At the beginning of 2011, a campaign was launched to raise £100,000 for a bronze bust of her in central London close to her former home. 
  • The unveiling of the bronze bust of Inayat Khan by HRH The Princess Royal Anne took place on 8 November 2012 in Gordon Square Gardens, London.
  • She was posthumously awarded a British George Cross and a French Croix de Guerre with Gold Star. She was the third of three Second World War FANY members to be awarded the George Cross, Britain’s highest award for gallantry not in the face of the enemy.
  • In September 2012, producers Zafar Hai and Tabrez Noorani obtained the movie rights to the biography Spy Princess: The Life of Noor Inayat Khan by Shrabani Basu.
  • On March 03, 2013, Irfanulla Shariff, an American poet posted a poem on the internet, “A Tribute To The Illuminated Woman Of World War II”, the very first poem dedicated to her. This poem by Irfanulla Shariff fully illustrates the life story of this remarkable heroic woman of World War II.

Tawakkol Karman: Why she kicks ass

  • She became the international public face of the 2011 Yemeni uprising that is part of the Arab Spring uprisings. She has been called by Yemenis the “Iron Woman” and “Mother of the Revolution.”
  • She is a co-recipient of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, becoming the first Yemeni, the first Arab woman, and the second Muslim woman to win a Nobel Prize and the youngest Nobel Peace Laureate to date.
  • She is a Yemeni journalist, politician and senior member of the of Al-Islah political party, and human rights activist who heads the group “Women Journalists Without Chains,” which she co-founded in 2005. She gained prominence in her country after 2005 in her roles as a Yemeni journalist and an advocate for a mobile phone news service denied a license in 2007, after which she led protests for press freedom. She organized weekly protests after May 2007 expanding the issues for reform.
  • She redirected the Yemeni protests to support the “Jasmine Revolution,” as she calls the Arab Spring, after the Tunisian people overthrew the government of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011. She has been a vocal opponent who has called for the end of President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s regime.
  • She earned an undergraduate degree in commerce from the University of Science and Technology, Sana'a, a graduate degree in political science from the University of Sana'a. In 2012, she received an Honorary Doctorate in International Law from University of Alberta in Canada.
  • She co-founded the human rights group Women Journalists Without Chains (WJWC) with seven other female journalists in 2005 in order to promote human rights, “particularly freedom of opinion and expression, and democratic rights." Although it was founded as "Female Reporters Without Borders,” the present name was adopted in order to get a government license.
  • She has received “threats and temptations” and was the target of harassment from the Yemeni authorities by telephone and letter because of her refusal to accept the Ministry of Information rejection of WJWC’s application to legally create a newspaper and a radio station. The group advocated freedom for SMS news services, which had been tightly controlled by the government despite not falling under the purview of the Press Law of 1990. After a governmental review of the text services, the only service that was not granted a license to continue was Bilakoyood, which belonged to WJWC and had operated for a year.
  • In 2007, WJWC released a report that documented Yemeni abuses of press freedom since 2005. Two years later, she criticised the Ministry of Information for establishing trials that targeted journalists.
  • She was also affiliated with the Al-Thawrah newspaper at the time she founded WJWC in March 2005. She is also a member of the Yemeni Journalists’ Syndicate.
  • She called attention Yemeni girls suffering from malnutrition so that boys could be fed and also to high illiteracy rates, which includes two-thirds of Yemeni women. She has advocated for laws that would prevent girls younger than 17 from being married.
  • During the 2011 Yemeni protests, Tawakkol Karman organised student rallies in Sana'a in protest against the long-standing rule of Saleh’s government. On 22 January, she was stopped while driving with her husband by three plain-clothed men without police identification and taken to prison, where she was held for 36 hours until she was released on parole on 24 January.
  • She then led another protest on 29 January where she called for a “Day of Rage” on 3 February similar to events of the 2011 Egyptian revolution that were in turn inspired by the 2010–2011 Tunisian revolution. On 17 March, she was re-arrested amidst ongoing protests. Speaking of the uprising she had said that: “We will continue until the fall of Ali Abdullah Saleh’s regime…We have the Southern Movement in the south, the (Shia) Huthi rebels in the north, and parliamentary opposition…But what’s most important now is the jasmine revolution." She has set at the protest camp for months along with her husband.
  • On 18 June she wrote an article entitled "Yemen’s Unfinished Revolution” in the New York Times in which she assailed the United States and Saudi Arabia for their support for the “corrupt” Saleh regime in Yemen because they “used their influence to ensure that members of the old regime remain in power and the status quo is maintained.” She argued that American intervention in Yemen was motivated by the war on terror and was not responsive to either the human rights abuses in Yemen or the calls from Yemen’s democracy movement. She affirmed that the protesters in Yemen also wanted stability in the country and region.
  • During the protests, Karman was part of a large number of women activists—up to 30 percent of the protestors—demanding change in Yemen.  On 16 October, government snipers in Taiz shot and killed Aziza Othman Kaleb, CNN reported she was the first woman to have been killed during the Yemen protests but could not verify this claim. Ten days later, women in Sana'a protested against the violent force used against them by burning their makramaAt the time, Karman was in Washington, D.C., where she said the female protesters who burned their makrama were “reject(ing) the injustice that the Saleh regime has imposed on them. And this is a new stage for the Yemeni women, because they will not hide behind veils or behind walls or anything else.”
  • After the Nobel Peace Prize announcement, she became increasingly involved in mobilizing world opinion and United Nations Security Council members to assist the protesters in ousting Saleh and bringing him before the international court.
  • She lobbied the United Nations Security Council and the United States not to make deal that would pardon Saleh, but instead hold him accountable, freeze his assets and support the protesters. The United Nations Security Council voted 15–0 on 21 October on Security Council Resolution 2014 that “strongly condemns” Saleh’s government for the use of deadly force against protesters, but it also backed the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) initiative that would give Saleh immunity from prosecution should he resign. Karman, who was present for the vote, criticised the Council’s support for the GCC’s proposal and instead advocated that Saleh stand trial at the International Criminal Court.
  • After the nobel prize announcement, Karman traveled to Qatar where she met with Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and also requested the Doha Centre for Media Freedom’s assistance to set up a television and radio station, which would be named Bilqis, in honour of the Queen of Sheba, in order to support female journalists and to broadly educate Yemeni journalists.
  • Yemen filmmaker Khadija al-Salami documented the role that women played in the Yemen uprising in her film The Scream (2012), in which Tawakkol Karman is interviewed. Al-Salami presents three individual portraits - a journalist, an activist, and a poet - in the documentary. The title refers to women who are vocal about their position relative to men in reaction to a traditional patriarchal society. The The Scream had its debut screening at the Dubai International Film Festival in 2012.

Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy (شرمین عبید چنائے): Why she kicks ass

  • She is an Emmy and Oscar award-winning Pakistani-Canadian journalist and documentary filmmaker, who won an Academy Award for her documentary, Saving Face in 2012.
  • She won an Emmy for her documentary, Pakistan: Children of the Taliban in 2010. 
  • She has made over a dozen-multi award winning films in over 10 countries around the world and is the first non-American to be awarded the Livingston Award for best international reporting.
  • Her other films have been awarded The Overseas Press Club Award, The American Women in Radio and Television Award, The Cine Golden Eagle award and the Banff Rockie Award.
  • She has been lauded as Pakistan’s first female Oscar winner by the press and government, and was conferred the Hilal-e-Imtiaz on 23 March 2012, by the Pakistani President for bringing honor to Pakistan as a filmmaker.
  • Time magazine has named her on their annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world for 2012.
  • She started her film company, SOC Films, in Karachi in November 2011. She is also the president of The Citizens Archive of Pakistan, a non profit organization dedicated to Cultural and Historic Preservation. (CAP).
  • She began writing investigative pieces at the age of fourteen as a way to contribute to critical conversation in Pakistan. She was interested in telling stories of marginalized communities; people whose voices were never heard and whose compelling stories needed to be shared. She continued to pursue journalism and wrote for a number of Canadian and American publications.
  • Sharmeen’s work centers around human rights and women’s issues and she has worked with refugees and marginalized communities from Saudi Arabia to Syria and from Timor Leste to the Philippines.
  • She was acknowledged with a Lux Style Achievement award on The 11th Lux Style Awards. (Lux Style Awards Widely acknowledged to be the Oscars of Pakistan.) She is the youngest-ever recipient for the Lux Style Achievement award.
  •  In August 2012, she received a nominee for the Gucci Award for Women for documentary ‘Saving Face’ as a director. Later that year Saving Face won Best Short Award at the 28th annual IDA Documentary Awards.
  • She has been voted one of the top five millennial women who has been fighting against domestic and societal violence. In late 2012, 'Saving Face’ has received the Julian-Bartel Award and the 2012 Abu Dhabi Film Festival Audience Choice Award.
  • She also received the Crystal Award during the annual World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting 2013 in Davos 22 January 2013, making her the first Pakistani to be awarded this honor.

