International Women's Day celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. It also marks a call to action for accelerating gender equality. We've rounded up six trailblazing female Irish artists who continue to inspire, encourage and make their mark on women's rights every day.

Denise Chaila

Fast-rising Limerick star Denise Chaila has been making waves in the music industry since the release of her infectiously catchy chart-topping hit single, Chaila, which was released last summer.

Just mere months later, her powerful debut album, Go Bravely, lit up the music scene, with many praising the talented artist for her flowing lyrics covering themes of identity, belonging and sexism.

Go Bravely recently saw the Zambian-born Limerick-based rapper-singer-poet scooping the prestigious Album of the Year gong at the RTÉ Choice Music Prize awards, beating off stiff competition from the likes of Fontaines D.C., Róisín Murphy and Pillow Queens to land the coveted prize.

In 2016, Chaila joined Limerick rap trio Rusangano Family on their album Let the Dead Bury the Dead, which also won the RTÉ Choice Music Prize for Album of the Year 2016.

Chaila's raw energy goes hand-in-hand with her creativity and ambition. A master at seamlessly blending rap with socially-aware spoken word, it's clear to hear that her sociology and politics degree has been put to good use.

It's an A+ from us.

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RuthAnne Cunningham

Singer-songwriter RuthAnne Cunningham left her hometown of Donaghmede in north Dublin for the bright lights of LA when she was just 17 and went on to pen tracks for a string of well-known artists including Britney Spears, JoJo, Estelle, One Direction and Westlife, along with featuring on the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack.

In 2017, the London-based songstress co-wrote five songs on Niall Horan's debut solo album Flicker, including US No. 1 hit Slow Hands. She also co-wrote Horan’s hit single Nice to Meet Ya.

While RuthAnne continues to fly the flag for Ireland internationally, her heart will always be at home.

Her most recent project has been back on Irish soil with Irish Women in Harmony. RuthAnne brought together almost 40 of Ireland's greatest female artists to remotely record a haunting rendition of The Cranberries' hit Dreams, with all funds raised going to Safe Ireland, working to end domestic violence and coercive control in Ireland.

The gorgeous song impressively became the most-downloaded Irish track of 2020.

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The 30-plus supergroup, comprised of Ireland's most influential women in music, from Clannad's Moya Brennan, Imelda May and Una Healy, through to Wyvern Lingo, Soulé and Erica Cody, continued to capture the nation's hearts during a truly unprecedented year, this time, with an original Christmas charity single in aid of Childline called Together At Christmas.

A true champion of Irish female artists and women's health issues (she recently opened up about the devastating impact endometriosis can have on a woman's body), RuthAnne is a fearless young woman, who will no doubt help shape the course of Irish entertainment for years to come.

Ruth Medjber

In early March 2020, music and portrait photographer Ruth Medjber, like many, found herself out of a job.

After a few weeks of "absolute loneliness and despair", the Dublin-based artist decided she needed a project to get her out of the dark place she was in, and so, she began to see the challenging time through a different lens.

Through her company Ruthless Imagery, Medjber and her trusty camera captured the mood of the nation from the outside looking in via her now best-selling photography series, Twilight Together.

Once the travel restrictions were lifted, she photographed people all over Ireland at their front window at dusk, each with their own story to tell.

Beautifully striking and deeply moving, her innovative idea soon snapped up a book deal AND found her shortlisted at the An Post Irish Book Awards 2020 in the Best Irish Published Book category.

"It was hard graft, she told Oliver Callan on The Ryan Tubridy Show. "I went for three-and-a-half months shooting every single night."

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Medjber's window into lockdown life perfectly portrayed a time of community spirit and small kindnesses that can never be forgotten.

Nicola Coughlan

This talented lady needs no introduction. Best known for her perfectly cast role as Clare Devlin in the much-loved sitcom Derry Girls, and more recently for starring in Netflix's breakout hit Bridgerton, it's fair to say Nicola Coughlan has an enviable CV for a 34-year-old.

With a loyal following of young girls, Coughlan has made sure to use her platform to empower women and to speak her mind.

The ever-eloquent star has long campaigned for women to be judged on talent alone and never shies away from calling out those who continue to obsess about the looks of women in the public eye.

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In a recent tweet, following a distasteful comment made by a podcaster over her choice of outfit at this year's Golden Globes, Coughlan articulately hit back against body shaming and acted as a powerful voice for legions of women around the world.

"Can we judge actors for their work and not their bodies," Coughlan said on social media while linking to an op-ed she wrote for The Guardian addressing the same subject.

"Also can we please stop asking women about their weight in interviews, especially when it is completely irrelevant? I'm seeing a lot of interviews from 10 years ago where people go 'Oh weren’t the questions so inappropriate!' unfortunately it’s still happening. It’s so reductive to women when we’re making great strides for diversity in the arts, but questions like that just pull us backwards," she said.

"I mean this in the nicest way possible, I'm not a body positivity activist, I’m an actor I would lose or gain weight if  was an important role requirement. My body is the tool I use to tell stories, not what I define myself by."

An icon and inspiration for many women, Coughlan has tirelessly used her platform to make a positive impact on women's rights, and for that we salute her.

Sally Rooney

Legendary Irish author and screenwriter, Sally Rooney, who has been hailed by critics as the first great millennial novelist for her stories of love and social observations, is far from being booksmart.

Her political consciousness, concepts of gender, and insights into how humans construct one another all lend itself to her cult following.

Rooney pulls off the tricky balancing act of marrying romantic storylines with complex characters.

In 2017, the then 27-year-old Mayo-born writer and Trinity alumnus won the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award for her debut novel Conversations with Friends, which was named Book of the Year by the Guardian, Observer, Daily Telegraph, and Evening Standard.

Her equally commercially successful second novel, Normal People, which was adapted into the hit 2020 television series, was awarded the prestigious Costa Novel of the Year Award in 2018, making her the youngest ever winner of the award.

Rooney's unstoppable literary talent also saw her take the Eason Book Club Novel of the Year gong at the Irish Book Awards back to Castlebar.

Did we mention how she made the longlist for 2018's Man Booker Prize?

Rooney's third novel, Beautiful World, Where Are You, will be published on September 7th. It follows best friends Alice and Eileen as they near their thirties, both in different places and on very different trajectories.

We've no doubt her latest offering will enthrall readers for the third, but not the last, time.

Imelda May

Famed for her prowess as a wordsmith, singing sensation and poet, Imelda May continues to use her platform and voice to tackle issues such as obsession, heartbreak, homelessness, racism and Covid isolation.

Last year, May donated her poem, Home, from her hypnotic debut EP of poetry, Slip of the Tongue, to homeless charity Crisis, to raise awareness of those who have been temporarily housed during the coronavirus outbreak have a secure and permanent home.

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In 2020, another one of the multi-faceted artist's poems entitled, You Don't Get to be Racist and Irish, was displayed on 222 billboards nationwide to help support civil society groups working with marginalised women, migrants, the Travelling Community, people with disabilities and the LGBTI+ community. 

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A beautiful role model, with the biggest heart, May is a terrific example of an Irish entertainer who uses her fame as a platform for change, while recognising that with great social power comes great responsibility.

To find out more about International Women's Day 2021 and to participate in the many events running throughout the day, click here