The FINANCIAL — The BBC has revealed the names of the inspiring and influential women on the BBC 100 Women List, which this year celebrates the women from every corner of the world who are hitting the reset button: from climate activists and grassroots leaders, to international CEOs and global megastars. The list acknowledges those women playing their part to reinvent our society, our culture and our world – with half of this year’s list made up of women from Afghanistan.
The resurgence of the Taliban in August 2021 has changed the lives of millions of Afghan women – with girls banned from receiving secondary education, the ministry for women’s affairs being disbanded, and women in many cases told not to return to work. This year’s list recognises their stories, the scope of their bravery and their achievements as they reset their lives.
Some of the women in the BBC 100 Women list 2021 include:
Humanitarian and former fashion model Halima Aden – The first hijab-wearing supermodel, who stepped away from modelling in 2020 as she found it incompatible with her Muslim faith, but continues to make an impact within the fashion industry and beyond.
Fashion designer Vera Wang – A prominent bridal wear designer who has been at the forefront of fashion since the 1970s, Vera Ellen Wang has expanded her business to include fragrance, publishing, home design and more.
Actress, writer and producer Rebel Wilson – A Hollywood megastar who starred in the female-led comedy hit Bridesmaids, Oscar-winning Jojo Rabbit and the box-office hit trilogy Pitch Perfect, who will be directing her first feature film in 2022.
Founder of the Afghan Women’s Network, Mahbouba Seraj, who returned to her native Afghanistan in 2003 after 26 years in exile in the US and since then has co-founded and led a number of organisations fighting for women’s and children’s rights. When the Taliban returned to power in August 2021, she stayed with her people and still courageously voices the concerns of Afghan women in local and international media.
Philanthropist and businesswoman Melinda French Gates – A global advocate for women and girls, who sets the direction and priorities of one of the world’s largest philanthropic organisations in her role as co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Salima Mazari – One of only three female district governors in Afghanistan, Salima Mazari grabbed headlines this year as the fearless leader of a pro-government militia, fighting the Taliban on the frontlines.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – An acclaimed Nigerian author and feminist icon, whose work has been translated into over thirty languages. Her first novel, Purple Hibiscus (2003) won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and in 2013 her novel Americanah was named one of The New York Times’ top ten books. She recently wrote Notes on Grief (2021), a very personal tribute to her father after his sudden death.
Roya Sadat – A film producer and director who was the country’s first female director to emerge from the Taliban era and whose films feature the voices of Afghan women. Her 2017 film A Letter to the President was selected as the Afghan entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 90th Academy Awards.
Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng is currently the United Nations’ special rapporteur on the right to physical and mental health – the first woman, the first African, and one of the youngest people to hold this position. She advocates for universal health access, HIV care and family-planning services.
Fatima Gailani – A prominent political leader and activist, who has been engaged in humanitarian work for the past 43 years, and is one of four female peace negotiators to sit with the Taliban in 2020, trying to seek a ‘fair political settlement’.
Mohadese Mirzaee – Afghanistan’s first female commercial airline pilot, who took the controls of a Kam Air Boeing 737 for her country’s historic first flight with an all-female crew earlier this year.
Liliane Landor, Senior Controller of BBC News International Services: “It’s fantastic to see the names on this year’s 100 Women list. Since we launched it in 2013, the list and the annual season have gone from strength to strength. This is about the visibility of women worldwide and shining a spotlight on brilliant women across the globe who have contributed to our world in remarkable ways. In a turbulent and troubling time, the BBC World Service will continue to focus on the struggles, resistance and achievements of women in Afghanistan and we’ve devoted half of our list to Afghan women to demonstrate our commitment to telling their stories.”
The announcement of the list kicks off BBC’s 100 Women 2021 season – focusing on women’s experiences around the world with a week of special interviews, documentaries, features and digital content across the BBC’s UK and international TV and radio services and online. More info HERE.
100 Women in Conversation
This year BBC 100 Women will be broadcasting three exclusive interviews with some the list’s biggest names including:
Global superstar comedian, actor, producer and director Rebel Wilson who shares what it was like to make millions being the ‘funny, fat girl’, why she went on a ‘year of health’ during the pandemic, and why she decided to speak openly about her fertility struggles.
Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who discusses why she has chosen to be so open about her grief following the loss of her parents, the responsibilities of being seen by many as a ‘feminist icon’, language orthodoxy, ‘cancel culture’ and debates around transgender issues.
And designer and fashion icon Vera Wang who speaks about ageism and her experience of becoming a viral sensation at the age of 72. The New-York born designer also touches on how to tackle the growing conflict between fashion and sustainability, and what it feels like to be a woman living in a hostile environment of increasing anti-Asian hate in the US.
100 Women was established in 2013 as an annual series focused on a list of 100 inspirational and influential women. The list is supported by features, investigations and interviews highlighting the work of these women. In 2016 the 100 Women season was recognised with an Alliance for Women in Media Gracie award, after generating 30 million hits over a three-week season. The project was also a finalist for the US Peabody Awards 2017 and has scooped many other accolades.