Oumou Sangare: Why she kicks ass

  • She is a Malian singer and known as one of Africa’s most outstanding artists. Using the traditional music of her home, Wassalou, her songs address many of the social problems taking place in Mali society such as the place of women and polygamous marriages.
  • Her fierce dedication to women’s rights is evident in her song lyrics and her language, as in an interview with The Observer, “‘I will fight until my dying day for the rights of African women and of women throughout the world.”
  • Some of Oumou’s albums include Moussoulou (1989), Ko Sira (1993), Worotan (1996), Laban (2001), Oumou (2003). She released Seya in 2009. Since 1990, she has performed at some of the most important venues in the world: the Melbourne Opera, Roskilde festival, festival d'Essaouira, Opéra de la monnaie of Brussels.
  • As a child, Oumou Sangaré sang in order to help her mother feed their family as her father had abandoned them. At the age of five, she was well known for her talents as a gifted singer. After making it to the finals of a contest for the nursery schools of Bamako, she performed in front of a crowd of 6,000 at the Omnisport Stadium. At 16, she went on tour with the percussion group Djoliba.
  • She was named an ambassador of the FAO in 2003 and won the UNESCO Prize in 2001 and was made a Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters of France in 1998.
  • Sangaré is also involved in the world of business, including hotels, agriculture and automobiles. She has launched a car, the “Oum Sang”, manufactured by a Chinese firm and marketed in conjunction with her own company Gonow Oum Sang.
  • She is the owner of the 30-room Hotel Wassoulou in Mali’s capital, Bamako, a haven for musicians and her own regular performing space.
  • Sangaré has also been a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, but says she does not want to be a politician: “While you’re an artist, you’re free to say what you think; when you’re a politician, you follow instructions from higher up.”

Nawal El Moutawakel: Why she kicks ass

  • She is a former Moroccan hurdler, who won the inaugural women's 400 m hurdles event at the 1984 Summer Olympics, thereby becoming the first female Muslim born on the continent of Africa to become an Olympic champion.
  • She was also the first Moroccan and the first woman from a Muslim majority country to win an Olympic gold medal.
  •  In 2007, El Moutawakel was named the Minister of Sports in the upcoming cabinet of Morocco.
  • Although she had been a quite accomplished runner, the victory of El Moutawakel, who studied at Iowa State University at the time, was a surprise.King Hassan II of Morocco telephoned El Moutawakel to give his congratulations, and he declared that all girls born the day of her victory were to be named in her honor.
  • She was a pioneer for Muslim and Arabic athletes in that she confounded long-held beliefs that women of such backgrounds could not succeed in athletics. Her medal also meant the breakthrough for sporting women in Morocco and other mostly Muslim countries.
  • In 1993 she started Courir pour le plaisir, a 5km run for women in Casablanca that has since become the biggest women’s race held in a Muslim country, with up to 30,000 entrants.
  • In 1995, El Moutawakel became a council member of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), and in 1998 she became a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
  • In 2006, El Moutawakel was one of the eight bearers of the Olympic flag at the 2006 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony in Turin, Italy. On 26 July 2012, she carried the Olympic torch through Westminster, London, for the London Olympics.

Nzinga Knight: Why she kicks ass

  • She is a New York native fashion designer whose line, Nzinga Knight, launched in 2008. Her debut collection draws upon elegant draping and fluid lines to create bold yet sophisticated clothing, and her use of bright, solid colors and silk fabrics reflect a cosmopolitan, modest flair.
  • She studied fashion design and fine art at the prestigious Pratt Institute School of Design in New York City where she received a BFA in fashion design (class of 2005). She has also been featured in the film, “Fashioning Faith.”
  • Noted as a visionary fashion designer, Nzinga Knight is the recipient of a Council of Fashion Designers of America Award, a DCA Grant and was the winner of the 2008 Power UP Business Plan competition sponsored by Citigroup. She has worked with designers Marc Jacobs, ThreeAsFour, Reva Mivasager and Jones NY.
  • Nzinga said that aims to create eveningwear that does not rely on sex appeal. “With most of eveningwear being about sex appeal as opposed to elegance,” she said. “Women should be beautified, not exposed. So, I am about dignifying and beautifying women and giving them a beautiful option of modest high-end American eveningwear. I’m very pro-women, and pro-femininity.”

