This March, @instagram is collaborating with BuzzFeed News reporter and producer Kassy Cho of @world to find and highlight women around the globe who are making an impact in their local community and on Instagram. Stay tuned on @instagram and@world to see more.
1. Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden who has inspired thousands of students around the world to strike against climate change inaction.
In August last year, Thunberg began to skip school every Friday to sit outside Sweden's parliament to demand the country act on climate change.
"I have continued to do so every Friday since then, and I will go on until Sweden is in line with the Paris Agreement," she told BuzzFeed News.
Thunberg, who has Asperger's syndrome, has since addressed global climate talks last December, the World Economic Forum in Davos in January, and has given her own TED Talk.
More than 20,000 students in at least 270 cities around the world — from Australia, to Belgium, to the UK — have followed her lead and also organized their own climate strikes, according to the Guardian.
"I think that's just amazing," Thunberg said.
2. Parisa Pourtaherian, a photographer who shoots soccer matches in Iran, where women generally aren't allowed in soccer stadiums.
"Whenever I saw sports photography, I was like, 'This is me. This is what I have to do. This is my job, and this is my career I want for the rest of my life,'" Pourtaherian, who went viral last August for her genius solution to shoot a match that she was denied entry to, told BuzzFeed News.
She said the biggest challenge for women sports photographers in Iran is having to place so much effort on getting permission to enter the stadium at the cost of their professional development.
"Even when we are inside the stadium, we are always under the stress that someone might suddenly stop us from continuing our job, which is very distracting," she said.
Despite this, Pourtaherian says she keeps going because "when we know in our hearts that something is right, we have to fight for it."
"We have to hold on to that dream, even though the path to making it come true requires overcoming lots of obstacles and maybe doing some things that are out of the ordinary," she said.
3. Thelma Fardin, an Argentine actor who started a national conversation about sexual harassment and abuse in her country.
Last December, Fardin said an older male costar raped her in 2009 when she was 16 and he was 45, an allegation the actor, Juan Darthés, has denied.
Fardin's story, which she shared as a video on her Instagram, received an outpouring of support. People started sharing their own experiences and expressing their solidarity with sexual assault survivors in a movement "seen as the country’s answer to the global #MeToo reckoning," according to the New York Times.
Fardin has continued to speak up for women's rights in the country, showing support for a movement to make abortion legal in Argentina and, more recently, for an 11-year-old girl who was forced to give birth to her rapist's baby.
4. Rahmalia Aufa Yazid, a freelance creator in Japan who combines Muslim and Japanese fashion.
The daughter of Indonesian Muslim parents, Yazid was born and raised in Tokyo. Her work — self-portraits styled, photographed, and designed all by herself — combines Japanese fashion and Muslim fashion with the city of Tokyo.
"I want to show that Muslim fashion — hijabi fashion — is something that goes beyond the boundaries of religion and that anyone can sympathize with and enjoy," the 24-year-old told BuzzFeed News.
"I want to show myself, a Muslim, living strong and beautiful, through my art," she said.
5. Ramla Ali, a Somali boxer who is the first Muslim woman to win an English boxing title.
Ali, who fled with her family to London from Mogadishu after the civil war broke out in Somalia, got into boxing after she went to the gym because she was being teased at school for being overweight.
Last year, she was named as a global athlete for Nike.
"Sometimes I feel like a shopping list of hardships," the 27-year-old told BuzzFeed News. "But if I didn’t go through all these difficulties, I wouldn’t be the same woman I am today. I wouldn’t appreciate what I have or take the time to recognize the highs and rewards that come through my sport."
She said that the obvious misconception women boxers face is that they are "more fragile, weaker, and less likely to stick it out in boxing."
"The reality is female boxers are often more technically gifted and more willing to learn without putting their ego first," she said, adding that she hopes to see the media giants of the world make a conscious effort to promote and advertise more women in sport.
6. Johanna Toruño, aka the Unapologetically Brown Series, a New York–based street artist using public spaces to tell the stories of people of color.
Toruño, who was raised in El Salvador, told BuzzFeed News she started The Unapologetically Brown Series because she wanted to highlight and empower people of color.
Her art focuses on women of color because they are the most influential culture makers and deserve to see the fruits of their excellence, Toruño said.
"[Women of color] are the ones whose stories are the brightest, but very intentionally, our stories are silenced and pushed aside — they are 'othered' while also being fetishized," she said. "I want to tell our stories because no one knows how like us."
"I want our autonomy, our own spaces, without reducing ourselves for the gaze of other folks," Toruño said. "Women are powerful. We are the makers of this world, and we deserve everything we are due in its entirety."
7. Kheris Rogers, a 12-year-old in Los Angeles who started her own fashion line after she was bullied for her dark skin.
"I have always had a passion for fashion, but I wanted it to have a positive message behind it," Rogers told BuzzFeed News.
With the help of her older sister and best friend Taylor, Rogers started Flexin' in My Complexion in April 2017 as a way to instill confidence in herself and others.
"My main goal for starting the line was to inspire people to love the skin that they are in," she said. "It does not matter if your skin complexion is dark, fair, light, freckled, albino, or even green! You should always love yourself from the inside-out."
8. Macarena Sánchez, an Argentine soccer player who is fighting for women soccer players to be recognized as professionals in the country.
