The Pixel Project Selection 2016: 16 Authors Saying NO To Violence Against Women

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Books can be dangerous. The best ones should be labelled: “This could change your life.” – Helen Exley

Violence against women (VAW) is a prevalent and entrenched part of countless societies around the world but it is still considered a taboo topic even, to a certain extent, in developed and first-world communities.  Pop culture media, therefore is invaluable at raising awareness, and promoting and prompting advocacy against VAW, doing much to break the silence.

The Pixel Project’s Read For Pixels campaign was first launched in September 2014 in recognition of the longstanding power of books to shape cultural ideas and influence the direction of history. From Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird to to J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter series to Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, popular authors and their stories have been instrumental in planting ideas, triggering thoughtful water-cooler discussions, and providing food for thought for communities. And in the age of geek culture and social media, bestselling authors wield influence beyond just their books as they are able to directly communicate their readers and fans via Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and other social media channels.

Since then, the campaign has gone from strength to strength. To date, 60 award-winning bestselling authors from genres as diverse as Science Fiction, Fantasy, Crime, Thrillers, and Horror have participated in various Read For Pixels campaigns and initiatives, raising more than $33,500 for the cause to end VAW to date.

In this article, we honour 16 of this year’s bestselling authors from our 2015 and 2016 Read For Pixels campaigns. They hail from genres as diverse as Comics, Horror, Contemporary Fiction, Young Adult, Urban Fantasy and Science Fiction. Many of them are global celebrities with strong fan followings, others are well-respected in their countries or genres. Still others are up-and-coming stars who have decided to use their talents for good. It is the movement to end VAW that unites and inspires them and we hope that all of them will continue to work with the movement in years to come.

To learn more about each author and their books, click on the author’s name.

To learn more about what each author has to say about violence against women, click on their quote to be taken to the YouTube video of their Read For Pixels Google Hangout or their blog articles.

Written and compiled by Anushia Kandasivam

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Author Against VAW 1: Alexandra Sokoloff

alexandra-sokoloffAlexandra Sokoloff is the bestselling, Thriller Award-winning and Bram Stoker and Anthony Award-nominated author of eleven supernatural, paranormal and crime thrillers. When asked why she supports the cause to end violence against women, she said, “Violence against women is an atrocity that no civilised person should allow to happen. Ending it should be everybody’s cause. Any deep inequality like that…should be ended. The people who don’t see anything wrong happening [have] an amazing blindness that I don’t understand.”

 

Author Against VAW 2: Christopher Golden

christopher-golden_thumbnailChristopher Golden is the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of such novels as Snowblind, Tin Men, Dead Ringers, and Of Saints and Shadows. His original novels have been published in more than fifteen languages in countries around the world. Christopher has been speaking out against harassment at conventions and when asked how geek culture can be more welcoming towards women and girls during his Google Hangout, he said: “I think that it’s a combination of elements. I absolutely think the situation…has been dramatically improving over the last few years. The reason [for this] as far as I can tell is the voices – creators and fans standing up and speaking against the ridiculous misogyny. The trolls will always be there and the problem [with them] is that their voices are so loud. We need to have loud voices in response to them and band together, whether you’re online or at a convention. I posted a blog where I talked about wanting to be a wingman – if I’m at a convention and you’re there and you feel unsafe in some way and need somebody to get you through a circumstance, I’ll be happy to do that. I encourage fans and creators at conventions to make the same kind of statements publicly, to get out there and…help create a safe space. These are the ways we can make a difference so that the trolls’ voices aren’t quite so loud.”

Author Against VAW 3: Claudia Gray

claudia-grayClaudia Gray has worked as a lawyer, a journalist, a disc jockey, and an extremely poor waitress. Claudia is super excited to be the author of a new Star Wars novel Bloodline: New Republic, which came out in March 2016. When asked about speaking out against VAW, she said: “You have to be open to finding those opportunities and not be afraid to speak out. There have been so many writers who have helped bring this topic forward and helped young readers recognise this for what it is. There are so many disguises hung over this kind of abuse, to make it look like something other than it is. I think you have to work honestly and look for the opportunities to pitch in where you can, whether it’s donating time or books, or talking to readers in different contexts about this. I think that’s where you have to begin.

