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Trail Blazers

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By Miracle Nwankwo

On the 10th of September 1982, Kansas City witnessed the birth of a gifted ballerina born by a single mother Sylvia DelaCerna whose failed marriages caused her financial instability and the ability of providing well for children.

Unlike most ballet dancers who found and chose ballet at a very tender age, Misty was different. She discovered ballet when she was thirteen, while living with her mother and siblings in a motel in Gardena, California. She was a young, shy, slight child who rarely spoke and tried not to be noticed. While in Gardena, Elizabeth Cantine, Misty’s Dana drill team coach, noticed her talent and convinced her to attend a free ballet class at her local Boys & Girls Club taught by her friend Cynthia Bradley. By taking heed to her coach’s advice, it unlocked the beginning of stardom for Misty whose natural ability was also recognized by Bradley. 

At the age of thirteen Misty was considered a late starter in Ballet which could also be seen as almost impossible to take as a career. Nevertheless, with a strong determination fueled with fierce passion and with the help of her trainer she turned an almost impossible situation into a success story. 

Misty first started to attend Ballet classes as a spectator before participating soon she was invited by Bradley to attend classes at her small ballet school, San Pedro Dance Center. At first Misty rejected the offer because she considered it inconvenient seeing that her mother who worked 12-14 hours a day did not have a car, and her oldest sister Erica was working two jobs. However, she later consented when Cynthia Bradley promised to pick her up from school. After three months of study, Misty became en pointe (a French term in ballet that signifies that the ballet dancer can now perform on the tips of fully extended feet and in this way the ballet dancer supports all body weight).

Misty continued to take her ballet classes with Bradley who gave serious attention to her and when her training became more intensive and her mother insisted that she gave up ballet, Bradley begged DelaCerna to allow Misty move in with her. Surprisingly DelaCerna agreed to this, but not without a signed management contract and a life-story contract with Bradley. Eventually Misty moved in with Bradley and her family and was able to practice often since the studio was now closer to her. Based on the contract Misty spent the weekdays with the Bradleys near the coast and the weekends at home with her mother which is a two-hour bus ride away.

At the age of fourteen, Misty won the national ballet contest and her first solo role. She was soon introduced to books and videos on ballet by her new family which was a great help to her career. After eight months of study, she gained her first media’s spotlight when she performed as Clara in The Nutcracker at the San Pedro High School which drew 2,000 patrons per show. She played a larger role as Kitri in Don Quixote at the San Pedro Dance Center and then performed with the L.A. Academy of Fine Arts in a featured role in The Chocolate Nutcracker, an African American version of the tale, narrated by Debbie Allen. The latter was presented at UCLA’s Royce Hall. Misty’s role was modified especially for her, and included ethnic dances.

Before her fifteenth birthday, she was home-schooled by Bradley against 10th grade to free up more time for dance. At age fifteen, she won first prize in the ballet category of the Los Angeles Music Center Spotlight Awards at the Chandler Pavilion in March 1998 which also entitles her to a scholarship. Copeland’s victory in the 10th annual contest among gifted high school students in Southern California secured her recognition by the Los Angeles Times as the best young dancer in the Greater Los Angeles Area. She was also accepted with a full scholarship into the intensive summer program at the San Francisco Ballet that same year.

However, she began to face a custody battle between the Bradleys and her mother. Following the custody disagreement Misty had to return home to her family who at the time were living in a motel. DelaCerna had become uncomfortable with the Bradley’s influence over her daughter and decided that Misty would cease study with the Bradleys. With fear that she might be stopped from dancing, Misty filled for emancipation and she was provided a lawyer by the Bradleys. She was also encouraged to be absent from home when the emancipation petition was delivered to her mother. 

Following the Bradley’s advice, Misty left home for three days and stayed with a friend, while the lawyer filed the emancipation papers to DelaCerna who had the time had reported that her daughter was missing. Three days after Misty had left the house she was found and returned to her mother by the police. DelaCerna then engaged a lawyer and applied for a series of restraining orders. The custody controversy was debated over in court and Misty’s media status attracted the press.  After DelaCerna stated that she would always make sure Copeland could dance, both the emancipation papers and restraining orders were dropped and DelaCerna had full custody over her daughter.

