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Incredible Women

The Unsung Heroes of 2018

For this year’s Incredible Women list, we asked a global panel of women, including Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Nicole Kidman and Iman, to nominate their ‘unsung heroine’ and highlight causes that aren’t in the public eye. Because being an incredible woman isn’t just about being famous – it’s about inspiring through action. Here they are…

Model Karlie Kloss nominates Ellen Mary Hickmann, Director of Professional Learning at Turing School

“Something I’ve learned through my work with Kode with Klossy is how critical it is to provide computer science education to students and teachers too. As Director of Professional Learning at Turing School of Software & Design, Ellen Mary does exactly that, working directly with teachers to ensure they have the skills to teach code and that their classrooms are engaging and inclusive for all, particularly students from diverse backgrounds.”


Activist Waris Dirie nominates actress Safa Idriss Nour

“Safa played the little girl in the mutilation scene in my 2009 biopic Desert Flower and became a symbol of this cruel crime against innocent little girls. In 2008 I had saved three-year-old Safa from female genital mutilation (FGM), and convinced her parents to protect their daughter from FGM and send her to a private French school in Djibouti. Ten years later, Safa is an excellent student and a strong voice in the fight against FGM.”

Designer Maria Grazia Chiuri nominates Karishma Swali, managing director of Chanakya

“Based in Mumbai and specializing in hand embroidery, Karishma has used her family-run enterprise as a platform to empower women in India. She established a group of 60 women, which aims to be 1,000 by 2020, who are learning how to weave and embroider. Chanakya also started a women-only facility, which gives women autonomy over their work and their lives. Providing them with a comfortable, safe environment, the factory teaches the old techniques, which are on the verge of disappearing, to a new generation.”

Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie nominates Shannon Craig, DaVita clinical coordinator

“Born in 1983, Shannon grew up in a deprived area of Baltimore, but was determined not to be limited by it. Shannon has an uncommon selflessness that is all the more inspiring because it doesn’t even recognize itself. For her birthday one year, she gave herself a gift: travel to Los Angeles to volunteer at a soup kitchen. She doesn’t have much and yet gives so much. She knows Baltimore intimately, is engaged as a community activist and is deeply committed to making it a better place.”

Actress Nicole Kidman nominates activist Wekoweu (Akole) Tsuhah

“From a rural indigenous farming community in the mountainous state of Nagaland in northeast India, Wekoweu is the first generation of women in her family to get an education. Armed with her education, Wekoweu has become a voice for the voiceless. Working with NEN [North East Network], a women’s rights organization supported by UN Women, her focus is on building awareness of the rights of rural women, of land rights, of inclusion in politics and creating change. Equal wages and separate public toilets for women are just two of the many victories she has fought hard to win.”

Governor of Tokyo Yuriko Koike nominates wheelchair tennis player Yui Kamiji

“Born with a condition inhibiting her mobility, Yui Kamiji became a Guinness World Record holder in 2014, as the youngest ever person (aged 20) to win a wheelchair tennis Grand Slam. Among her many achievements, she secured her fifth consecutive women’s doubles title at Wimbledon 2018 – a feat that inspired and encouraged worldwide. Her attendance at Tokyo 2020 events has also done much to attract interest in para-sports in Japan.”

Model Iman nominates Dr Hawa Abdi, physician and activist

“In a civil war like Somalia’s, it is women and girls who fall through the cracks, and are the victims of rape. Dr Hawa, Somalia’s first female obstetrician/gynecologist, created a hospital in the Lower Shabelle region that has become a haven for women, allowing them to learn a trade and take care of themselves in safety. Whenever militias have tried to shut the hospital down, Dr Hawa has guarded it with her life. Once described as equal parts Mother Teresa and Rambo, she makes me proud to be Somali and, more importantly, to be a Somali woman.”

Oceanographer Sylvia Earle nominates Dr Kathryn D Sullivan, geologist

“Best known as the first American woman to walk in space, as the former Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Director of the COSI science museum in Columbus, Dr Sullivan’s expertise as an astronaut, oceanographer, pilot, explorer and leader have come together to make her an outstanding educator, role model and source of inspiration, especially for girls who, through Kathy’s success, may envision themselves doing things that are traditionally done by men.”

The people featured in this story are not associated with NET-A-PORTER and do not endorse it or the products shown.