Author Against VAW 4: Colleen Gleason

colleen-gleason-croppedColleen Gleason is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling and award-winning author who has written everything from vampire hunters and dystopian romance to steampunk, historical romance and mysteries with a supernatural flair. All of Colleen’s books feature strong heroines experiencing fast-paced adventures, danger, mystery, and of course, romance. Speaking about how authors can kick off social change to end VAW, she said: “Whenever we have a forum to talk about this, and authors do have a platform through our stories or social media, we should. Authors can do that by writing characters who show respect towards women whether they agree with them [or not]. I think it’s important to show that you can disagree with someone or even not like someone but still have respect for them. I think that can come through all our platforms. Respecting people for who they are and not asserting control over everyone. We can also show characters without respect and then how other men or women are able to combat that character who is disrespectful or violent. If there is violence or disrespect, both genders need to respond to it.

Author Against VAW 5: Dan Wells

dan-wells_thumbnailDan Wells is the author of the Partials series and the John Cleaver series. His newest book Bluescreen is the first book in the Mirador series. He has been nominated for a Hugo, a Whitney, and a Campbell Award and has won two Parsec Awards for his podcast Writing Excuses, as well as a Hugo award for his writing. Dan strongly believes that men and boys must be engaged to end VAW. When asked why he supports The Pixel Project and the cause to end VAW, he said: “It feels like the most obvious thing. VAW is so common and accepted that it’s almost become white noise in our culture. We tend to not notice it. I support the Read For Pixels campaign in particular because I love the Celebrity Male Role Model aspect of it. If there’s a segment of the population that is sick and tired of listening to women tell them to stop beating women, if the only way to reach them is to get men to do it, then let’s do it. We need to talk to men directly. Yes, women need to be aware [of danger and how to protect themselves] and where they can turn when problems arise, but first and foremost VAW is a male problem, not a female problem, because it is men who are doing it. We as men need to stand up and…be role models for other men and boys. I love the Read For Pixels campaign precisely because it has such a strong focus on teaching men from childhood how to…be good and make the world a better place.

Author Against VAW 6: Darynda Jones

darynda-jonesNew York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Darynda Jones has won numerous awards for her work including a prestigious RITA, a Golden Heart, and a Daphne du Maurier. When asked why she supports the cause to end VAW, she said: “It’s a basic human right that women should not ever have to live in fear or worry that they are going to get hit or live through the day. Women should never be controlled. Violence is not just physical, it’s just as much mental and verbal. It’s just not OK. Women need to know that there’s help out there and they can change things and they have power. They are powerful and strong and do have power to change things. Until they seek that help and figure out…how to break that cycle, it’s important to know there is help out there.

Author Against VAW 7: Gregg Hurwitz

gregg-hurwitz_thumbnailGregg Hurwitz is the New York Times bestselling author of 15 thrillers, most recently, Orphan X. His novels have been shortlisted for numerous literary awards, graced top ten lists, and have been translated into 27 languages. He is also a New York Times Bestselling comic book writer, having penned stories for Marvel (Wolverine, Punisher) and DC (Batman, Penguin). Gregg is turning character stereotypes on their heads by writing traditionally hypermasculine characters, such as assassins and spies, as respectful and empathetic people. Speaking about how a popular work of fiction can push forward the conversation on male violence against women in a constructive manner, he said: “One of the things I’m always very careful to do is to write women and their circumstances that are well rounded. It’s a fine line between writing a scene where a woman is being molested and your hero swings in and white knights his way through and where the women aren’t fully formed characters but merely there as a foil for the male character. One of the things important to me in this conversation is to have characters who are really fully formed. One of the ways you move forward any genre is making sure there are no straw women, that you’re not creating character that only serve as a foil and contrast to the male characters but are fully formed. And the more powerful the women are around a man, I feel it reflects better on the man. Both genders need to move apiece if you want to start to address these issues.