Having moved back in with the family, DelaCerna sought Elizabeth Cantine’s advice on a new ballet school for Misty. Misty began attending San Pedro High School and was studying ballet at Lauridsen Ballet Centre in Torrance, California. 

In 1999, Misty auditioned for several dance programs, and in 2000 she won a full scholarship, this time to the American Ballet Theatre’s intensive summer program. That year she was also named the ABT’s National Coca-Cola Scholar. At the end of the summer, she was invited to join the ABT studio company, a selective program for young dancers still in training. In 2001, she became a member of the ABT’s corps de ballet, and the only African American woman in a group of 80 dancers. However, at this point Misty she was challenged by her difference in terms of her race and body type because puberty set in and she began to look differently from other ballet dancers.

She was more full-figured than her peers and was also consistently conscious about it. But with the help of her friends outside the ballet group, she gained self-esteem and overcame the burden, becoming a ballerina with a unique figure therefore changing the narrative of how a ballet dancer should look. She continued to excel in her career moving from one level of the ballet ranks to the other by virtue of her exceptional skill. 

In 2007 she became the company’s first African-American female soloist in two decades (Anne Benna Sims and Nora Kimball had preceded her). Some outstanding performances by Misty includes the title role in The Firebird (2012), Gulnare in Le Corsaire (2013), Swanilda in Coppélia (2014), and the dual lead role, Odette/Odile, in Swan Lake (2014).

In addition to her dance career, Misty by the virtue of her story has become a public speaker, celebrity spokesperson and stage performer. In 2009 she appeared in a music video for the song “Crimson and Clover” by Prince. She also performed live with him on his tour the following year. She is a strong advocate for diversifying the field of ballet and creating access for dancers of varying racial and economic backgrounds. She served on the advisory committee for the ABT’s Project Plié, a program (started in 2013) offering training and mentorship to dance teachers in racially diverse communities around the country as well as in Boys & Girls Clubs. Copeland published the memoir Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina (2014) and had endorsements with companies such as Coach (leather accessories) and Under Armour (athletic wear). 

On June 30, 2015, Misty became the first African-American principal ballerina since the ABT’s 75-year history. That same year, she had her Broadway debut in the role of Ivy Smith in Leonard Bernstein’s musical On the Town.

In 2018 Copeland made her feature film debut, fittingly playing the ballerina princess in The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, an adaptation of Tchaikovsky’s 19th-century ballet.

Her inspiring story gives hope to many.

Mia Mottley’s life story buttresses the fact that women are defiling the norm and blazing the trail, even in a somewhat patriarchal society.

Born into a family of successful leaders, she was certainly familiar to leadership. Her father Eliott Deighton Mottley was a barrister who sat in the House of Assembly, albeit for a relatively short time before vacating the seat to become consul-general in New York. He married Mia’s mother, Santa Amor Tappin in December 1964 just three years after being called to the Bar and was elected to represent Bridgetown (Bardados) in May 1969.

One of the most interesting things about Mia’s family is that the responsibility of leadership seems to be saddled upon every member from one generation to the other. She is the granddaughter of Ernest Deighton Mottley (1907–1973), a real estate broker and successful politician particularly at the parish level. He was the first Mayor of Bridgetown (1959) who had represented Bridgetown in the House of Assembly from 1946. He also belonged to the conservative party and helped the poor. Ernest Deighton Mottley was granted the ‘Ordinary Commanders of the Civil Division’ for public services in Barbados in June 1962, he also assisted Wynter Algermon Crawford (1910–1993), Barbados’ Trade Minister, at the Independent Conference in London during June and July 1966.  

Mia Mottley was educated at Merrivale Preparatory School. She also attended the United Nations International School (New York), and Queen’s College (Barbados). By 1986, Mottley finalized her training as attorney and received a law degree from the London School of Economics (Houghton Street, London, England).

