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Trail Blazers

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The promotion of women leadership and general female public life can be said to be the key to unlocking transformation in economic development. This, in essence, stresses the need for gender balance is in all spheres of life.

Nepal appointed its first female president two years ago after the seven years leadership of Nepal’s first democratic president Ram Baran Yadav.

Recognizing a female trailblazer is commending the efforts of exceptional women who amidst all odds have defied stereotypes and created paths for others to follow. These women can be found in any part of the world and in all sphere of life.

Ranging from one profession to another, they make their mark through persistence and achieve outstanding success.

In this article, we will be looking at the story of Chan Yuen Ting the first woman to coach a men’s professional association football team to the championship of a nation’s top league.

This is very strange but true because a passionate lady refused to give up on her dreams.

Chan Yuen Ting was born on the 7 of October 1988, from her childhood days her heart was craving for football, her parent thought it was wise to let her explore her passion since she was only a child and they had thought that she would give it up when she grows into a woman.

Chan studied geography at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and graduated in 2010, she furthered her education with a master’s degree in sports science and health management.

She worked as an assistant manager at fellow Hong Kong Premier League clubs Pegasus FC and Southern District FC and with her skills, she led their under-18 team to three trophies. She also held coaching roles with the Hong Kong women’s national association football and futsal teams and played for a non-professional club team from Sha Tin.

Chan later joined the Eastern Sports Club and years after she was appointed as the manager of the professional Club during the Hong Kong Premier League, replacing her predecessor Yeung Ching Kwong.

This was a ground breaking achievement for Chan because she was the first female manager in the league.

During her time, the club won the 2015–16 seasons, losing only one of the fifteen games played since Chan took over.

The team’s victory reported Chan as the first woman to coach a men’s professional association football team to the championship of a nation’s top league. A month after Chan was appointed manager, the team won the 2015–16 Hong Kong Senior Challenge Shield, and that was just the beginning of her achievements.

In 2017, she became the first woman to coach a male football club in a top-flight continental competition when she managed a team against Guangzhou Evergrande in the AFC Champions League.

Chan holds the AFC “A” License and AFC “Futsal Level 2” License coaching certifications.

Growing up as a young girl, Asli Hassan Abade the first and only female pilot in the Somali air force, as well as the first female military pilot in Africa and in the Arab world, spent most of her childhood days watching airplanes take off and land at the Mogadishu airport.

Asli was born on the first of January 1958, in Mogadishu, Somalia. She lived with her parents Hawa Aden and Hassan Abade and nine siblings in a house close to the Mogadishu airport.

She grew up in a family with huge public service record most of which were high-positioned military officers, mostly before the civil war. With the unique dream of becoming a pilot, she was determined to pursue her passion until it became reality no matter what it might take.

Apart from her little fantasies drawn from watching planes at the Mogadishu airport, the military influence in her family created a deep affection of joining the force. Also, she had always desired to make an impact in her country.

Fortunately for her, the Somalia national military began embracing various reforms after the country gained independence in 1960, and with the assistance of the Soviets, so much was put into strengthening various arms of the military including the Somalia Air Force (SAF).

Following a coup in 1969, the country was declared a nationalist state. This move brought modernization into the military creating large demands at different levels and arms of the military.

In the SAF, there was a pressing need for more qualified and experienced pilots, so a large number of pilots were sent to train in the United States, the UK, the Soviet Union and Italy.

Asli soon joined the movement and was trained in Italy. This was a dream come true for her and shortly afterward, on the 9th of September 1976, she made her first flight. Asli then worked with the Air Force for almost 10 years and was efficiently promoted through the ranks.

After serving with the SAF, She went back to school and earned a Masters Degree in Social Work with the Asylees and another Masters Degree in Management.

Asli is married to an aircraft engineer who works with American Airlines, they live in Dallas Fort Worth metroplex, a metropolitan area in north Texas.

Currently, Asli works as an interpreter in different hospitals and schools but she engages more of her time in humanitarian services such as helping refugees from all parts of the world.

Halimah Yacob became Singapore’s first female president on the 13th of September 2017. This makes her the 12th woman to serve as president in the Asian continent.

Her Excellency has been in Singapore’s political scene for more than a decade with a good record of impartial service. Born on the 23rd of August 1954 to an Indian father and a Malaysian mother, she came from an average family. Following the death of her father when she was eight years old, she was raised by her mother.

The president attended the all-girls Chinese school in Singapore and Tanjong Katong Girls’ School. She had her tertiary education in the National University of Singapore in 1978 where she gained an LLB (Hons) degree. It took Yacob some added years to gain an LLM degree at the National University of Singapore (2001), and six years later she was conferred an honorary Doctor of Law degree from NUS (July 2016).

Prior to gaining her LLM degree Yacob was called to the Singapore Bar in 1981 and started a career afterward.

In 1992, she became the director of legal services department in the National Trades Union Congress after she had worked as a legal officer for years.

But she had a passion for politics and was ready to take her steps one at a time. In 1999, Yacob was appointed as a director of the Singapore Institute of Labour Studies.

