Many, many women have emerged as powerful role models in 2012. Here are my five top picks for kick-ass women of the year (with Elizabeth Warren and Nancy Pelosi coming in a close sixth and seventh.)
1. Aung San Suu Kyi
My hero of 2012 is Aung San Suu Kyi. As General Secretary of the National League for Democracy (NLD) in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), Aung San Suu Kyi is one of the world’s most famous political dissidents, as well as a 1991 Nobel Laureate.
In the 1990 general election in Myanmar, the NLD won 59 percent of the national votes and 81 percent of the seats in Parliament. But the despotic sitting government arrested Suu Kyi, the election results were discounted and Kyi remained under house arrest for almost 15 of the next 21 years until her most recent release on 13 November 2010.
It seemed like a miracle when in April of this year, less than two years after being released from nearly two decades under house arrest, the Nobel Laureate hailed “the beginning of a new era” in Burma’s politics after the country’s Election Commission confirmed that her party had won a spectacular 40 out of 45 parliamentary seats.
What a remarkable journey from dissident to lawmaker.
2. Hillary Clinton
With years of being in the public eye, as the wife of a politician, a Senator, presidential candidate and now the Secretary of State, it’s not surprising that Hillary Clinton is looking forward to being out of the spotlight for a while.
But what an incredible Secretary of State she is! In the past year alone, she has traveled to 42 countries, and has not been afraid to come face-to-face with adversaries: when WikiLeaks released sensitive diplomatic cables in November, she urged Syrian President Bashar Assad to hand over his power and leave his country, and she has warned North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to pursue a different path than his militant father. She’s also gone viral: the tumblr blog “Texts From Hillary” became a popular meme in April.
Will there be a 2016 Presidential bid?
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3. Michelle Obama
What an amazing First Lady! Michelle Obama has made it her mission to end childhood obesity: she’s been growing veggies and tomatoes on the South Lawn of the White House, throwing herself into promoting healthy school lunches and even joining a flash mob doing jumping jacks. This is all part of her “Let’s Move!” initiative.
The Harvard Law School grad led the U.S. Olympic delegation in July’s opening ceremony in London. This year has seen more public appearances than usual, the First Lady has appeared as a judge on an episode of Bravo’s Top Chef, she has hung out with the ladies of The View and she’s been joking around with Jimmy Fallon and Jon Stewart.
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4. Melinda Gates
Melinda Gates has decided to make birth control her signature issue. “My goal is to get this back on the global agenda,” she told Newsweek. And she plans to use the Gates Foundation, worth almost $34 billion, to put her agenda in place. She is dedicating her life, and an additional personal $560 million, to improving access to contraception for women in some of the world’s poorest countries.
The foundation will contribute up to $140 million each year for the next eight years to her cause. Last year the charity gave away $2.6 billion and so far has made more than $25 billion in grant commitments in poverty eradication, public health and education.
Photo Credit: World Economic Forum
5. Gabby Giffords
As a Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives, Giffords represented Arizona’s 8th congressional district from 2007 until her resignation on January 25, 2012. It was on January 8, 2011, a week into her third term, that Jared Loughner opened fire at a community event outside a grocery store near Tucson. Six people died in the attack and 13, including Giffords, were injured.
Giffords was later brought to a rehabilitation facility in Houston, Texas, where she recovered some of her ability to walk, speak, read and write. On January 22, 2012, Giffords announced that she would be resigning from her congressional seat in order to concentrate on recovering from her wounds, but promised to return to public service in the future. She appeared on the floor of the House on January 25, 2012, where she formally submitted her resignation to a standing ovation and accolades from her colleagues and the leadership of the House. She has since returned to Arizona to live and work.
The nation has anxiously followed her amazing recovery and we applaud her courage and resilience.
Those are my top choices, but who would you pick?
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