Author Against VAW 8: Keri Arthur

keri-arthurKeri Arthur, the New York Times bestselling author of the Outcast, Souls of Fire, Dark Angels, and Riley Jenson Guardian series, has written more than thirty books. She’s been nominated in the Best Contemporary Paranormal category of the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Awards and has won a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award for urban fantasy. When talking about realistic portrayals of assault or abuse in fiction, and what authors can do to bring more awareness to VAW, she said: “I think you can’t gloss over it, you’ve got to address the consequences to the characters to make it more realistic, and have characters seeking help through friends or family or anything else. [Authors can help] by supporting organisations like The Pixel Project and speaking out against VAW – talking about it. Telling the right stories and having strong female characters who won’t back down and stand strong is very important too.

Author Against VAW 9: Lauren Beukes

lauren-beukes_croppedLauren Beukes is the author of The Shining Girls, Broken Monsters, Zoo City and Moxyland. Her books have been translated into 26 languages, won major literary, horror, science fiction and mystery prizes and been optioned for film adaptations. She also writes comics, screenplays and journalism. Lauren believes that though there are many keyboard warriors out there, supporters of the cause to end VAW should put their money (or time) where their mouth is. Speaking about how it takes the efforts of the whole community to change prevailing attitudes towards women, she said: “The problem is this idea that women are less than human – women are belongings, sex objects, subservient to men, that we’re not people. That the real danger and that where you have to put the education in. It starts with raising your voices…against it all the time. You need to intervene. It’s about stepping up if you think someone is being harassed, about calling someone out on it. […] We need to be active and engaged in our own lives, find an organisation that works in these areas and volunteer or donate.

Author Against VAW 10: Laurie R. King

laurie-r-kingLaurie R. King is the New York Times bestselling author of 22 novels and other works, including the Mary Russell-Sherlock Holmes stories (from The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, named one of the 20th century’s best crime novels by the IMBA, to 2015’s Dreaming Spies). She has won or been nominated for an alphabet of prizes from Agatha to Wolfe, been chosen as guest of honour at several crime conventions, and is probably the only writer to have both an Edgar and an honorary doctorate in theology. On the role men can play in stopping VAW and who she counts as a role model in this context, she said: “Anyone who says ‘no’ [is a role model]. There’s a lot of talk on college campuses in the US about the problems of getting young men to not feel that they’re betraying their maleness by standing up for someone. If you have someone whose sense of self is enough that they say to a male friend of theirs ‘No, that’s not right’, that I think is the kind of deep everyday heroic act that I’d really like to see. There’s a fair amount of it around but I think we need to have each young man out there see that this is what they should be striving towards.

Author Against VAW 11: Max Gladstone

max-gladstone_thumbnailMax Gladstone has been nominated twice for the John W Campbell Best New Writer Award. Tor Books published Four Roads Cross, the fifth novel in Max’s Craft Sequence (preceded by Three Parts Dead, Two Serpents Rise, Full Fathom Five, and Last First Snow) in July 2016. Max’s game Choice Of The Deathless was nominated for a 2013 XYZZY Award, and his short fiction has appeared on Tor.com and in Uncanny Magazine. On the reason he supports the cause to end VAW, he said: “I just think violence against women is terribly wrong. We live in a culture that’s profoundly and systematically misogynistic […] You need to understand the way your culture fits together and then you need to make it better. It’s your responsibility to not just continue blindly on the path that has been set for you but to look around and try to fix things so that the next person has a little bit better of a place to try to fix than you inherited. That’s our responsibility and that’s why I support the cause of ending violence against women.

Author Against VAW 12: Meg Cabot

meg-cabot-croppedMeg Cabot’s books for both adults and tweens/teens have included multiple #1 New York Times bestsellers, selling well over 25 million copies worldwide. Her Princess Diaries series has been published in more than 38 countries and was made into two hit films by Disney. Meg’s numerous other award-winning books include the Mediator series and the Heather Wells mystery series. When asked why she supports The Pixel Project and the cause to end VAW, she said: The Pixel Project has been really awesome. I’ve been aware of the campaign for a long time and I really wanted to hang out with you. I think ending violence against women is a really important cause to support because it is unfortunately so common and people don’t speak out against it enough. It’s one of those secret things that goes on in every neighbourhood, in every income bracket in every part of the world. I think if we can talk about it more it’s something we can all help combat.