Sabrina Jalees: Why she kicks ass

  • She is a female Canadian comedian, dancer, actor, host and writer from Toronto, Ontario, now based in New York, who writes a weekly column in the Toronto Star’s ID section. Most recently, she was a writer for Canada’s Got Talent.
  • Since stepping onto the stage of (Toronto’s) Yuk Yuk’s amateur night at 16, she’s become one of the most recognizable faces in the Canadian media. her bio states, “Lovers of comedy were immediately intrigued by the ½ -Pakistani, ½ -Swiss teen’s humor (…mostly because she was so damned clever (and admittedly, partially due to her moustache at the time).”
  • She was soon skipping class to tour the country. Going on to record a CTV Comedy Now special, perform at the famed Just For Laughs Festival and break Mike Myers’ record as the youngest improviser ever hired by Second City.
  • She has made many Canadian media appearances, including as a commentator on MuchMusic’s Video on TrialStars On Trial and LOL!, as well as a role in Canadian Series Flashpoint and Jian Ghomeshi’s Monday correspondent on CBC Radio One’s Sounds Like Canada in the Summer. She also previously filed a regular segment on Go. She currently hosts Laugh Out Loud on CBC Radio One and a reality TV show for children, In Real Life, airing on YTV. She made a cameo in the video for Break This by Hunter Valentine.
  • After she married Shauna McCann, a New York-based wardrobe stylist, in September. She said; “I told my parents, ‘I can’t keep this a secret anymore, I’m married now. Do I keep on bringing my white best friend to family things because she loves Ramadan? Soon we’ll have a little kid best friend. We found him in a well. What could we do?” Unfortunately  her mass-coming out letter was received with shunned silence, but she turned tragedy into comedy, titling her first cross-country headlining run ‘The Brownlisted Tour’.

Maria Bashir: Why she kicks ass

  • She is a prosecutor based in Afghanistan, who is the only woman to ever hold such a position in the country as of 2009. With more than fifteen years of experience with Afghan civil service - the Taliban, corrupt policemen, death threats, failed assassination attempts - she has seen them all.
  • She was banned from working during the Taliban period, when she spent her time schooling girls illegally at her residence, when it was illegal for women to be seen unescorted by men on the streets.
  • The Taliban made it illegal for girls to read or work, ensuring that they remained dependent on men. Bashir started schooling them underground, at her residence, with students smuggling books and other items necessary for their studies inside shopping bags. She believed that the Taliban regime would fall, and wanted women to be ready to join the workforce when this happened. The Taliban were aware of her activities, and they summoned her husband twice to explain what she was doing
  • In the post-Taliban era, she was called back into service, and was made the Chief Prosecutor General of Herat Province in 2006. With her main focus on eradicating corruption and oppression of women, she has handled around 87 cases in 2010 alone.
  • Recognising her work, the United States Department of State, presented her The International Women of Courage Award which is awarded annually to women around the world who have shown leadership, courage, resourcefulness and willingness to sacrifice for others, especially for better promotion of women’s rights, often at risk to their own lives.
  • Bashir also featured in the 2011 Time 100, an annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world composed by Time.
  • She remains critical of the new government, stating that though the new constitution provided equal rights to women, many judges still subscribed to the old Islamic Sharia Law. After stating that the lack of freedom women have to choose their partners, she noted that while men are not tried for adultery, women were still being stoned to death for similar charges. Commenting on the biased divorce process and the way husbands win custody of children, she said women preferred suicide to the latter.
  • Briefing more on the prevailing corruption issues in Afghanistan, she suggested a structural reorganisation, with an end to appointing people based on their ethnicity, as was being done by Hamid Karzai. She also recommended that the anti corruption efforts can only be successful if they are coupled with salary increases for the public servants, as the meagre salaries that they receive now forces them to look ‘elsewhere’ to supplement them. She also showed her concern on the lack of enforcing power of the laws, which makes the legal system powerless.

Anousheh Ansari: Why she kicks ass

“I hope to inspire everyone—especially young people, women, and young girls all over the world, and in Middle Eastern countries that do not provide women with the same opportunities as men—to not give up their dreams and to pursue them…It may seem impossible to them at times. But I believe they can realize their dreams if they keep it in their hearts, nurture it, and look for opportunities and make those opportunities happen.”

