Meet Cynthia. A woman filled with joy, Cynthia’s journey has taken her to places of both light and darkness. Just weeks before her 17th birthday, Cynthia endured a traumatic labor and gave birth to a healthy baby boy. Unfortunately due to family circumstances and the shame brought upon her household, she was forced into having her son adopted. Transitioning back into a normal life, post-baby, Cynthia lived a life of mediocrity— riddled with low self-esteem and deep sadness. A few years later, Cynthia was married and had a daughter; during this time she was also able to reconnect with her son. Despite finding closure, the emotional scarring remained, and she still felt broken. Her emptiness and worthlessness grew and Cynthia was at breaking point. One night whilst getting ready for her husband’s industry event, Cynthia stood in front of her mirror, unhappy with what she saw. After years of the same feeling toward her reflection, something in her changed and she decided enough was enough. The following morning, she drafted a 12-week health and fitness plan, vowing to take control of every aspect of her life. After making the choice to live her life differently after so many years of heartache, Cynthia kept up the momentum. After the first 12 weeks, she proceeded to tackle another 12 weeks— this time developing a business plan and logo. Cynthia knew that her journey wasn’t just for herself— she was going to inspire other people to take charge of their lives too. Now a Transformation Coach and the director of ‘My Breakthrough Body’, she assists men and women in reclaiming their lives. Despite her rocky start, Cynthia managed to turn her life into something beautiful and continues to strive for goodness. She is a Strong Woman.
Meet Melanie. Always having a passion for helping people, Melanie has been a physiotherapist for over ten years. A couple of years in, she noticed a lot of women pre and post-natal, not knowing how they could help themselves during, and after the physical transformation of pregnancy. Starting to do research of her own, Melanie felt that there wasn’t enough information available to these women— specifically in the areas of pregnancy and exercise. She wanted to inspire women to look after themselves, so she created Perfect Pelvic Floor; an online program to assist women in the prevention of incontinence. Melanie knew that female incontinence isn’t something freely discussed amongst women, so wanted to develop a platform to allow discussions and education. Melanie's passion lies in self-care, and helping people to look after themselves— her bold step to open conversation continues to inspire women from all corners. She is a Strong Woman.
Meet Snezna. A powerhouse of a woman, Snezna started her career as a journalist, moved onto owning her own PR company, and then jumped straight into developing her own teen girl skincare range. After having worked in health and beauty, and with a daughter who was about to start her own skincare journey, Snezna found a gap in the market and quickly ran to fill it. Last year Snezna moved on to becoming Director of Health and Wellness at Edelman Australia-- a high intensity position, perfect for this dynamic and driven woman. Despite the success of her carreer, Snezna is very intentional about investing time into her family. With a daughter and husband, she admits that being successful in the corporate world can be demanding, however never lets the passion for her family be overtaken by her career. She is a Strong Woman.
Meet Cindy. Born and raised in Sydney’s Northern Beaches, Cindy has always loved being by the water and leads a very active lifestyle both on and off the beach. After completing high school, she decided to pursue her lifelong passion of dance, completing her studies at the end of 2015. Unfortunately shortly after her graduation, Cindy injured her hip, which required surgery and a lengthy recovery time. While pausing to allow a full recovery, she continues to keep busy, picking up modelling and acting work as well as being an assistant in a community magic show. With a stunning combination of passion and sheer persistence, Cindy continues to wait until her body is well enough to perform and encourage teens and young people once more. She is a Strong Woman.
Meet Paula. At the age of 15, Paula met the man of her dreams, and 10 years later they were married. Starting a family was always a goal for both Paula and her husband, and 16 years ago, their baby daughter was born at 25 weeks. Despite being severely premature, the baby grew into a lively little girl however at the age of 7 she was diagnosed with Familial Adenomatous Polyposis-- this lead to a total colectomy (removal of the large bowel). With the pressure of raising a sick child, Paula’s resilience and strength shone. In the meantime, Paula’s husband developed a serious health issue which resulted in him being diagnosed with kidney failure. Following years of dialysis, her husband then developed a tumor on his pancreas which had to be removed. 2015 saw Paula’s husband receive a kidney transplant however 12 days later his body rejected it and they were back to square one. Early December he received another transplant and he has since reached the three-month milestone. After years of battling for her husband and daughter, Paula finally has some relief. Although there are still regular hospital visits for her husband and daughter, there is so much she is thankful for. Juggling a full time job as the head of a primary school, supporting sick family members and managing a household, Paula encourages anyone she meets to not give up. She is a Strong Woman.