Being highly influenced by her family,  Mottley first entered Barbadian politics in 1991 when, running on a Barbados Labor party (BLP) ticket. Regardless of losing the election race between herself and the late Leroy Brathwaite, she still did not lose her desire to exhibit the innate outstanding leadership attributes which she possessed. In September 1994, at age 29, Mottley became one of the youngest Barbadians ever to be assigned a ministerial portfolio as she was appointed to the Ministry of Education, Youth Affairs and Culture.

In August 2001, She was appointed Attorney-General and Minister of Home Affairs, blazing the trail of being the first female (in Barbados) to hold this position and the youngest ever Queen’s Counsel in Barbados. In addition to being a Member of the Privy Council of Barbados, she was Leader of the house and a member of the National Security Council and the Barbados Defense Board.

She is also credited with being the visionary behind the Education Sector Enhancement Program, popularly known as “Edutech”, which aims to increase the number of young people contributing to the island’s sustainable social and economic development. It is no doubt that her consistent desire to ensure a better life for the people around her, placed her on this high pedestal of leadership.

In 2008, Mottley became the leader of the BLP, following the party’s defeat in the elections and the subsequent resignation of the then party leader, Owen Arthur.  She became not only the first woman to lead the party but also the leader of the opposition, after she was sworn in February 2008. However, her position as leader of the opposition was revoked two years later after a vote of no-confidence against her.

The position reverted to former party leader Arthur.  Just recently, this outstanding trailblazer gained another feat which made history, when she was elected to the position of the first-ever woman prime minister in Barbados.

Mia modestly accredits this victory to the people of Barbados.

Examining the leadership traits of Mia Mottley and her consistent push to remain a significant representative of women in leadership, reiterates the fact that a woman is only limited by what she allows to limit her.

Mottley’s example urges women to soar.

Sources:

http://www.liquisearch.com/mia_mottley/biography/early_life

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mia_Mottley

http://www.looptt.com/content/10-things-know-about-mia-mottley-4

https://www.essence.com/news/barbados-first-female-prime-minister-mia-mottley/

https://face2faceafrica.com/article/five-things-to-know-about-mia-mottley-barbados-first-female-prime-minister

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-44254140

Flossie Wong-Staal is a woman who has made tremendous strides in the fight against AIDS. She is a Chinese-American virologist and molecular biologist. She was the first scientist to clone HIV and determine the function of its genes, a major step in proving that HIV is the cause of AIDS. From 1990 to 2002, she held the Florence Riford Chair in AIDS Research at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). She was co-founder and, after retiring from UCSD, Chief Scientific Officer of Immusol, which was renamed iTherX Pharmaceuticals in 2007 when it transitioned to a drug development company focused on hepatitis C, and where she remains Chief Scientific Officer.

Her early life

Flossie Wong-Staal was born originally as Wong Yee Ching on August 27th, 1947 in Guangzhou, China. Wong-Staal was among many Chinese citizens to flee to Hong Kong after the Communist revolution in the late 1940s. During her time in Hong Kong, Wong attended a girls’ Catholic school taught by British nuns where she excelled in science. Throughout her time at the school, she was encouraged by many of her teachers to further her studies in the United States. Her father chose the name Flossie for her after a massive storm that had struck their area around this time.  At the age of eighteen (18), she left Hong Kong in order to attend the University of California, Los Angeles where she pursued a Bachelor of Science in bacteriology which she earned in 1972.

She got married Steven Staal in 1971 and in 1972 she earned her Ph.D. and was named the Woman Graduate of the Year at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). She did her post-doctorate work at the University of California, San Diego, where she would continue to research.  In 1973 her husband, a medical doctor, began working at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda as their Managing Director, so Flossie joined him there and got a job at Robert Gallo’s lab in the National Cancer Institute at NIH.