Author Against VAW 13: Nalini Singh

nalini-singhNalini Singh is the New York Times bestselling author of the Psy-Changeling, Guild Hunter and Rock Kiss series. Nalini believes that talking about VAW is key to awareness and change, saying: “It’s important to talk about it because it’s something that people get uncomfortable about and so it doesn’t get talked about. At the same time, the people who need the help are some of the most vulnerable people so those of us who can talk about it should talk about it so that it’s visible and people feel that they can approach someone and say they need help. As a writer, I can talk about it, discuss it, I can help in that way. It’s my small contribution to The Pixel Project as well to help fundraise and help the discussion keep going.

Author Against VAW 14: Steven Erikson

steven-erikson_thumbnailSteven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen series, including The Crippled God, Dust of Dreams, Toll the Hounds and Reaper’s Gale, have met with widespread international acclaim and established him as a major voice in the world of fantasy fiction. On what parents and influential male role models can do to prevent VAW in future generations and get boys involved, he said: “I think to remove the stigma of empathy. A lot of what is presented as the male approach to living in the world is quite confrontational these days and involves a lot of implicit aggression. My argument to anyone in almost any circumstance is ‘What would it be like standing in that person’s shoes?’ As a writer, that’s part of my job – to stand in the shoes of people in very different circumstances and then find some element of commonality that invites the reader to identify with that person’s point of view. I’ve often described the Malazan series as a three million word plea for compassion, and that’s what the series is about. I think that level of empathy offered would have an effect on how people treat each other regardless of gender. But now we seem to be fighting a battle against hostility towards that notion of empathy.”

Author Against VAW 15: Tamora Pierce

tamora-pierceBased in Syracuse NY, Tamora Pierce is the New York Times bestselling writer of over 28 books of fantasy, most with girl heroes. She has also published short stories, articles, and comics. The first book of her next Tortall series will be published in Summer of 2017, followed by The Spy’s Guide to Tortall: From the Desk of George Cooper in fall of the same year. During her Google Hangout, Tamora read an excerpt from her book Page that centered around an incident of assault and bystander intervention, and she also recounted an incident where she witnessed a man assaulting his wife on a busy public street and joined a group of women to help stop the assault and call the police. Speaking about what people can do about bystander intervention and reporting, she said: “Call for help. You can get more with a group of people than just one person by yourself. At the very least, you can call out ‘Stop that, let her alone.’ If he thinks more people are watching, he may break off. There’s always a risk, and if you feel too afraid, don’t beat yourself up for that. Not all of us are heroes; I certainly am not. You have to measure your fears and your strength. Report what you can always, and take notes of what the man and woman looked like. Do what you can and don’t blame yourself.

Author Against VAW 16: Victoria V.E. Schwab

v-e-schwab_thumbnailVictoria (V.E.) Schwab is the author of eleven novels, including the #1 New York Times bestselling This Savage Song, the New York Times & USA Today bestselling A Darker Shade of Magic series, Vicious, and The Archived. Speaking about powerful women in fiction, how they are portrayed and what we can learn from them, she said: “Powerful women take many forms. Take Agent Carter and Miss Fisher – these are two extraordinarily powerful women with immense agency who are also hyperfeminine. I think we went through this period where to be powerful you have to be masculine and I don’t think masculinity is a key for female empowerment. I think it’s agency – you know what you want and you’re willing to take action to get it. I think it’s active over reactive – you don’t wait for somebody else to come up with the plan. It’s never a lack of fear…but rather a refusal to let fear stop them. I think that’s what makes a strong character.

The Pixel Project Selection 2016: 16 Notable Anti-VAW Activists and Organisations You Should Follow on Twitter

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Since it was launched almost a decade ago, Twitter has quickly become a reliable news source for many individuals. Twitter offers a real-time view and perspective of what is occurring both elsewhere and within our own communities, enabling us to become more aware of social issues such as violence against women (VAW). Information is very often a weapon of power, a tool to help us better our world through understanding. In this way, we are also creating an atmosphere of solidarity worldwide, which is something to take notice of.

