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A record number of women were elected to the House of Commons in the United Kingdom’s 2017 general election. This is a trend witnessed not just in the U.K., but worldwide, with equality in politics not just a distant dream anymore but an achievable reality in the near future. Here are some of the female politicians inspiring the current generation, fighting the status quo and giving the leaders of tomorrow someone to look up to.
Fawzia Koofi is Afghanistan’s first female MP. While she comes from a political family, she still had to fight for her voice to be heard. Left to die in the sun by her mother (who eventually relented and took her back in), she became the first girl in her family to receive an education and has been outspoken about her struggles with the Taliban, which imprisoned her husband and tried to assassinate her multiple times.
Koofi has used her political might to champion the causes of women, from fighting to improve women’s living conditions in Afghan prisons to advocating for access to formal and non-formal education for women across Afghanistan. She was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2009 and was Afghanistan’s first female deputy speaker of Parliament. “It’s important for women to enter the ‘no entry zone’… Places where it’s not convenient for a woman. We fight, we survive, we live,” she said, according to the Economic Times.
AOC has become one of the most recognisable and exciting names in U.S. politics in recent months, using her millennial street cred (she’s 29) to gain an abundant following on social media, where she talks policy in sweats while cooking Pot Noodle and shows her eager followers the inside of Washington D.C.’s most storied and revered political establishments (even the washing machines).
She’s outspoken, charismatic and impossible not to watch, or respond to: the ultra-progressive champions a “living wage” and recently promised that no full-time member of her staff would make under $52K a year. She’s a symbol to everyone that the underdog can come out on top. “They’ll tell you you’re too loud, that you need to wait your turn and ask the right people for permission. Do it anyway,” she said.
The latest political figure in the prominent Indian Gandhi-Nehru family, Priyanka Gandhi is increasingly talked of as being the next Indian Prime Minister — even though she only formally entered politics in January 2019, when she became general secretary of India’s National Congress in charge of Uttar Pradesh East. She also has her share of demons to battle (like her husband’s money laundering case) but fans are calling her the next Indira anyways.
The 29-year-old Scottish Labour Party MP for Midlothian first gained her seat at age 27 and has been outspoken on any — and every — subject since. From telling the Commons that she was on her period to highlight the cost of unaffordable sanitary products for many women to calling the U.K. government “callous and indefensible” for their Universal Credit line policy, she’s consistently raised important issues for women in a no-B.S. manner.
Anyone who is feeling a bit disillusioned with British politics in the midst of Brexit negotiations has felt a frisson of excitement at the potential of something new, symbolised by the Labour and Tory party defectors who recently formed The Independent Group. Luciana Berger is one of the leaders of the new pro-E.U. party and she just so happens to be pregnant, with a daughter a home. She has been the target of anti-Semitic trolls and abuse and has openly criticised Jeremy Corbyn for his handling of discrimination within the Labour Party. She is a progressive who has actively campaigned for LGBT rights and higher taxes on banks, while fighting against tuition fees and the bedroom tax. She’s also a dynamic, captivating speaker. “We have a duty to the next generation. Denial is not an option. Prevarication is not an option. Being a bystander who turns the other way is not an option. The time for action is now,” she said, BBC reports.
The youngest black woman elected to U.S. Congress, 32-year-old Lauren Underwood is already speaking out about issues like gun control and women’s reproductive rights. The nurse also been vocal in urging other young and diverse potential candidates to step up to the plate and put their names on future ballots. “We need leaders with diverse experiences & skill sets – nurses, doctors, teachers, scientists, artists, caregivers, entrepreneurs, tradeswomen – at all levels of gov’t. Our experiences echo those of the majority of Americans; we should shape the policies that shape our country,” she tweeted.
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Sania Ashiq, 25, made history in 2018 when she became the youngest Pakistani Parliamentarian. She was largely elected based on her background as an activist for women’s and children’s rights, who launched vocational training programmes for poor women in Lahore and other Pakistani cities. “From Punjab Education Endowment Fund (PEEF) to other initiatives designed for women, I will continue to raise my voice and play a vital role in the Provincial Assembly to promote them,” she said, according to Gulf News Asia.