Her career
Sequel to acquiring her doctorate, in 1972, Flossie Wong-Staal undertook postdoctoral research at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). At Robert Gallo’s institute, Wong-Staal began her research into retroviruses. The research conducted in the institute focused on viruses that caused cancer in animals, and how those viruses affected cells.  Their work on oncogenes in animals led Flossie to be the first to find oncogenes in humans.  Flossie quickly rose to a leadership position in the lab and flourished, enjoying the research that frequently led to new and exciting discoveries.

Photo source: Fine Art America

In 1983, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) lab and the Pasteur Institute in Paris separately isolated and identified the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).  In 1984, Flossie Wong-Staal became the first to clone and map the genes of HIV.  This was significant in allowing for the development of HIV blood tests.  In 1985, she was divorced but kept her hyphenated name.

In 1990 a team of researchers led by Wong-Staal studied the effects that the Tat protein within the viral strain HIV-1 would have on the growth of cells found within Kaposi’s sarcoma lesions commonly found in AIDS patients. The team of researchers performed tests on a variety of cells that carried the tat protein and observed the rate of cell proliferation in cells infected by HIV-1 and the control, a culture of healthy human endothelial cells. Wong-Staal used a type of cellular analysis known as radio immune-precipitation in order to detect the presence of KS lesions in cells with varying amounts of the tat protein. The results of these tests showed that the amount of that protein within a cell infected by HIV-1 is directly correlated to the amount of KS lesions a patient may have. These findings were essential in developing new treatments for HIV/AIDS patients who suffer from these dangerous lesions.

The same year, Flossie Wong-Staal moved from National Cancer Institute (NCI) to the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). Wong-Staal continued her research into HIV and AIDS at UCSD. In 1994 she was named as chairman of UCSD’s newly created Center for AIDS Research. In that same year, Wong-Staal was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the U.S. National Academies.

Wong-Staal’s research in 1990, focused on gene therapy, using a Ribozyme ‘molecular knife’ to repress HIV in stem cells. The protocol she developed was the second to be funded by the United States government.

In her quest to find treatments, vaccines, and cures by various methods, she retired from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) in 2002 and now holds the title of Professor Emeritus. She then joined Immusol, a biopharmaceutical company that she co-founded while she was at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), as Chief Scientific Officer. Recognizing the need for improved drugs for Hepatitis C Virus (HCV), she transitioned Immusol to a Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) therapeutics focus and renamed it iTherX Pharmaceuticals to reflect this.

The dedication and impeccable inventions of Flossie Wong-Staal made her a widely respected researcher. Her publications were once found to be the most-cited by female researchers in the 1980s.  She was named the top woman researcher of the 1980s by the Institute for Scientific Information. In 2002, she was named by ‘Discover’ Magazine as one of the fifty most extraordinary women scientists. ‘The Daily Telegraph’ in 2007 listed Dr. Flossie Wong-Staal as number thirty-two (#32) of the ‘Top 100 Living Geniuses’. She remains as a Research Professor of Medicine at UCSD.

By

EMEKPO CHARLES.

Patricia Era Bath, a prominent ophthalmologist, and innovative research and laser scientist, is the first African American woman physician to receive a patent for a medical invention. Born on November 4, 1942, in Harlem, New York to Rupert Bath, a Trinidadian immigrant and the first black motorman in the New York City subway system, and Gladys Rupert, a domestic worker. In 1959 while in high school at Charles Evans Hughes, she received a grant from the National Science Foundation to attend the Summer Institute in Biomedical Science at Yeshiva University. There, she studied the relationship between stress, nutrition, and cancer. In 1964, Bath graduated from Hunter College in New York City with a B.S. in chemistry. Four years later, she received her medical degree from Howard University Medical School in Washington, D.C. She has four patents to her name and founded the non-profit American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness in Washington, D.C.