  • She is an engineer and the Iranian-American co-founder and chairwoman of Prodea Systems. Her previous business accomplishments include serving as co-founder and CEO of Telecom Technologies, Inc. (TTI).
  • On September 18, 2006, a few days after her 40th birthday, she became the first Iranian, and first muslim woman in space. Ansari was the fourth overall self-funded “spaceflight participant”, and the first self-funded woman to fly to the International Space Station.
  • She has conducted multiple experiments while at the International Space Station.  Anousheh is the first person to contribute to a blog from space.
  • Her memoir, My Dream of Stars, co-written with Homer Hickam, was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2010.
  • She has received multiple honors, including the George Mason University Entrepreneurial Excellence Award, the George Washington University Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award, the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for the Southwest Region, and the Horatio Alger Award.
  • While under her leadership, Telecom Technologies, Inc. earned recognition as one of Inc. magazine’s 500 fastest-growing companies and one of Deloitte & Touche’s Fast 500 technology companies.
  • She was listed in Fortune Magazine’s “40 under 40" list in 2001 and honored by Working Woman magazine as the winner of the 2000 National Entrepreneurial Excellence award.
  • In 2009 she received the first Symons Innovator Award given annually byNCWIT to honor successful women entrepreneurs in technology. She was also featured in the documentary film "Space Tourists” by independent Swiss filmmaker Christian Frei about billionaires who paid to ride to the International Space Station aboard Russian spacecraft.

Dame Zaha Hadid: Why she kicks ass

  • She is an Iraqi-British architect, who is arguably the world’s foremost female architect. Her buildings are distinctively futuristic, characterized by the “powerful, curving forms of her elongated structures" with ”multiple perspective points and fragmented geometry to evoke the chaos of modern life".
  • In 2004 she became the first woman to win the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize that honors living architects “whose built work demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision, and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture.”
  • The impact of her contributions also won her a spot on the 2008 Forbes list of the world’s 100 most powerful women. She also is a member of the editorial board of the Encyclopædia Britannica.
  • Though her built work consists primarily of cultural projects—museums, galleries, and venues—she reveals in an interview with the British newspaper The Guardian a passion for designing schools, hospitals, and housing.  “Of course,” she says, “I believe imaginative architecture can make a difference to people’s lives, but I wish it was possible to divert some of the effort we put into ambitious museums and galleries into the basic architectural building blocks of society.”
  • Dame Zaha Hadid has taught at prestigious universities around the world, including at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, where she was the Kenzo Tange Professorship and the Sullivan Chair at the University of Illinois at Chicago‘s School of Architecture. She also served as guest professor at theHochschule für bildende Künste Hamburg (HFBK Hamburg), the Knowlton School of Architecture at Ohio State University, the Masters Studio at Columbia University, and the Eero Saarinen Visiting Professor of Architectural Design at the Yale School of Architecture.
  • She is a guest professor at The University of Applied Arts - Vienna, in the Zaha Hadid Master Class Vertical-Studio, and was named an Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and an Honorary Fellow of the American Institute of Architects. She has been on the Board of Trustees of The Architecture Foundation. She is currently Professor at the University of Applied Arts Vienna in Austria.
  •  In 2006, she was honoured with a retrospective spanning her entire work at the Guggenheim Museum in New York; that year she also received an Honorary Degree from the American University of Beirut. Her architectural design firm, Zaha Hadid Architects, employs more than 350 people, and is headquartered in a Victorian former school building in Clerkenwell, London.

Col. Latifa Nabizada: why she kicks ass

“My name is Latifa. I am Colonel. I am an active helicopter pilot in the Afghan Air Force.

I wish to become a very good pilot and train other women to become pilots.

I have a five-year-old daughter who has been flying with me since she was two months of age. This is because there is nobody to look after her in the Air Force. I am trying to convince them to have a kindergarten, so women can be calm and do their job very well.

My message to other women in the world is that they should work hard to achieve their goals. They should be ambitious and have confidence in themselves. They should stand by Afghan women and share their experiences with Afghan women.”

  • She was the one of the two first female pilots in the history of Afghan aviation, who travels to some of the most remote and dangerous corners of her country with a devoted partner next to her in the cockpit — her daughter, Malalai.
  • When she and her sister joined the airforce they were repeatedly denied admission to the Afghan military school on medical grounds, but they eventually joined in 1989 after being certified fit by a civilian doctor. No women’s uniforms existed, so they made their own. They were the first two women pilots in Afghan air force history.
  • In 1996, when the Taliban secured Kabul, she and her sister were supported by general Dostum who gave them a secure place to live while they flew missions and fought the Taliban.
  • Since there was no kindergarten in the military at the time, she took her 2 month old daughter Malalai with her in the helicopter. “She has grown up in a helicopter - sometimes I think she’s not my daughter, but the helicopter’s daughter!”
  • They have flown together on more than 300 missions over the past few years, and she acknowledged the risks of having her daughter onboard.
  • Being a woman in the Afghan military is still not easy, but it has toughened her, she says. She is no longer harassed, she says, citing an Afghan saying that translates roughly as “steel gets harder with the hammering.“

