There was a range of incredible women representing at the TED Fellows pre-conference session in Edinburgh, Scotland today. The TED Fellows program is designed to bring together young world-changers and trailblazers who have shown unusual accomplishment and exceptional courage. The program targets individuals from the Asia/Pacific region, Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Middle East, though anyone from anywhere in the world, age 18 and over, is welcome to apply.
Here is a summary of jut a few of the most stunning talks that women fellows delivered this year:
Kristen Marhaver (pictured left), a coral reef biologist, described the ways in which juvenile coral cells search for the right place to latch on in a sea increasingly full of dangers. “Can you imagine deciding, as a newborn, where you would live for 500 years?” she asked the audience, bringing home just how profound the decision is. Environmental pollution, threatened fish species, and many other forms of “man-made” degradations are threatening coral life, which in turn, threatens us all.
Bahia Shehab, an Islamic historian, spoke of her radical street art series entitled “A Thousand Times No.” During the revolution, she bravely sprayed various iterations of her symbol on the streets of Cairo, including: “No to a new pharaoh. No to military rule. No to violence. No to blinding heroes. No to killing men of religion. No to burning books. No to stripping women. No to barrier walls.” She left the audience with a final thought, also spray painted: “You can crush the flowers, but you can’t stop the spring.”
Finally, Ola Orekunrin, a healthcare entrepreneur, spoke of her own 12-year-old sister’s unnecessary death and how it inspired her to create Flying Doctors Nigeria—an emergency helicopter service that transports people with life-threatening trauma to the care they need. Ten percent of deaths in the world are caused by trauma; 90% of those happen in developing countries, like Nigeria. Further, for every one woman who dies in the west during childbirth, 1,000 die in Africa. Orekunrin’s work is intervening and providing the kind of life-saving service that her own sister would have been saved by.