Women leaders making an impact across the globe

Countries and communities thrive when women hold equal and active roles. This International Women’s Day, the George W. Bush Institute is highlighting women leaders who are making a lasting impact both at home and abroad.

Nozi Samela

Nozi Samela was 20 years old, six months pregnant with her first child, and incredibly overwhelmed when she learned that she was HIV-positive. However, with the support of mothers2mothers she was able to give birth to a healthy, HIV-negative baby boy. Mothers2mothers is an organization that employs local women living with HIV as community health workers to serve women and children in sub-Saharan Africa.

After this lifechanging experience, Nozi became a Mentor Mother herself and has supported women diagnosed with HIV in her home country of South Africa for years.

Learn about Nozi’s inspiring work supporting women living with HIV.

Onaba Payab

Photo courtesy of Onaba Payab

Onaba Payab is an Afghan youth and education activist and a member of the Bush Institute’s Afghan Education Working Group. She uses her unique platform to call out the Taliban’s agregious human rights abuses and advocate for women and girls in the country.

“We Afghans are capable of rebuilding our country, only if we are supported in our fight for freedom,” Payab said in a conversation with the George W. Bush Institute.

Read more about Payab’s advocacy for the Afghan people.

Amy Fiedler

Dr. Amy Fiedler is a cardiothoracic surgeon, an assistant professor at the University of California San Francisco, and a 2020 Presidential Leadership Scholar.

As Fiedler was finishing up a standard heart transplant in December 2022, she noticed something she had never previously experienced: Everyone in the operating room, including the patient, was a woman. After documenting the moment with a selfie, Fiedler later learned that she likely led the first all-female team to perform a heart transplant.

Watch as Fiedler speaks about her lifesaving work.

Sasha Skochilenko

Russian artist Alexandra Skochilenko, 33, appears in court in Saint Petersburg on November 13, 2023. (Photo by OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP via Getty Images)

Russian artist and musician Sasha Skochilenko was sentenced to seven years in prison in November 2023 for putting anti-war messages on price tags in a St. Petersburg supermarket. She did this just two months after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Despite being convicted of spreading knowingly false information about the Russian army, the messages she creatively shared were true, including one that read: “The Russian army bombed an art school in Mariupol where about 400 people were hiding from shelling.” Another: “Weekly inflation reached a new high not seen since 1998 because of our military actions in Ukraine. Stop the war.”

Learn more about Skochilenko’s brave struggle for freedom.


Rachel Moyal-Smith

Rachel Moyal-Smith at the Bush Center.

Rachel Moyal-Smith is a 2023 Stand-To Veteran Leadership Program (VLP) Scholar. After finishing her four-year enlistment in the Army, including a year in Iraq, she said she was determined to put the whole experience behind her. However, Moyal-Smith began to hear about the physical and mental toll of service on veterans like herself. She made it her mission to improve care for veterans outside of the Veterans Health Administration through her VLP project.

“We must come together to ensure that veterans receive the right care everywhere,” she wrote.

Learn more about Moyal-Smith’s plan to improve health care for veterans.