The women of the year

Updated 1720 GMT (0120 HKT) December 22, 2014
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Malala Yousafzai -- Joint recipient of this year's Nobel Peace Prize for her ongoing fight for a girl's right to education. She is a leading spokesperson for women's rights, and is setting an example for women and girls around the globe. Courtesy Christopher Furlong/Getty Image
Emma Watson -- The actress of Harry Potter fame became the UN Women Goodwill Ambassador and used her speech to the UN to call for gender equality and for women and men alike to reclaim "feminism" to benefit all. Courtesy Anthony Harvey/Getty Images
Dr. Maryam Mirzakhani -- Professor of mathematics at Stanford University, in 2014 Mirzakhani became the first female to have ever been awarded the Fields Medal -- the most prestigious prize in mathematics -- for her " outstanding contributions to the dynamics and geometry of Riemann surfaces and their moduli spaces."
Kurdish female fighters -- The young fighters depicted are in training with the Kurdish Women's Defense Units (YPJ). The female fighters have trained for many years but this year have become notable for their courageous role in the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Courtesy BENJAMIN HILLER/AFP/Getty Images
Gemma Mortensen -- Executive Director of Crisis Action who work behind the scenes for the protection of civilians in war zones. "You'll hear very little about the work they're doing but it's right at the heart of the issues that matter," says CNN corespondent Nima Elbagir who nominated Mortensen. "Gemma has helped take Crisis Action from a two person office to its 10 year anniversary this year and she shows no signs of slowing down"
Susi Pudjiastuti -- Indonesian Minister of Marine and Fishery Affairs. "She is not your average government minister." says CNN corespondent Atika Shubert who nominated her. "In 2004 when the South Asian tsunami devastated the province of Acehand, she volunteered her company's aircraft to fly in supplies to areas closest to the epicentre. Plus, she's got a wicked tattoo." Courtesy BAY ISMOYO/AFP/Getty Images
Mary Lee Berners-Lee -- Computer programmer and astronomer who helped give the world the Ferranti Mark 1 machine. Mother of World Wide Web founder Sir Tim Berners-Lee. "When I interviewed Mary Lee, I was surprised by her modesty." says CNN's Nina Dos Santos who nominated her. "This is a woman who put her skills to work for her country during the war and felt no shame in taking a career break after four kids, only to reinvent herself as a math teacher." CNN
Thuli Madonsela -- As the Public Protector of South Africa this year she challenged her country's president -- Jacob Zuma -- over his abuse of taxpayers money and has been described as an "example of what African public officers need to be" by TIME magazine who placed her in their top 100 influential people in 2014. Courtesy GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images
Lupita Nyong'o -- This year's Oscar for her role in "12 Years a Slave" brought Nyong'o firmly into the limelight in which she now sits comfortably as a style icon and role model. Nyong'o has spoken publicly throughout 2014 on the beauty of women with dark skin and the importance of equality when setting standards for beauty. Courtesy Jason Merritt/Getty Images
Elizabeth Warren -- Now the US senator for Massachusetts, Warren was previously a Professor of Law at Harvard University. She is an advocate in the fight for middle class families and describes herself as "coming up the hard way ... out of a hard-working middle class family in an America that created opportunities for kids like me." Courtesy Alex Wong/Getty Images
Vian Dakhil -- Current member of the Iraqi Parliament and the only member of Yazidi origin. Dakhil won the 2014 Anna Politkovskaya Award run by human rights organization Reach All Women in War (RAW in WAR), for her campaigns to protect the Yazidi people from the terror of Islamic State. Courtesy SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
Christine Lagarde -- Lawyer and Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund. In 2007 Lagarde became the first female Minister of Finance, Economy and Trade in France, nominated by Elisa Berkowitz, Executive Producer for CNN International shows including Leading Women and Vital Signs with Dr Sanjay Gupta. Getty Images
Angela Merkel -- The German Chancellor came top of the Forbes' list of the 100 most powerful women in the world in 2014 for the fourth consecutive year. The former scientist turned politician was the first female to win the position as chancellor and is now the longest-serving elected EU head of state. Courtesy Andreas Rentz/Getty Images
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie -- The Nigerian writer has authored three novels and is heralded for drawing attention to African literature throughout her award-winning career. This year, she was nominated for Forbes' Africa 'Person of the Year' Award as well as 'Personality of the Year' in the 2014 MTV Africa Music Awards. Courtesy Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images for Baileys/Diageo
Shonda Rhimes -- Screenwriter, director, and producer. Her most famous work has been on TV shows Grey's Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder which debuted September 25, 2014. She also won the Directors Guild of American diversity award this year. Courtesy Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images