I think you're being selective in your choices of character here. What about Sile, Philippa, Saskia, Cynthia? They all "act", and all drive the plot forward. Each of them is working just as hard as any of the major male NPC's to change the world. Geralt acts to save Iorveth (possibly twice), Dandelion, Roche's men, Cedric when they're in distress. (Although he fails to find Cedric on time). The quest to save Saskia from the curse is similar in context to saving Henselt, so are they both damsels in distress? Henselt doesn't have a noble death, neither does Stennis or Dethmold.