Ni’mah Nawwab: Why she kicks ass

  • She is an internationally published poet, writer, youth and women’s advocate, photographer, film-maker, and humanitarian who is recognized as a “Voice for Arab Women and Youth” and a “cultural ambassadress” who aims to build bridges of understanding related to global peace and rapport.
  • She is the first published Saudi Arabian female poet in the United States. Her latest work entitled, “Canvas of the Soul: Mystic Poems from the Heartland of Arabia”,  is a sequel to her pioneering work, “The Unfurling,” which included a historic, first-of-its-kind public book signing in Saudi Arabia and Washington D.C.
  • Her poetry and academic articles are widely read and have been translated from English into Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, and Arabic. In “Canvas of the Soul” she showcases her passion for Islamic art and calligraphy amid poetic lines reminiscent of the works of mystic poets such as Rumi. 
  • She is a contributor to several English language publications and served as a reviewer and editor of the globally circulated “Saudi Aramco World Magazine” for 14 years. 
  • As a passionate photographer and art devotee, her photographic works have been featured globally; most recently she was published in “Saudi Arabia, A Land Transformed”.  Ni’mah has taken her interests even farther and melded her artistic and humanitarian passions into visual media.
  • She has been a contributor to various documentaries on women and peace, such as PBS’s “Beyond our Differences,” a documentary about humanity and faith. Ni’mah also served as a consultant and narrator to the “Arabia 3D IMAX” documentary about Said Arabia in 2010.
  • She is the recipient of numerous awards. Her work and best-selling books have been featured in BBC World News, Newsweek International, MSNBC, AP, The Washington Post, the Japanese English Yomiuri Shimbum, LA Times, Asian Age, GEO France,  Hindustan Times, the Malay Berita Harian, Hello magazine, Eastern Eye, Hi magazine, Arabian Lady, Arab News, Saudi Gazette, ash-Sharq al-Awsat, Al Hayat, Al Watan, Laha, Sayidaty, Khaleej Times, Arabian Lady,  Bahrain Tribune, Ukaz, Al Yawm, Arabiyyah Net, Elaf and many more.

Aliya Mustafina: Why she kicks ass

  • She made her first Olympic appearance in the 2012 London Olympics and left the London games as the most decorated Russian Gymnast.  Her medals include gold in the uneven bars, silver in the women’s team final, and a bronze in both the floor exercise and the individual all-around. 
  • She has won numerous medals and has competed in the European Artistic Gymnastics Championships twice and the World Artistic Championships once.  Aliya is also the winner of three national Russian titles. At the International Junior Competition in 2007, Aliya won the silver medal in all four of the women’s gymnastics events as well as the all-around.  She won her first gold medal during the 2008 Junior European Gymnastics Championship. 
  • At the 2013 Russian National Championships, Mustafina successfully defended her All-Around title with a score of 59.850. She scored a 15.450 on beam, 15.500 on bars, 13.600 on floor a 15.300 on vault. These results qualified her to the balance beam and uneven bars finals in first place, and also to the floor exercise final in third.
  • Mustafina received a silver medal in the team all-around competition along with the rest of the Moscow Central team members. She had qualified to three event finals, but withdrew from all but one in order to protect her knee. She finished in third place in the uneven bars final, after a directional error.
  • In July, Mustafina competed at the 2013 Summer Universiade in Kazan, Russia. Prior to the competition, Mustafina’s participation had been put under a question mark, after she had been hospitalized for a few days because of flu. In the team competition, which also served as a qualification round for the individual finals, Mustafina contributed with scores of 13.750 on floor, 14.950 on vault, 15.000 on uneven bars and 15.200 on beam toward Russia’s first place finish.
  • She qualified in first for both the all-around final and the uneven bars final, as well as beam and floor finals. In the all-around finals, she won the title with a score of 57.900. Mustafina won gold in the uneven bars final, and a silver medal in the balance beam final.
  • In October 2010, Mustafina competed at the World Championships in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. She contributed an all around score of 60.932 toward the Russian team’s first place finish and individually she won the all around competition with a score of 61.032.
  • Andy Thornton from Universal Sports stated, “The story behind Aliya Mustafina’s all-around gold today is that of a revived dynasty; the dominant Soviet women’s team of the 1980s and early 1990s – whom many consider to represent the absolute epitome of artistic gymnastics – was dead and now reborn. In addition to leading her teammates to their country’s first world title as an independent nation, Mustafina has delivered one of the great performances by a female gymnast ever – capturing the very same artistry, difficulty, and competitive composure that made her Soviet predecessors so beloved and revered. Mustafina’s four-event arsenal is so well balanced it’s hard to pick a favorite event to watch her on, and a win so convincing and undeniable as hers gives a satisfying sense of closure to a competition. She has established herself and her Russian teammates as the absolute gymnasts to watch over the next two years – and the gymnasts to beat.”