Bath married and had a daughter, Erika in 1972. While motherhood became her priority, she also managed to complete a fellowship in corneal transplantation and keratoprosthesis (replacing the human cornea with an artificial one).
Photo source: hcvpgh.org

Patricia Era Bath’s dedication to a life in medicine began in childhood. She was inspired by Dr. Albert Schweitzer’s service to lepers in the Congo. The start of Bath’s medical career has been one that broke many racial and gender grounds. From 1970 to 1973, she completed her training at New York University School of Medicine as the first African American resident in ophthalmology. While a young intern at Harlem Hospital and Columbia University, Bath noticed the contrast between the eye clinic of Harlem where half of the patients were visually impaired or blind in Columbia, where only a few patients suffered from blindness. Because of this, Bath conducted a study and found that blindness among blacks was high compared to the white due to lack of proper eye care facilities in black communities. In an attempt to remedy this alarming problem, she proposed a new worldwide system known as community ophthalmology in which trained eye care volunteers visit senior centers and day care programs to test the vision and screen for cataracts, glaucoma, and other serious eye conditions. Through this community outreach program, underserved populations whose eye conditions would have gone untreated have a better chance to prevent blindness.

She reached the conclusion that the high prevalence of blindness among blacks was due to lack of access to ophthalmic care. As a result, she proposed a new discipline, known as community ophthalmology, which is now operative worldwide. Community ophthalmology combines aspects of public health, community medicine, and clinical ophthalmology to offer primary care to underserved populations. Volunteers trained as eye workers visit senior centers and daycare programs to test vision and screen for cataracts, glaucoma, and other threatening eye conditions. This outreach has saved the sight of thousands whose problems would have gone undiagnosed and untreated. By identifying children who need eyeglasses, the volunteers give these children a better chance for success in school.

Bath was also instrumental in bringing ophthalmic surgical services to Harlem Hospital’s Eye Clinic, which did not perform eye surgery in 1968. She persuaded her professors at Columbia to operate on blind patients for free, and she volunteered as an assistant surgeon. The first major eye operation at Harlem Hospital was performed in 1970 as a result of her efforts.
Photo source: Umkc.edu

Bath joined the faculty of UCLA and Charles R. Drew University in 1974 as an assistant professor of surgery (Drew) and ophthalmology (UCLA). The following year she became the first woman faculty member in the Department of Ophthalmology at UCLA’s Jules Stein Eye Institute. As she notes, when she became the first woman faculty in the department, she was offered an office “in the basement next to the lab animals.” She refused the spot. “I didn’t say it was racist or sexist. I said it was inappropriate and succeeded in getting acceptable office space. I decided I was just going to do my work.” By 1983 she was chair of the ophthalmology residency training program at Drew-UCLA, the first woman in the USA to hold such position.

Despite university policies extolling equality and condemning discrimination, Professor Bath experienced numerous instances of sexism and racism throughout her tenure at both UCLA and Drew. Determined that her research will not be obstructed by the “glass ceilings,” she took her research abroad to Europe. Free at last from the toxic constraints of sexism and racism her research was accepted on its merits at the Laser Medical Center of Berlin, West Germany, the Rothschild Eye Institute of Paris, France, and the Loughborough Institute of Technology, England. At those institutions, she achieved her “personal best” in research and laser science, the fruits of which are evidenced by her laser patents on eye surgery.

Bath’s work and interests, however, have always gone beyond the confines of the university. In 1977, she and three other colleagues founded the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness, an organization whose mission is to protect, preserve, and restore the gift of sight. The AIPB is based on the principle that eyesight is a basic human right and that primary eye care must be made available to all people, everywhere, regardless of their economic status. Much of the work of the AIPB is done through ophthalmic assistants, who are trained in programs at major universities. The institute supports global initiatives to provide newborn infants with protective anti-infection eye drops, to ensure that children who are malnourished receive vitamin A supplements essential for vision and to vaccinate children against diseases (such as measles) that can lead to blindness.

As director of AIPB, Bath has traveled widely. On these travels, she has performed surgery, taught new medical techniques, donated equipment, lectured, met with colleagues, and witnessed the disparity in health services available in industrial and developing countries.

Dr. Bath is also a laser scientist and inventor. Her interest, experience, and research on cataracts lead to her invention of a new device and method to remove cataracts—the laserphaco probe. When she first conceived of the device in 1981, her idea was more advanced than the technology available at the time. It took her nearly five years to complete the research and testing needed to make it work and apply for a patent. Today the device is used worldwide. With the keratoprosthesis device, Dr. Bath could recover the sight of several individuals who had been blind for over 30 years.