Meet Rowena. A teacher since 2011 at Kempsey High School and also fitness enthusiast, Rowena noticed a void in programs in her community that girls could call uniquely their own. Passionate about creating a space for these girls, Rowena decided to start up Strong Girl Fitness: an inclusive program specifically for girls. This program includes training such as running, gymnastics and calisthenics through to weightlifting and power lifting. There is also a strong focus on positive body image, building community and creating a healthy lifestyle. Rowena set the motto as Strength, Courage, Choices, because if girls have strength then they will have the courage to make good choices. Throughout this program the students who have attended have gained confidence, health, increased school attendance and have gone on to achieve sporting and academic accomplishments. Since starting the program three years ago, Rowena has encouraged and empowered dozens of girls and in 2015 won Australian Women's Weekly, Woman of the Future award. She is a Strong Woman.
Meet Ashley. Being chronically ill since the age of 12, Ashley is inundated with countless diagnoses, which caused her to be bedridden on and off until she was 16. Taking its toll on her studies, Ashley graduated from online high school as valedictorian and made the decision to go to college in Toronto, Canada. Flooded with the fear of becoming too ill to continue, she spent most of her time dwelling on negatives, until eventually Ashley became too weak to function, becoming wheelchair and bedridden once again. 2014 saw her developing severe anaphylaxis to almost everything, including foods, medications, cosmetics, products, smells etc. After countless allergic reactions and only being able to eat four foods over the course of a year, Ashley started treatment with a holistic doctor and is starting to introduce more foods and products back into her life. Working with her new doctor and surrounding herself with people who support her, Ashley now tackles her life head on, ridding herself from as much negativity as possible. With daily ventures still a struggle, Ashley is working toward a normal and healthy life, eventually wanting to present motivational talks and write her own book. She is a Strong Woman.
Meet Michelle. Originally from Hong Kong but now living in London, this 22 year old is leading a life of inspiration and motivation. Over the years, Michelle has had 15 surgeries, a brain tumour, a punctured intestine, an obstructed bowel, a cyst in her brain and hydrocephalus (a build-up of fluid on the brain). All of these health issues and surgeries have left Michelle with scars all over her body. After spending years being embarrassed and covering her scars, she decided to embrace who she was- body and soul. In 2014 Michelle launched Mindset for Life- a program that teaches women to embrace who they are, banishing insecurities and loving themselves. Now a body confidence coach, Michelle is inspiring women from all over the world to share their stories and be confident in their own skin. She is a Strong Woman.
Meet Hannah. During her time in high school, Hannah developed a disease in her heart which saw her being in and out of hospital. 2008 was the year that changed Hannah's life- having to undergo a heart transplant. Medical appointments paired with a delicate recovery, she blew everyone away with her strength and positive attitude. This year marked seven years with her new heart, however only weeks ago her body rejected the heart causing irreparable damage to the heart tissue. Despite being on a high dosage of anti-rejection medication, her body has not responded and Hannah is now in intensive care with mechanical pumps implanted to help her body and organs return to near normal function. As soon as this occurs, Hannah will be a candidate for another heart transplant. I was supposed to photograph Hannah just before she went into hospital, however we didn't have time. She uploaded this photo last week, assuring people she had every intention of winning this battle. In true Hannah style, she embraces her 'Princess chair'. She is a Strong Woman.
Meet Kayla- qualified personal trainer from Adelaide, Australia. Kayla created her famous Bikini Body Training Guide as there was such a strong demand from her social media following, wanting to know how her clients were achieving their results. Kayla has helped thousands of women worldwide on their journey to be a healthier, fitter, stronger and more confident version of themselves. Women from all over the world are now jumping onboard and using Kayla's method as a basis for their lifestyle transformations. Kayla's success is rising at a phenomenal rate --now with over 3.6 million followers-- having recently completed her first ever World Bootcamp Tour where she met and trained with nearly 10,000 girls in the UK, USA and Europe. She dedicates her life to training, educating and give healthy lifestyle advice to girls all around the world. She is a Strong Woman.