Judge Kholoud Faqih: Why she kicks ass

  • She made history in 2009 as the first female Shariah judge in Palestine.
  • She graduated with honors with a law degree from University of Jerusalem in 1999, and then received a Master’s degree in private law from the same university in 2005.
  • In 2001, she received her license to practice law and worked as a lawyer at the Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counseling, an organization dedicated to assisting battered women.
  •  In 2008, she passed two competitive judicial exams in Ramallah, excelling in the Islamic law portions.  Judge Kholoud beat out dozens of her male colleagues in the process.  One year later, she was appointed as a judge in the Sharia Court of Ramallah, making her the first female Sharia judge in Palestine.
  • In 2012, CEO Middle East magazine ranked Judge Kholoud as #10 of the “100 Most Powerful Arab Women” in the world.
  • She is a subject of the documentary Three Judges by filmmakers Erika Cohn and Jennifer Jordan. Judge Kholoud, along with her filmmakers and Executive Producer Geralyn Dreyfous, visited Salt Lake to raise awareness of the film with the Utah Film Center on February 23, 2013. On February 25, she joined the College of Law community during the lunch hour to screen a trailer of the film and engage the audience in questions and answers through an Arabic interpreter. As one of only a few female judges in Shari'a courts, Judge Kholoud brought a unique insight into the adjudication of Islamic law. The film Three Judges serves to directly confront American misconceptions about Islam, and the lunch event is intended to advance the Center for Global Justice’s commitment to the exploration of the role of gender in the arena of international human rights.

Arfa Karim: Why she kicks ass

  • She was a Pakistani student and computer prodigy, who in 2004 at the age of nine years became Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP), the youngest in the world before Babar Iqbal in 2008.
  • A science park in Lahore was named after her, the Arfa Software Technology Park.
  • She was invited by Bill Gates to visit the Microsoft Headquarters in the USA. After returning to Pakistan, Arfa gave numerous television and newspaper interviews. 
  • On 2 August 2005, Arfa was presented the Fatimah Jinnah Gold Medal in the field of Science and Technology by the then Prime Minister of Pakistan Shaukat Aziz on the occasion of 113th birth anniversary of Fatima Jinnah.
  • She also received the Salaam Pakistan Youth Award again in August 2005 from the President of Pakistan. Arfa is also the recipient of the President's Award for Pride of Performance, a civil award usually granted to people who have shown excellence in their respective fields over a long period of time. She is the youngest recipient of this award.
  • Arfa represented Pakistan on various international forums, and was invited by the Pakistan Information Technology Professionals Forum for a stay of two weeks in Dubai. A dinner reception was hosted for her there, which was attended by the dignitaries of Dubai including the Ambassador of Pakistan. During that trip, Arfa was presented with various awards and gifts including a laptop.
  • In November 2006, Arfa attended the Tech-Ed Developers conference themed Get ahead of the game held in Barcelona on an invitation from Microsoft. She was the only Pakistani among over 5000 developers in that conference.
  • In 2011, at the age of 16, Arfa was studying at the Lahore Grammar School Paragon Campus in her second year of A-levels. On 22 December 2011 she suffered a cardiac arrest after an epileptic seizure that damaged her brain, and was admitted to Lahore's Combined Military Hospital (CMH) in critical condition. On 13 January 2012, Arfa started to improve and some parts of her brain showed signs of improvement, but died in hospital at Lahore on 14 January 2012, aged 16. Her funeral, which was held on the following day, was attended by the Chief Minister of Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif. She was buried at her ancestral village Chak No. 4JB Ram Dewali, Faisalabad.