In 1993, Bath retired from UCLA Medical Center and was appointed to the honorary medical staff. Since then, she has been an advocate of telemedicine; the use of electronic communication to provide medical services to remote areas where health care is limited. She has held positions in telemedicine at Howard University and St. George’s University in Grenada.

Dr. Bath’s greatest passion, however, continues to be fighting blindness. Her “personal best moment” occurred on a humanitarian mission to North Africa when she restored the sight of a woman who had been blind for thirty years by implanting a keratoprosthesis. “The ability to restore sight is the ultimate reward.”

Compiled By; Emekpo Charles

Nigerian female footballer, Asisat Lamina Oshoala has proven a point that where there is determination, commitment, hard work, focus etc., gender is not a barrier to personal achievement. Born on 9 October 1994, at Ikorodu, a Lagos sub-bob. Oshoala attended secondary school education at Aunty Ayo International School in Lagos and graduated in 2009.

Oshoala’s football carrier started with FC ROBO in Ikorodu, Lagos Nigeria, where she was between 2009-2013. She left Lagos for Port Harcourt, where she laced her boot for Rivers Angels between 2013-2014.

As it is said, a good product is worthy of export. This is typical with the athletically built Oshoala. The 2014 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup was the platform Oshoala needed to introduce herself to the female football fans globally. At the competition, she actually shone like an emerging star. She was the highest goal scorer with seven (7) goals in that edition and consequently named the best player of the tournament. After the 2014 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, European football scouts had noticed Oshoala. The year 2015 was for Oshoala. By 23 January 2015, Oshoala had joined Liverpool Ladies. Record has it that Oshoala was the first female African footballer to play in the Women’s Super League when she signed for Liverpool.

A good product markets itself, as it is said, Oshoala’s stay in Liverpool was short-lived as, another equally good England female football team, Arsenal FC located her.  January 2016 Liverpool reported that a transfer bid from Arsenal Ladies activated the release clause in Oshoala’s contract and that she was discussing personal terms with the London club services. Yes, she once again moved on to Arsenal in her football career.

There is a need to add this part of Oshoala becoming a celebrated female football to this write-up. It was Oshoala herself who narrated that her parents initially did not support her chosen career of being a footballer, especially when it comes to abandoning her academic pursuit in preference to playing football.  

Oshoala became part of the Nigeria’s female national football team, the Super Falcons, she was named best player and second top goal-scorer with the female national team who won the 2014 African Women Championship.

Oshoala is ranked top amongst the Nigerian female professional footballers abroad, she currently plays for Chinese side Dalian Quanjian F.C. in the Chinese Women’s Super League as a forward.

Oshoala as a female professional footballer has won many awards. Below is the list of some of the awards she has won.

  1. Golden Ball award for best player and Golden Boot award for the top goal scorer (seven goals) at the 2014 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup.
  2. Golden Ball award for best player and second top goal scorer (four goals) with the Super Falcons team who won the 2014 African Women’s Championship.
  3. GLO/CAF ‘2014 Female Footballer of The Year Award’.
  4. In September 2014 Oshoala was made a Member of the Order of the Niger by President of Nigeria Goodluck Jonathan.
  5. BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year 2015.
  6. Golden Boot award at the 2016 African Women Championship (AWCON) In Cameroon.
  7. GLO/CAF 2016 ‘Female Footballer of The Year Award’

Oshoala, a living example of “girls you can get to the top if you so desire”. No mountain is too high to climb as Oshoala did!

By Akor Reuben

The story of Tammy Duckworth brings to mind the phrase, “nothing is unachievable except you refuse to try.”

Tammy Duckworth is the first disabled female veteran to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate, as well as the second female Asian-American senator.

