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Bursting through the barriers of the male-dominated profession of competitive sport, Nawal El Moutawakel is the first Arab, African, and Muslim woman to win an Olympic gold medal, which she did for the 400-metre hurdles in 1984. She followed up her win serving as the first Minister of Sports in Morocco.
In the landlocked Himalayan nation of Bhutan, Namgay Peldon never thought she would make history, but she did. She was elected the first women Gup, the block leader, as the nation voted for the first time, transitioning from monarchy to democracy in 2008. From Tashiding sub-district in central Bhutan, her story is unusual in a country which is beset with societal taboos and where women’s representation in politics is extremely low, with only 8.5 per cent women in the National Assembly.