Edna Adan Ismail: Why she kicks ass

  • She is the former Foreign Minister of the autonomous Somaliland region in northwest Somalia. She held this office from 2003 until 2006, and had previously served as Somaliland’s Minister of Family Welfare and Social Development.
  • She is the director and founder of the Edna Adan Maternity Hospital in Hargeisa and an activist and pioneer in the struggle for the abolition of female circumcision. She is also President of the Organization for Victims of Torture.
  • Edna Adan was born in Hargeisa, the daughter of a prominent Somali medical doctor and was trained as a nurse in the United Kingdom at the Borough Polytechnic, where she is said to be ‘the first Somali girl’ to study in Britain. Other claims by Mrs Ismail also include that she is Somalia’s first qualified nurse-midwife and the first Somali woman to drive.
  • She started building a hospital in Mogadishu in the mid-1980s. However, before it was completed, the Somali Civil War began, and she was forced to leave the country. She was the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Nursing Adviser during 1986.
  • From 1987 to 1991, she was Regional Technical Officer for Mother and Child Health, with responsibility for issues relating to harmful traditional practices which affect the health of women and children (such as female genital mutilation), and for training of midwives and Traditional Birth Attendants in the 22 countries of the Eastern Mediterranean Region of WHO. Afterwards, she was the representative of WHO in Djibouti between 1991 and 1997.
  • She returned to Somaliland and built from scratch a maternity hospital, which she continues to run. The Edna Adan Maternity Hospital officially opened on March 9, 2002 in land donated to her by the regional government at a site formerly used as a garbage dump.
  • The region lacked trained nurses to staff the hospital - as most had either fled the country or been killed during the civil war - and so Edna recruited more than 30 candidates and began training them in 2000 while the hospital was still under construction. The hospital now has two operating theatres, laboratory, library, computer center and a complete wing dedicated to training nurses and midwives.
  • The mission of the Edna Adan Hospital is to help to improve the health of the local inhabitants, in particular the high rate of maternal and infant mortality. The facility is a non-profit making charity and a midwifery teaching hospital that is also undertaking the training of student nurses and Assistant Laboratory Technicians.
  • In recognition of her lifelong contribution to Humanitarian work, the name of Edna Adan Ismail was added to the Medical Mission Hall of Fame, University of Toledo, Ohio, in March 2007. She has an Honorary Doctoral Degree from Clark University in Massachusetts and was made Honorary Fellow of Cardiff University School of Nursing in Wales on July 8, 2008.
  • In 2012 Edna Adan was featured in the documentary Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide premiering on PBS October 1 and 2. The series introduces women and girls living under very difficult circumstances and bravely fighting to challenge them. The Half the Sky PBS TV series is produced by Show of Force along with Fugitive Films.

Sarkar Amman/ Nawab Sultan Kaikhusrau Jahan Begum: Why she kicks ass

  • She was ruler of Bhopal (now in India) from 1901 to 1926 CE,  who worked to reform the administration of state.
  • In 1911, she attended the coronation of British king George V, dressed in a burqa decorated with her awards.  Along her journey, she visited Paris, Bad Nauenheim in Germany, Geneva, and Istanbul where she met the Ottoman sultan Mehmet Reshad.  She also visited Hungary, Italy, and Egypt before returning to Bhopal.
  • She founded several important educational institutions in Bhopal, establishing free and compulsory primary education in 1918. During her reign, she had a particular focus on public instruction, especially female education. She built many technical institutes and schools and increased the number of qualified teachers.
  • From 1920 until her death, she was the founding Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University. She is the only Lady Chancellor ever served for Aligarh Muslim University.
  • Not just a reformer in the field of education, the Nawab Begum reformed taxation, the army, police, the judiciary and the jails, expanded agriculture, and constructed extensive irrigation and public works in the state. Also, she established an Executive and Legislative State Council in 1922 and began open elections for the municipalities.
  • In 1914, she was the President of the All-India Muslim Ladies’ Association.
  • Sultan Kaikhusrau Jahan’s primary legacy, though, was in the field of public health, as she pioneered widespread inoculation and vaccination programs and improved the water supply and standards of hygiene and sanitation.
  • A prolific author, she wrote several books on education, health and other topics, including Hidayat uz-ZaujanSabil ul-JinanTandurusti (Health), Bachchon-ki-ParwarishHidayat TimardariMaishat-o-Moashirat. Owing to her numerous activities, she was the recipient of numerous honours and awards.
  • In 1926, she returned to London to settle the rules of succession for Bhopal in a British court. She abdicated her position and, after further legal proceedings, her granddaughter, Abida was declared her successor. Abida was born when she was 70 years old, yet Sarkar Amman raised her as her own and insisted that she receive the highest quality of education. Abida attributes her open-minded outlook to her grandmother who always strove to strike a balance between the West and the East, Islam and Western freedoms.
  • After her abdication, she became an advocate of women’s rights and in 1928 she stopped wearing the purdah, a long garment meant to cover a woman’s body when she is in public.