Ladda Tammy Duckworth was born on March 12, 1968, in Bangkok, Thailand, to a mother of Chinese heritage and a father of British descent. Because her father did refugee work for the United Nations, Duckworth’s childhood took place against varied backdrops—spanning Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Cambodia, and Hawaii.

Duckworth—along with her mother, Lamai, and her father, Franklin—moved to Hawaii as a teenager. After high school, Duckworth earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Hawaii. Afterward, she obtained her Master of Arts in international affairs at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. In pursuit of yet more higher education, Duckworth then relocated to Illinois, where she enrolled in a political science Ph.D. program at Northern Illinois University.

While attending NIU, Duckworth enrolled in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps with the Illinois Army National Guard. Trained as a Blackhawk pilot, in 2004 Duckworth left NIU when she was deployed to Iraq. In Iraq, Duckworth flew Operation Iraqi Freedom combat missions until her helicopter was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade in the autumn of 2004.

The explosion took both of Duckworth’s legs and robbed her of full function in her right arm. Still believing in the worthiness of her mission amid questions of whether she felt her sacrifice was for naught, Duckworth responded, “I was hurt in service for my country. I was proud to go. It was my duty as a soldier to go. And I would go tomorrow.” She did, however, express frustration that U.S. policymakers were failing to match the sacrifices of American soldiers.

Following her injuries, Duckworth was promoted to major and awarded the Purple Heart. During her year’s recovery time at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, she became an activist, advocating for better medical care for wounded veterans and their families. Duckworth presented her impassioned views to Congress, testifying on two separate occasions.

Tammy Duckworth’s activism led her to pursue a political career after her recovery. In 2006 she ran for Congress but lost by a narrow margin. Instead, she took an appointment as director of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs. In this role, she worked toward developing an incentive program that would give employers a tax credit for hiring war veterans. She also initiated programs that would provide veterans and their families with better mental support, health care and housing resources.

After President Barack Obama was elected, he chose Duckworth as his assistant secretary for public and intergovernmental affairs in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. In her new role, Duckworth focused largely on putting a stop to the cycle of homeless veterans. She also developed resources especially tailored to the unique needs of female veterans.

In 2012, Duckworth took a second shot at a seat in Congress, as a Democrat representing Illinois, and won. Her victory was twofold: Not only did Duckworth now have the platform to advance her political agenda, but she also became a living example for fellow female veterans, as the first disabled woman ever to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

During her time in the House of Representatives, Duckworth worked in a number of committees including the House Committee on Armed Services, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, as well as the House Select Committee on the Events, Surrounding the 2012 Terrorist Attack in Benghazi. In 2013, during a House hearing, she made headlines when she took Virginia CEO Braulio Castillo to task for fraudulently representing himself as a disabled military vet and receiving millions of dollars in federal contracts. “Shame on you. You may not have broken any laws … [but] you broke the trust of veterans.” Duckworth added: “Twisting your ankle in prep school is not defending or serving this nation.”

In 2016, Duckworth successfully ran for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Mark S. Kirk, thereby becoming the second female Asian-American to win a Senate seat (California’s Kamala Harris soon became the third) and the first disabled woman to accomplish the task. An outspoken Democrat, she railed against President Donald Trump during the brief government shutdown in January 2018, saying, “I will not be lectured about what our military needs by a five-deferment draft dodger.”

Prior to her injuries, Duckworth married Major Bryan Bowlsbey of the Illinois Army National Guard. She announced her retirement from the military in October 2014, shortly before giving birth to a daughter.

In January 2018, Duckworth announced that she was expecting a second daughter in April, which would make her the first senator to give birth while holding office. Noting it was “about damn time” someone achieved this, Duckworth said, “I can’t believe it took until 2018. It says something about the inequality of representation that exists in our country.”

A few weeks later, the senator penned an op-ed piece in which she pushed for expanded benefits for parental leave. Noting that she was among the lucky ones who would be able to enjoy paid time off while caring for a newborn, she cited the FAMILY Act, proposed by New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and the Child Care for Working Families Act, from Washington’s Patty Murray, as examples of legislation that would help people balance the responsibilities of parenting and their careers.