Meet Amber. A registered nurse by day, Amber- Model for Life/Style Model Management devotes her time to pouring goodness into the lives of her patients. Living with Multiple Sclerosis, she feels a strong connection and sense of empathy each time she meets a new patient. An advocate for health and beauty, Amber has a holistic understanding of what it means to be beautiful and healthy. Living with a chronic condition, having a nursing background and also being a fashion model, Amber has created two brands to better spread positivity. Nonairbrushedme is a site that shares the real, raw and true beauty of all women. She features and affirms women of all shapes and sizes and encourages them to wear their happiness regardless of their appearance. Nyata -- meaning ‘real’ in Indonesian-- values authenticity and strives to embrace and enhance beauty in all forms. Nyata is a Melbourne based boutique clothing store aiming to overcome prevalent compartmentalising in the fashion industry between ‘regular’ and ‘plus sizing’. Amber is passionate about supporting women, helping them to feel confident about themselves from the inside out-- with fashion simply as a finishing touch. She is a Strong Woman.
Meet Uwa. At 25 years old, Uwa is living with a disease called 'Sickle Cell'. Although she's had it most of her life, around 7 years ago Uwa's health declined, leaving her to face some serious health issues. Uwa has had to learn how to juggle her health, balancing treatment appointments with her dreams she has for her life. One struggle that comes from this disease is weightgain. Being able to eat anything she wanted during her childhood and adolescence, this weight gain shocked Uwa, causing a feeling of disappointment. Recognising the areas in which she needs to improve, Uwa works out regularly and is a frequent visitor at the local gym. However just as she gets into a proper exercise routine, Uwa's symptoms will flare up and her plans have to be put on hold while she regains energy to simply live. A positive woman, Uwa keeps persevering. A creative by nature, she endeavours to succeed in music and the arts and although her pace is slow, her passion is great! She is a Strong Woman.
Meet Jess. At just sixteen years of age, in excruciating pain Jess was admitted to hospital. Diagnosed with severe Chrohn’s Disease, Jess spent the summer of 2011 in hospital in agony; on one occasion, close to death. After trial and error with medications and allergic reactions, Jess was able to find some relief with medication her body didn’t reject. Since her diagnosis four years ago, Jess has been diagnosed with seven more chronic illnesses which have exposed her to pain she never knew was possible. Despite her daily struggle just to live, Jess tries to remain positive. She shares her journey on tumblr -- jessthechronie-- as a way of educating and inspiring other people with Chrohn’s Disease. Some days are harder than others, but in the words of Jess, “bad times don’t last forever: this too shall pass”. She is a Strong Woman.
Meet Catherine. Australian obstetrician-gynaecologist Dr Catherine Hamlin AC is the co-founder of the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital and the Hamlin College of Midwives. Catherine and her husband Reg initially went to Ethiopia in the late 1950s to train midwives, but they could not ignore the terrible plight of the obstetric fistula patients. Together the Hamlins perfected the modern technique for obstetric fistula surgery and their team has treated more than 43,000 women. Reg died in 1993 but Catherine continues their life’s work, living in a mud brick cottage at the hospital by the river. Catherine is a Companion of the Order of Australia, a National Living Treasure of Australia and a two-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee. Now in her 90s, Catherine continues to inspire a team of surgeons and her loyal Ethiopian staff, some of whom have been with her since 1959. She is a Strong Woman.
To find out more about Dr Catherine's work, visit Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia - Dr Catherine Hamlin orwww.hamlin.org.au
Meet Sophie. Two years ago Sophie decided to go on an extreme diet because she wasn't happy with the way that she looked. In the first three months of her diet, Sophie lost 4 dress sizes and 3st (almost 20kg). After this, she then began exercising for 2 hrs per day and eating only fruit and salad. She got to the point where she no longer wanted to go to work because she felt she "looked too fat". Her sister brought her attention to this unhealthy mindset and this encouraged Sophie to seek help. After months of counselling and therapy, Sophie is now in a much better place; everyday trying to be happy with the person she is. Eating disorders can come in all shapes and sizes and Sophie urges anyone who may be travelling along a similar path to reach out. For Sophie, some days are better than others; but she is tackling each day as it comes. She is a Strong Woman.
Meet Elizabeth. At 25 years old, she has enough charisma and enthusiam to fill a room. However battling Cystic Fibrosis, Elizabeth faces a daily battle, having to jump health hurdles that try and take hold of her life. While married, she underwent IVF for 16 months in the hope to start a family; this was unsuccessful. Unfortunately this process made her very sick and put a lot of strain on her family, resulting in the ending of her marriage. More recently Elizabeth has found out she needs to have a full hysterectomy to prevent cancer. Despite her circumstances, Elizabeth works at a local gym and maintains a regular life. Some days are better than others, but Elizabeth remains positive and motivated. She also publishes her journey on her Facebook Page to provide people with an insight into a life with CF. Elizabeth doesn't let CF define her, knowing no different she refuses to let it defeat her. She is a Strong Woman.