In February, Sánchez filed a lawsuit against her club, UAI Urquiza, and the Argentine Football Association after she was let go from her club midseason, making her the first woman to launch legal action against the association.
Although soccer is the most popular sport in Argentina, women players are not treated as professionals, Sánchez told BuzzFeed News. Unlike their male counterparts, women players are not protected by legal contracts, nor are their salaries large enough for soccer to be their full-time occupation.
Sánchez said she decided to file the lawsuit because she wanted to do something not just for herself, but for all women players that will lead to them being fully recognized as professionals.
"Feminism has made me rethink absolutely everything in my life, reflect on the ideas I had and on the concepts that were imposed on me since childhood," Sánchez said. "I am a feminist because I want women to have the rights that were historically denied to us. I practice feminism because I believe it is the only way to fight against a system that oppresses us and does not allow us to live fully."
9. Yagazie Emezi, a Nigerian photographer documenting life in Africa with a focus on women and their stories.
"All my life from childhood, I have been pulled towards storytelling, and I searched for an unexplainable 'fit,'" Emezi told BuzzFeed News. "I drew, then I wrote, then I made videos. When I focused on photography, it was a simple soulmate moment of, 'Oh, there you are. I've been waiting for you.'"
Emezi says her work primarily focuses on African women and stories surrounding their health, sexuality, education, and beauty, because she wants to make sure that what she is doing is meaningful, as a woman "who is entrusted to share the stories and experiences of people, often women."
"Personally, it's about the part I can play in the lives of others and if my photography can do any bit of good," she added.
Although she says that there is never one set message with her work, Emezi said that she has learned many lessons revolving around perseverance from photographing women.
"Kindness and patience will always come back," she said.
10. Dani Burt, a World Adaptive Surfing champion from the US.
Burt's leg was amputated after a motorcycle crash in 2004 that left her in a coma for 45 days. Since then, she has not only been crowned the first ever women's World Adaptive Surfing champion, but is also a doctor of physical therapy who regularly shares tips for amputees on her social media channels.
Burt told BuzzFeed News that she does what she does because she saw a need for someone to be real about what life is like as an amputee.
"I have the platform, privilege, and responsibility to do that loud and clear," she said. "I know what it feels like to be knocked down hard, and I hope to make the path I had to travel on a little less bumpy for others."
11. Maria Qamar, aka Hatecopy, a Canadian artist who draws pop art featuring desi women.
Qamar told BuzzFeed News they first started drawing to try to deal with their sadness and frustration with failure through humor.
"Being a teen with little grasp of the English language and Western culture, leaving all your friends behind to come to an ice-cold tundra where you’re called a terrorist by classmates is exceptionally difficult," they said. "My habit of documenting everyday encounters with bullies by immortalizing my revenge via hand-drawn comics led me to, naturally, deal with my emotions and my problems the exact same way into my twenties."
Their focus on women is a way for them to stay connected to those who came before them and those who will move the world forward, they said.
"I had a very matriarchal upbringing," Qamar said. "The women around me shaped the way I viewed the world; they made me realize the beauty of sisterhood, and the real threat patriarchy presents to us when it disguises itself as tradition."
12. Kimiko Nishimoto, a 90-year-old Japanese grandmother who takes amazing self-portraits.
Nishimoto, who lives in Kyushu, Japan, discovered photography when she was 72 years old, after a friend invited her to an amateur photography class.
What started as a homework assignment from her photography teacher turned into a hobby for the now-90-year-old, who has since built a following of more than 200,000 people on Instagram for her hilarious self-portraits, which she also edits on Photoshop herself.
“I love the sound of a shutter clicking,” Nishimoto told the Japan Times. “Cameras have opened a window to another world for me. It would be boring just sitting around the house all day."
13. Madeline Stuart, the world's first professional model with Down syndrome, from Australia.
Stuart — who walked eight runways at New York Fashion Week and debuted the third collection from her own fashion line last year — told BuzzFeed News that she feels she came along at a time when people were ready for change.
"Social media really has turned our world upside down," she said. "It has given the little person a voice, and because of that I had the opportunity to get my message out there."
She feels that people are now excited to see something new that also gives them representation, hurdles she had to overcome when she first started out, Stuart said.
"I really hope to change society's perception of people with disabilities, break down stereotypes, and to continue to open doors for other people wanting to work in this sector," she said. "After all, 90% of the population does not look like a traditional runway model."
14. Charlotte Allingham, an Indigenous Australian illustrator whose art focuses on Indigenous women.
Allingham, a Wiradjuri woman based in Melbourne, told the Broadsheet that she has always done traditional Indigenous painting with her dad but never found the courage to share it because she was afraid of being shunned for being fair-skinned.
"I thought I’d be called ‘too white,’ and I didn’t want to have to prove my identity to people," she said.
However, since starting to engage more with her heritage as a form of self-healing last year, Allingham found herself building a community, and her illustration "Always Was, Always Will Be Aboriginal Land" went viral on Australia Day last year.
“I have to be two times more attentive in what I’m doing now. Now I have a way of helping people,” she said. “I feel like I have a duty to promote Aboriginal women as strong and powerful.”
Saori Ibuki contributed additional reporting to this post.