The Financial Times (FT)’s annual Women of the Year has long celebrated achievement and influence.  With the same objective in mind, FT expanded the list for 2021 and asked some of the most influential women in the world to write the entries,

FT notes that Women of the Year is a celebration, of course, but it is also a lens through which to understand the dynamic nature of leadership and power. 

FT put the list together in collaboration with its journalists from dozens of international bureaus, former women of the year and readers.

Across continents, industries and issues, all of these remarkable women have shaped this tumultuous year, FT says, noting that each of them is sure to help shape the better ones to come.

A story of Afghan 15-year-old student and activist Sotooda Forotan was written by Malala Yousafzai, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and co-founder of the Malala Fund.

“When the Taliban took over Afghanistan, they forced millions of girls out of school. In the darkened days that followed, I have met and spoken to many Afghan women and girls. But one young woman stood out to me: Sotooda Forotan,” Malala Yousafzai writes.

“In September, the Taliban announced a return to school for boys but did not mention girls. In many provinces, girls are not allowed to go back to their secondary schools.  Fifteen-year-old Sotooda feared for her future — the thought of never returning to school. When she received an opportunity to speak at a local event, she spoke from the heart for herself and millions of girls and young women in Afghanistan.

“She protested against the Taliban’s actions and demanded schools reopen for girls in Herat.  Her fearlessness and strength pushed Taliban leaders in Herat to allow girls to return to secondary school.

“I was lucky to speak to Sotooda and her classmates shortly after her return to school.  That day, she spoke to me from a classroom. Sotooda dared to stand up for girls’ right to education.  The world must listen to her voice and girls’ voices around the world,” Malala Yousafzai notes.