Powerful quotes for International Women's Day

A woman activist chants slogans during a protest. [Reuters]

On the occasion of International Women’s Day, celebrated on March 8, we’ve collated inspiring quotes from five women who defied gender stereotypes to excel in male-dominated fields.

1. Mary Kom

Mary Kom from India was the first female boxer to win a medal in six boxing championships. To get there, she overcame many obstacles, and is inspiring others to take up the sport.

“Boxing is much like life, it’s a continuous fight,” she says. “There will be obstacles, but you have to overcome them.”  

A mother of three, Kom also said: “Motherhood only adds to your strength and inner peace … a mother of three can conquer the world.”

2. Miriam Makeba

The first black African woman to receive a Grammy Award was also a vocal civil rights activist. The apartheid state in South Africa had revoked Miriam Makeba’s citizenship and banned her music.

She was allowed to return to South Africa after Nelson Mandela became president.

In her biography she said: “I kept my culture. I kept the music of my roots. Through my music I became this voice and image of Africa and the people without even realising [it].”

3. Angelique Kidjo

From Benin in Africa, singer and activist Angelique Kidjo spoke out against harmful traditions, such as those that prevent girls from going to school.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, she explained how her father “stood against tradition that could have harmed us in any way, physically or our brain. Because he always said the tradition that our ancestors set has to move according to the time that we live in.”  

4. Bessie Coleman

In 1921, 21-year-old Bessie Coleman became the first African American female licensed pilot. 

Coleman was rejected from American aviation schools because of the colour of her skin and her gender. But that did not stop her from attending an international aviation school in France and ultimately obtaining her license.

“I knew we had no aviators, neither men nor women, and I knew the race needed to be represented along this most important line, so I thought it my duty to risk my life to learn aviation and to encourage flying among men and women of our race, who are so far behind the white race in this modern study,” Coleman famously said. 

5. Ida B Wells

Ida Bell Wells-Barnett was an African American journalist, women’s rights activist and internationally renowned anti-lynching crusader.

Her life was threatened when she cast doubts on claims about an epidemic of black men raping white women, while also exposing the reality of sexual violence perpetrated against black women by white men.

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