For many, Twitter is the social media platform through which resources are found, knowledge obtained, and discussions begun. Furthermore, organisations have taken notice and also use this new form of media to gain better outreach worldwide. Online volunteer charities and groups, such as The Pixel Project itself, are becoming a major force in this modern age of activism.

Being able to research and connect through a hashtag – #vaw for example – in order to find news sources, helplines, or other activists is a simple yet incredibly useful way to become involved. With that in mind, The Pixel Project presents our 2016 Twitter selection. We narrowed down the many incredible organisations and individuals involved in the cause to end violence against women to the 16 listed below. These are groups and people who will keep you informed simply because they share the passion to create a better tomorrow for girls and women everywhere.

Written and compiled by Rebecca DeLuca

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Twitter Follow Recommendation #1: End Online Misogyny (@misogyny_online) – Worldwide

end-online-misogynyEnd Online Misogyny exposes misogynistic abuse women often face for speaking out online. This Twitter account retweets examples of misogynistic abuse, reports abusers to Twitter or to the police, and accepts anonymous submissions from readers regarding their experiences with online abuse. They also share news and articles about digital safety and abuse. Followers of the End Online Misogyny Twitter account can support the cause by reporting abusers, or stand in solidarity with women who have faced abuse through their #ShoutBack campaign.

Twitter Follow Recommendation #2: End Rape on Campus (@endrapeoncampus) – United States

endrapeoncampus

Through direct support of survivors, education, and policy reform, End Rape on Campus (EROC) works to end campus sexual assault in the United States. The EROC Twitter account is a resource for those passionate about the cause, as they share news and current events and programme updates.

 

Twitter Follow Recommendation #3: Equal Community Foundation (@ECFIndia) – India

equal-community-foundationECF India provides men in India with the opportunity to practice gender equality and end VAW, and to become leaders in their communities. Focusing on 14-to 17-year-old boys in low-income areas, ECF India graduated over 1600 young men as of May 2015. The ECF India Twitter page keeps followers up-to-date on its successes by sharing photos and updates of member training and other programmes.

 

Twitter Follow Recommendation #4: Erin Gibson (@gibblertron) – United States

eringibsonErin Gibson is a comedian, feminist and a co-host of the podcast Throwing Shade. Every week, Erin researches and uses satire to comment on political issues, current events and pieces of popular culture impacting women in the United States and around the world including VAW. Erin is also a writer and producer, and tours regularly.

 

Twitter Follow Recommendation #5: FAIR Girls (@FAIR_Girls) – United States

fairgirlsFAIR Girls prevents the exploitation of girls around the world through empowerment, education, compassionate care and survivor inclusive advocacy. The FAIR Girls Twitter account shares stories from survivors, programme accomplishments, including rescuing and reuniting girls with their families, and global human trafficking and exploitation news..

 

Twitter Follow Recommendation #6: Feminism in India (@FeminismInIndia) – India

feminisminindiaFeminism in India is a digital platform used to educate youth in India about feminism. The website includes breaking feminist news, books, campaigns, videos, survivor stories and more. The Feminism in India Twitter account not only shares updates from the website, but a collection of news and media promoting gender equality and expressing its necessity.

 

Twitter Follow Recommendation 7: FEMNET – (@FemnetProg) – Kenya

femnetFEMNET is a pan-African feminist organisation that has been committed to advancing women’s rights for over 28 years. Since its foundation in 1988, FEMNET has played a leading role in amplifying the voices of African women and ensuring they are heard when national, regional and global decisions are being made. The organisation also spearheads many Twitter campaigns to draw attention to women’s rights issues, including #BringBackOurGirls and #FollowTheProtocol.

 

Twitter Follow Recommendation #8: Free Women Writers – (@FreeWomenWriter)  – Afghanistan

freewomenwritersFounded by writer and human rights advocate Noorjahan Akbar, Free Women Writer is a blog that publishes women’s writing and focuses on gender equality in Afghanistan. With a firm belief that the protection of women’s rights is essential for progress, Free Women Writers hopes to challenge the misrepresentation of women by sharing authentic Afghan voices.