However, destiny kept on calling for her and the more it calls the more her heart yearned. She finally took a bold step in the year 2001 when she joined the political field to serve her country.

Yacob was elected as a member of parliament in the Jurong Group Representation Constituency (GRC) of Singapore in 2001.

Becoming an MP in Singapore was the beginning of a practical journey to the top. she was appointed Minister of State at the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports on account of the result of the 2011 general election.

Yacob was dedicated to service and was recognized for good work, this caused her to receive a promotion as Minister of State at the Ministry of Social and Family Development after a cabinet reshuffle in November 2012.

Yacob continued to move forward breaking records and upgrading status, serving at different post and positions with results to show for them.

Having served as the Chair of Jurong Town Council, she was also appointed as first female Speaker of Parliament, being appointed in the 14 January 2013 after she was nominated by the Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to succeed the former speaker Michael Palmer who resigned following rumors of an extramarital affair.

Yacob was known for standing out on any issue, no wonder she was always the preferred choice when decisions arise on whom should ascend a position.

Finally, she decided to up her game, she declared on the 13 of August 2017 that she will be stepping down as a speaker to contest for 2017 Singapore presidential election. The news was huge to every hearer by the matriarch was serious about it.

The position was almost impossible for her since she was not a Malaysian by birth, her father was Indian. There were all other controversies that stood against her decision of becoming the president but she was strong to withstand every opposition until 13 of September when the electoral commission announced her as the only eligible candidate for the presidency.

President Halimah Yacob has made history as the very first female president of Singapore and the twelfth female president of Asia. She is married to Mohammed Abdullah Alhabshee and has five children.

 

Mellissa Mark-viverito is the first Hispanic woman to hold the position as speaker of the New York City Council, which is the second most powerful position in the city government after that of the mayor.

She got there through a unanimous agreement after years of dedicated efforts towards activism.

Mellissa was born on the 1st, of April 1969 in San Juan to a Puerto Rico parent. She grew up in Bayamón but left for New York at age 18 based on educational purposes. Born into a wealthy home, her father a medical doctor founded the renowned San Pablo Hospital in Bayamón.

She schooled at the Columbia University where she earned her bachelor’s degree and also bagged a  master’s degree from Baruch College studying public administration.

Before she took over the position as speaker in 2005, she had worked for many years in local activism, non-profit organizations, and labor.

Mellissa served as president of Mujeres del Barrio, and Strategic Organizer for Local 1199 of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), an influential health care workers union.

She was a member of Community Board 11, who coordinated the movement Todo Nueva York con Vieques.

Being the speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, has fought against comprehensive immigration reform, she has also advocated for local and national criminal justice reform.

She launched a Young Women’s Initiative to tackle problems of disparities faced by women in education, workforce development, healthcare, and the criminal justice system.

Mellissa was one of the Council Members to develop the first-ever Participatory Budgeting process in New York City and has been able to push for the spread of the budget to 31 districts across New York City. She succeeded in taking up a second term as speaker and also the third term in 2013.

During her second term, she served as founding co-chair of the New York City Council Progressive Caucus from 2010 -2013.

Mellissa is single but a successful woman who has been representing her country in the New York City. Mellissa is not eligible to run for re-election in 2017 based on term limits.

Mrs. Isha Johansen is a Sierra Leonean born in the year 1965, into the family of Tejan-Cole of Creole descent. She was formerly known as Isha Tejan-Cole until she married her husband, Arne Birger Johansen a Norwegian Consul in Sierra Leone.

She has been tagged the iron-lady of Sierra Leone, following her dedicated efforts to reach the peak in the African football federation.

She was born of a football lover, Isha’s father is the cofounder of East End Lions F.C. in Freetown and one of the patriarchs of Sierra Leone football association. Isha had been initiated into the club of sports enthusiast while she was still a little girl. Her father usually carried her to the fields and she witnessed many live matches, she also practiced by playing with her brothers and friends.

Isha had a bond with football and her heart ached at the terrible state of football status in her country.

In 2004, she established her football club called F.C. Johansen, this was her first solution to the problem. The club was made up of young boys under the ages of 11 whose heart was sold out to sports but their lives and dreams have been interrupted by Sierra Leone Civil War that lasted over a decade (1991-2002).

At some point in her life, while her husband drove past a patch, she consistently observed a group of young children who were always playing football on a rocky slope just metre away from her home.

She later discovered that these children had no parents or guardians who catered for them and no home like the other privileged children.

She decided to step into the lives of these children and change their story. She gathered them together and engaged in a discussion, they struck a deal that if they promised to stay in school and do the educational bit, then she will support them with their passion for football.

It was on the promise that she made to these children that FC Johansen was born and Isha is the only Female Football Association President in the world.

Becoming the founder and CEO of FC Johansen took Isha to the current prominence position in Sierra Leone football domain.

However, it was not just the uniqueness of her gender status but based on the recorded victories of her club in international youth competitions.

