International Women's Day: 10 of the activists you need to know about

Of a line-up featuring hundreds of the best and brightest feminists, we've hand-picked 10

Helen Nianias
Thursday 05 March 2015 18:05

International Women's Day is almost upon us. Every year the global festival throws up exciting new ideas and quotes as hundreds of women speak and perform to emphasise the importance of female solidarity and culture. Here are just a few names to get you started.

Feminista Jones, author

Fifty Shades author EL James has nothing on Jones, who last year published a novel about a couple's relationship with BDSM, Push. New Yorker Jones is also a mental health social worker, prominent journalist and community activist who explores the boundary between mental and sexual health. She also lectures on subjects related to race, sexuality and the female experience.

Jones describes herself as "a woman of strength". She says: "I think that’s different than the idea of a 'Strong Woman' that people often toss around… and resent. "

Making a stand: Bridget Christie

Bridget Christie, comedian

For someone who makes jokes for a living, Christie is incredibly serious. She tackles themes of prejudice and gender equality in her work, and in 2013 hosted award-winning Radio 4 series about feminism called Bridget Christie Minds the Gap. Christie's Edinburgh show, A Bic For Her, won the Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Award for Best Show in 2013, and became the top-selling comedy show at the Soho Theatre of all time.

Pavan Amara, activist

Rape suvivors' support network My Body Back was started by Amara, and it focuses on sex, body image, healthcare and how women feel about their bodies after sexual assault. Adding to the pastoral support on the network, My Body Back hosts Café V workshops, which deal with sexual wellbeing and "provide a safe space for women who have experienced sexual violence". In 2015, My Body Back will launch a cervical screening clinic for women who have experienced sexual violence.

Stella Duffy is a noted campaigner for women's rights

 Stella Duffy, writer

Prolific writer and theatremaker Duffy has written dozens of novels and plays, and is well known for her struggle with breast cancer, which she has written about with incredible candour. Her Theodora novel is going to be adapted for a mini-series by HBO. Duffy was twice awarded the Stonewall Writer of the Year Award.

Jessica Horn, activist

Horn has spent 15 years working on struggles around body politics. She's supports activist organisations, donors and the UN to shape policy and funding around protecting women from violence. Also a published poet, Horn writes about the influence of Christian fundamentalism on women’s rights in Africa. She sits on the International Grants Committee of Comic Relief and works as Senior Advisor to the African Institute for Integrated Responses to Violence Against Women and HIV/AIDS at the Stephen Lewis Foundation.

Mulberry Girls, students

Our youngest entrants on the list, Zainab and Shuhena might be the most inspiring given their age. The Year 11 pupils attend Mulberry School for Girls, a successful girl’s comprehensive in Tower Hamlets with a prominently Bangladeshi intake. The two students will be speaking on a panel on Saturday, talking about whether Doctor Who could be a woman.

Lynne Franks: 'Achieving more for women is my passion. I'll work for that till the day I die'

 Lynne Franks, business

Franks is a hero if you're a feminist, and also if you like Absolutely Fabulous - the PR maven supposedly inspired Jennifer Saunders' character Edina Monsoon. Whether or not that's true (she says Saunders "never said it was based on me") she had an incredibly successful career in PR. This included the invention of London Fashion Week as well as the British Fashion Awards, and she's now promoting women in the workplace and sustainable business models. She also published business book, The SEED Handbook: The Feminine Way to Create Business. Franks is the UK co-ordinator of One Billion Rising, the global campaign to prevent sexual violence against women and girls.

Sarah Drinkwater, digital

Leading Google Campus, the tech giant's first physical hub for startups, Drinkwater helps provide 40,000 people a support network, mentoring, and workspaces. A former journalist, Drinkwater's CV includes a senior role at Google Maps and she launched Campus for Mums just as a "side project".

Nawal El Saadawi wrote vividly about her experience of FGM

Nawal El Saadawi, activist

Described as "without doubt the most prominent and prolific female author in the Arabic language" El Saadawi has influenced five generations of women in her home country, Egypt. She has spoken about being circumcised as a girl, and has called for an end to FGM. She has written 47 books tackling problems faced by women in Egypt, including Women and Sex in 1972, for which she lost her job as director of public health for the Egyptian Ministry of Health. She is now 83 and shows no signs of slowing down.

Francesca Steele, artist

Performance and visual artist Steele promotes bodybuilding, which she believes is a highly gendered issue. Steele says she took it up "to challenge stereotypical assumptions of 'masculinity' and 'femininity'" and saw it as an artistic and research project - she now talks and writes about female body image. Steele has become a competitive bodybuilder, winning Miss West Britain (Trained Figure) at the National Amateur Body Building Association in 2010 and 2011.

For more information and to see the full line-up, visit

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