Today is International Women's Day!
Every year on March 8, people recognize and salute what women bring to the world. Be it in art, politics, sport, business, science, or activism, this is a day to celebrate!
We want to talk about four amazing women: Autumn Peltier, Maia Chaka, Jacinda Ardern, and Chieko Asakawa. Though they span different ages, specialities, and backgrounds, they all share a dedication and passion that makes them inspirational.
Let's meet them!
Autumn Peltier—water protector
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An Anishinaabe activist from the Wiikwemkoong First Nation, Peltier is the Chief Water Protector for the Anishinabek Nation. Her mission? To speak out about the importance of clean water for all living things.
Specifically, she represents the problems of water pollution for many First Nations—in many areas, the water supply is under a 'boiling advisory'. This means that you can't simply on a tap and drink or use the water safely—it must be boiled to kill contaminants (toxic/poisonous compounds) that are in it. If not, people can get sick and even die.
Being a water protector is a huge responsibility for anyone, and yet she started in 2018 when she was just 14! As part of her role, she addresses groups like Canadian Parliament and the United Nations, calling for people young and old around the world to come together and respect the sacredness of water. And when she does this, she is not just fighting for the rights of Indigenous people, or even just people in general.
This inspiring teenager is fighting for the health of everyone and everything on the planet.
Maia Chaka—getting the call
This story is truly breaking news. Just last Friday, March 5th, Maia Chaka was named as the first Black female official in National Football League (NFL) history.
We welcome Maia Chaka to the 2021 roster of game officials!
Maia makes history as the first Black woman to officiate at the @NFL level. https://t.co/1NHls98Lwi pic.twitter.com/ycOxc6Cq1t
— NFL Officiating (@NFLOfficiating) March 5, 2021
This is a really big breakthrough. The NFL is one of the biggest sports leagues in the world, but like so many, it is dominated by men. That said, the league has started to have more female officials, coaches, and executives. In fact, last month, Sarah Thomas became the first female referee to call the Super Bowl.
Perhaps one day, Chaka can do the same. But for now, it's a great achievement by someone who put years into her dream of being in the NFL. She joined the league's official development program in 2014 and has recently been an official in the XFL, a smaller pro league. But her hard work goes back even further—before entering the program, she worked as an official in college football for years, determined to learn her craft. And did we mention that she did that all while working as a high school Physical Eduction teacher in Virginia?
Congrats Maia on realizing your goal. See you on the field!
Jacinda Ardern—world leader
To say that the coronavirus pandemic has stopped the world is no exaggeration. It has affected us all. But not every country has been affected equally—how the outbreak has changed life in certain places has had a lot to do with the choices made by that place's government. And around the globe, perhaps no government has been as successful at keeping COVID-19 at bay as New Zealand's. And the person leading that government?
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Ardern was already an exciting leader before the pandemic. When she took power in 2017, she was the youngest female leader in the world at 37 years old. The next year, she became only the second female leader to give birth while in office, helping to normalize being a new mother even while holding the most demanding job in her country. Then came COVID-19.
Ardern's response was swift and fair—she quickly put the country under a strict lockdown and closed its borders to visitors (people could still arrive, but had to quarantine—or isolate—for 14 days). But while she acted fast and firmly, she was also compassionate and clear. She used social media and interviews to keep her citizens informed of her government's policies and how things were developing. Her efforts were rightly praised worldwide—today, New Zealand has some of the lowest infection rates in the entire world.
Clearly New Zealanders are happy with her, too. In October 2020, they re-elected her!
Chieko Asakawa—computer communicator
Computers are everywhere. They are so common that many of us don't think too much about how much we rely on them. Or who can use them easily.
But Chieko Asakawa does.
More to the point, this incredible Japanese scientist has been puzzling over this question for three decades. Through her work with IBM at T. J. Watson Research Center and Carnegie Mellon University, she works on accessibility in technology. In other words, she makes sure that people with disabilities are more easily able to use computers.
Her speciality is helping people with visual impairments. Asakawa is blind—she began to lose her sight after a swimming accident at age 11 and was fully blind by age 14. But she turned this twist of fate into her inspiration. She dedicated herself to learning how to improve how tech could serve those with disabilities. Her first big breakthrough came in 1997 when she made the Home Page Reader—a program that read web pages for those who could not see them. Within five years, it was the most popular program of its kind in the world.
Since then, she's worked on countless other programs, leading teams of researchers as they develop new programs to help tech be more accessible than ever.
Of course, that's just four of countless inspirational women worth noting today.
It's not possible to mention everyone, but today is a reminder that when women are given the same opportunities as men, everyone in society benefits. Clean water, equal athletic exposure, calm leadership, technological innovation—women should be able to lend their expertise and enthusiasm to everything humans do.
We're going to continue celebrating this fact, too. Tomorrow, we'll feature a pair of young astronauts-to-be: Alyssa Carson and Hayley Arceneaux. And on Thursday, we'll preview our newest issue of the OWLconnected eMag, which has several features related to International Women's Day.
Happy Women's Day, everyone!