The FC Johansen has won a silver medal when they represented their country at the annual Mittnorden Cup in Sweden, four years after the club came to being. FC Johansen has also defeated Liverpool at the finals of the Swiss Under-16 which gave them assess to the Cup, and also won the Mitnordick Cup in Sweden in 2009.

Her club is the first and only club to host an international youth football tournaments at the national stadium in Freetown, bringing in teams all the way from Brazil, Norway, South Africa, and many other teams from West Africa to play international standard football in Sierra Leone.

On the 3rd of August 2013, she was elected as the first female president of Sierra Leone’s Football Association (SLFA)

She takes out her time to identify areas in the lives of youth and women where can affect positively areas like;

Standing for the breast cancer victims, she is a breast cancer activist and has established an NGO called the Pink Charity Fund.

The Pink Charity Fund partners with Sierra Leone ministry of health to fight against breast cancer and put an end to the disease among all sectors of the socio-economic stratum among Sierra Leonean women.

Isha is also the initiator of the Sierra Leone annual African International Youth Tournament that started in 2009.

She developed an award platform of WOMEN OF EXCELLENCE AWARD in 2003 and 2005 to honor the excellent sierra Leonean women in the diaspora and in the country.

The award recognized Liberia president, Ellen Sirleaf, long before she became the country president.

Isha Johansen is a jewel and a faithful pathfinder for the youths of the football federation in Sierra Leone, with great achievement and accountable successes.

Maria Lourdes Sereno is the first female Chief justice in Philippine. She was born in the year 1960, on the 2nd of July. Maria is from a very humble background, her mother was a public school teacher who helped her daughter nurture a very beautiful attitude towards books.

Maria is a native of Siasi, Sulu in Philippine but she grew up in Manila the capital of Philippine. While growing up in Manila, Maria’s mother always bought her second hand books which she got with the money she had saved. At the sight of those books, Maria’s heart always leaped for joy and she read those books with all excitement in her. She had great insight and love for literature and reflection which built her capacity during her primary schooling and enabled her graduate excellently with flying colors from both primary and secondary school.

On this account, Maria was awarded a scholarship to study economics at the Ateneo de Manila. After she was done with studying economics she received another scholarship to study Laws degree at the University of the Philippines.

 

After she had attained a level of mastery in law, Maria got a job with as a junior associate of the Sycip Salazar Feliciano and Hernandez law firm, where she worked for some time. However, she was not able to cope with the work load and family requirement being a wife and a mother; the family had to come first. She realized that she had to spend more time with her family so she quit her job and decided to work as a lecture in the University of the Philippines’ law school, where she was for about two decades from 1996 to 2007.

Working at the university, she was able to impact the lives of young men and women through teaching the principles of Civil and Commercial law, she was admired by her students and fellow lectures because she had something special about her work ethics that could not be compared with others. Her drive and passion were unique and beautiful.

Meanwhile, she moved from being a lecturer to a professor in the university. On account of her dedicated service, while lecturing at the university, she was awarded a De Witte Fellowship and a Ford-Rockefeller Scholarship to pursue her Masters of Laws at the University of Michigan In 1992, Chief Justice Sereno. Doing her masters at the Michigan University built her proficiency in law and economics and international trade law and she became very outstanding from her male counterparts.

This became the beginning of greater heights for Maria. After she concluded her master’s degree and came back from Michigan, she was appointed as legal counselor at the World Trade Organization’s Appellate Body Secretariat in Geneva.

That same year she co-founded Accesslaw, an organization that provided the first annotated electronic research system in Philippine law with some of her male counterparts from the university of Philippines college of law. This was very successful and a great achievement for Maria.

When she was 39, she was selected as a member of the 1999 Preparatory Commission on Constitutional Reform where she acted as Chairperson of the Commission’s Steering Committee and only female in the committee.

Prior to her teaching career at the University of Philippines College of law, she had been associated with many organizations where she worked and served well. She indeed started her journey from the bottom to the top. Maria had believed in herself from the beginning and when she finally got to the top she knew it was worth it.

Some of the positions which she occupied include; serving as a consultant for the United Nations, World Bank, and US Agency for International Development. She once served as a counsellor of the WTO Appellate Body. Maria served alongside with Justice Florentino Feliciano as a co-counsel on the Fraport case in Singapore. She also headed the Information and Public Division office of the UP Law Complex.

She served as Commissioner and Chairperson of the Steering Committee of the Preparatory Commission on Constitutional Reform In 1999.

She also headed the Office of the President (OP) and Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) at the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), Dept. of Trade and Industry (DTI), and WTO-AFTA.

Maria was appointed Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines in August 2010, making her the 169th Member and the first to be appointed by President Benigno Aquino III. But that was not the end of the journey for Maria. On 24th August 2012, she was appointed by President Aquino as the new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

She is an inspiration and good example to many women in the Phillipines who aspire to achieve strides in the academia. She hopes to use her position to serve her country well and to bring honor to the women community of Pilipino.

Maria is happily married to Mario Jose E. Sereno of Davao City and they are blessed with two children, Maria Sophia and Jose Lorenzo.