IWD 2017: The most inspiring women we've interviewed over the last year

Read interviews with some of the most inspiring and motivational women from The Independent over the past 12 months

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This time last year, Hillary Clinton was poised to be the next President of the United States. When she was defeated in November, her speech to little girls, that they should believe in themselves and never give up, rang around the world.

The victory of Donald Trump has organised and mobilised millions of women, however - including the global women’s marches, the largest and most peaceful protests in history. 

Progress is not inevitable but it has been made. In the UK, Theresa May has become the second female Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street, and the new UK-based Women’s Equality Party has around 50,000 members. 

Individuals have made big strides for democracy and gender equality. Gina Miller gave pause to Brexit as she won her case in the Supreme Court and forced Parliament to focus on the democratic process. In the US, Michele Dauber will not let us forget the harrowing Stanford rape case and is working tirelessly to recuse the judge who gave the perpetrator just three months behind bars.

While many men and women in the world watch on, fearful and hopeful for the future, let's not forget those who struggle on with their mission every day to make their own contributions. On International Women’s Day 2017, we hope you find the following collection of interviews and features about strong women something to motivate and inspire you over the coming year.

 

Gina Miller

The entrepreneur and campaigner faced a torrent of abuse when she entered a legal battle to force Parliament to consult when it comes to trigger Article 50, which signals the UK’s departure from the European Union.

Further battles lie ahead. She warned the government should have another vote written into the Article 50 bill now.

"The Government tried to ignore the law once before, doing it twice would be incredibly careless," she says.

Gina Miller reveals shocking abuse since launching Article 50 Brexit legal challenge

 

Deborah Alessi

Alessi and her husband set up Face Forward, a charity which offers life-changing plastic surgery to domestic violence survivors, in 2007. It has helped people such as Audrey Mabrey, who was beaten up and set on fire by her boyfriend, leaving her with burns over 80 per cent of her body. Domestic violence is still a massive, global epidemic. Three women in the US are murdered every day by their former or current intimate partners.

 

Cindy Gallop

Cindy is badass and kickass too. The pioneer of gender equality-friendly adult erotic videos, providing a necessary counter to hardcore porn as sex education, rose to fame in 2009 for her Ted Talk about having sex with younger men. She decided to own the term "cougar" and said she "actively looks forward to dying alone". She talks to The Independent about porn, role models, raising cash and how women can enjoy sex more.

 

Andrea Arnold

The Academy Award winning filmmaker spills on the incredible process of researching and casting her ultimate American road trip.

It’s an important interview in light of the fact that there are so few women film directors.

 

Esra Alhamal

This Saudi travel blogger will not let her hijab or other people's prejudices stop her from venturing around the world and promoting a positive image of Islam.

"When you wear a scarf you are a visual representation of Islam," she says. "You need to be even nicer than your usual self just to give an even nicer message. That can be exhausting sometimes."

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Vicky Lee

The founder of London’s oldest trans nightclub tells The Independent what it was like to create a place where people could wear what they wanted, meet like-minded clubgoers and have fun back in the 1990s.

"And as a trans person all I ask for is that we’re given the same opportunities and rights as everyone else, whether that is the right to wear nice frocks on a night out or to be a pilot or a doctor or a nurse," she says.

 

Rebecca Amsellem

Women in France work the equivalent of 38.2 more days each year than men for the same salary. Amsellem, founder of Les Glorieuses group, spearheaded a campaign to raise awareness about gender inequality.

Reminiscent of Iceland in the 1970s, she ended up organising a mass walkout of women from all sectors to close the country’s pay gap.

 

Diane Bryant

Big corporations are still dominated by men, especially in STEM areas. Intel’s executive vice president Diane Bryant spoke to The Independent about her extraordinary journey from homelessness to becoming one of the most powerful women in business.

 

Andrea Chandler

If you’ve ever wondered what you are doing in the 9 to 5, read Chandler's story. She dropped out of the Navy to become a farmer in a small town in Virginia and created a mass following for her brilliantly dry-humored twitter account.

Her social media include lessons on sheep and electric fences, how smart animals are, the pitfalls of mating, and being showered in blood when trying to kill livestock. 

 

Michelle Kennedy

The founder of dating app Bumble has also co-created another app to match mothers with similar interests and experiences. App "Peanut" was inspired by her own experience of loneliness after having her first baby.

"I wanted to just hang out with another woman who could tell me: ‘don’t feel guilty, sometimes this is boring.'"

 

Cindy Chupack

The Sex and the City writer was arguably one of the women writers who helped create the new normal for modern women: it was ok to talk about sex and abortions over brunch. Chupack tells The Independent about the male-dominated writing room of Modern Family and how she struggled to make her voice heard, how she felt about winning awards and finally getting the green light to direct her own film.

"Maybe that’s a false humility that women have and we need to get over, but I respond to the feeling that your work could always be better, you hope it’s good, but you know it could improve."

 

Michele Dauber

Almost everyone remembers reading the harrowing statement last summer of a young woman who was sexually assaulted by Stanford athlete Brock Turner. He was given just a few months in prison.

Dauber, the woman behind the movement to remove the judge in the case, has never given up. She said she is "100 per cent confident" her movement will succeed, as the judge has a history of bias in cases of violence against women.

"The probation officer said that Brock 'surrendered a hard earned swimming scholarship'; it’s nonsense and insulting to the victim and to women everywhere," said Ms Dauber.