On April 9, 2018, Duckworth gave birth to a baby girl, Maile Pearl, at a hospital in Arlington, Virginia. Along with tweeting messages that thanked friends and family for support, she issued a statement that showed she had an eye on returning to work. “Parenthood isn’t just a women’s issue, it’s an economic issue and one that affects all parents — men and women alike,” Duckworth said. “As tough as juggling the demands of motherhood and being a Senator can be, I’m hardly alone or unique as a working parent, and my children only make me more committed to doing my job and standing up for hardworking families everywhere.”

Duckworth showed she meant those words seriously when she arrived with her 10-day-old newborn to cast what could have been a deciding vote against a Trump nominee for NASA administrator. The baby’s presence came one day after the Senate changed its admission rules, making the senator and Maile the first mama-daughter team appear on the chamber floor during a vote. Duckworth then issued a statement that thanked her colleagues for “helping bring the Senate into the 21st Century by recognizing that sometimes new parents also have responsibilities at work.”

Source: Newyorker

Over the years, women have been discouraged from venturing into male stereotyped jobs or careers, and oftentimes chocked out of the passion or even frowned at.

This trend has caused many women to withdraw into a regular career comfort zone, out of the fear of being perceived as different.  However, with the emergence of female trailblazers who have gone ahead to chart the course for others, other women are beginning to emerge from their hiding places like snails from their shells, sweeping a media frenzy across the globe. 

One of such exceptional women is Salma El Majidi, who has made news in the Arab World with her decision to take up a career in a male-dominated terrain.

El Majidi the first Arab and Sudanese woman to coach a men’s football team in the Arab world. As the story, El Majidi crosses filters into the ears of many, women across the world are encouraged that their counterparts across the MENA region are beginning to make waves around the world.

It is obvious that with other trailblazers from the region, such as; Captain Nevin Darwish who became the first Egyptian-Arab female to fly the Airbus 380, and Shadia Bseiso – first Arab woman to be signed into the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) – women in MENA are gradually moving beyond the boundaries of stereotype to let the world know that Arab women have a better place in future.

Yes! things are beginning to turn out well for them and it is also an achievement to the overall gender equality drive to women and women supporters in the world.

El Majidi is the daughter of a retired policeman who fell in love with football when she was sixteen. She often watched her younger brother’s school team being coached and was thrilled by the coach’s instructions, his moves, and how he placed the marker cones at practice sessions.

After each training session, she made sure to engage in a discussion with the coach about the techniques he used to coach the boys – learning from him. The coach noticed the passion she had for the job and after several discussions with her, he went ahead to employ her to work with him.

Salma was zealous about her job, although a graduate of Accounts and Management Studies from Al Nasr Technical College, she made sure she convinced her parents and family to allow her fulfill her dreams.

Coming from a traditional family, it was a challenge for her to defend her decision and prove herself to her relatives, but as time went by, the result of her great talent began to show itself and members of her family soon realized that she was serious about her decision and was ready to make something out of it.

Salma is 27 years old and from a part of Arab where it is believed that a woman’s role is confined only to her home. And not only that, it is also obvious that this ideology has crept into most career fields including the female football teams. It is also important to point clearly that there is no legal ban on women’s football in Sudan, but a conservative society coupled with the Islamist leanings of the government have left it in the shadows, making football a distant dream for most of the women.

However, in the midst of all these, while the social beliefs have mostly discouraged women in Sudan from pursuing Football as a career, and while others are still struggling to break free from certain barriers in order to get to a common level, Salma who has been determined to succeed went around it to become a football coach for an all-male team.

She was recently acknowledged by FIFA as the first Arab and Sudanese woman to coach a men’s football team, prior to this recognition, in 2015, she was noted in BBC Arabic ‘s 100 inspirational women of the year.

She currently serves as the pioneer coach of the Al Nasr Omdurman football club in Sudan and holds the African “B” badge in coaching, which gives her opportunity to coach any first league team across the continent.

She hopes to coach an international football club someday.