 

Twitter Follow Recommendation 9: Jane Doe Inc. – (@JaneDoe) – United States

janedoeincJane Doe Inc., a coalition of 60 groups in Massachusetts, USA working to promote the safety, liberty and dignity for victims and survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, is a useful resource for women’s rights advocates. The Jane Doe Inc. Twitter account has become a thought leader in discussions about gender equality, sharing news and live-tweeting relevant events for those unable to attend.

 

Twitter Follow Recommendation #10: Maiti Nepal (@MaitiNepal) –  Nepal

maitinepalMaiti Nepal protects, rescues and rehabilitates survivors of trafficking. Maiti Nepal also offers awareness and advocacy, transit homes, legal resources, training and job placements and more. The Maiti Nepal Twitter page shares photos of programme accomplishments and successes, advocacy updates, and educational resources.

 

Twitter Follower Recommendation #11: The GBV Prevention Network (@GBVnet) – Africa

the-gbv-prevention-networkThe GBV Prevention Network is committed to ending gender based violence in the Horn, East and Southern Africa, focusing on understanding violence against women, building connections and taking actions. The organisation, with over 500 members, maintains extensive resources on addressing VAW, provides tools to analyse and understand oppression, and hosts Thematic Action Groups for members to take specific action around a particular issue related to violence against women.

 

Twitter Follow Recommendation #12: The International Women’s Health Coalition (@IntlWomen) –  International

the-internationalwomenshealthcoalition

The International Women’s Health Coalition (IWCH) works to advance the sexual and reproductive rights of women and girls around the world, including Africa, Asian, Latin America and the Middle East. The IWCH’s Twitter account shares updates about reproductive rights and health from different organisations around the world, including photos, videos and news stories.

 

Twitter Follow Recommendation 13: The National Alliance of Women’s Organisations (@NAWOorg) – United Kingdom

the-national-alliance-of-womens-organizationsThe National Alliance of Women’s Organisations (NAWO) works nationally and internationally to promote women’s rights and equality within society. The NAWO Twitter page is a hub for women’s rights activists passionate about a variety of issues facing women around the world, including the gender pay gap, access to clean water, education, VAW and more.

 

Twitter Follow Recommendation #14: The Panzi Hospital and Foundation (@PanziUSA) – Democratic Republic of Congo

thepanzifoundation

The Panzi Hospital, founded by 2014 Sakharov Prize Winner and gynaecological surgeon Denis Mukwege has a renowned reputation for its service to survivors of sexual violence and complex gynaecological injuries. The Hospital provides a holistic model of care, including physical and emotional support and community reintegration.

 

Twitter Follow Recommendation #15: WESNET Australia (@WESNETAustralia) –  Australia

wesnetaustralia

The Women’s Services Network (WESNET) is Australia’s national advocacy body working against domestic and family violence. WESNET offers educational resources, e-safety workshops and news about domestic violence in Australia. The WESNET Twitter account acts as a hub for international feminists looking for news and updates on politics issues.

 

Twitter Follow Recommendation #16: YWCA Game Changers (@YWCAGameChanger) – United States

ywcagamechangers

GameChangers teaches middle school boys about preventing violence against women and girls through a mentoring and workshop structure. In this programme, young boys work with adult male volunteers to understand gender equality, masculinity and preventing VAW. The YWCA GameChangers Twitter account shares news, updates and statistics through various forms of multimedia and is a resource for similar organisations.

16 Memorable Stories of Standing Up to Street Harassment 2016

holly1-200x300The Pixel Project is pleased to share the sixth annual blog list of 16 memorable stories of women dealing with street harassment, which has been kindly compiled by Holly Kearl, Founder of our partner Stop Street Harassment and one of our 16 Female Role Models of 2010.

Through Facebook and her Stop Street Harassment website, Holly receives and shares stories of women fighting back against street harassment. She shares these stories to help raise awareness of this particular type of violence against women as well as provide inspiration and ideas for everyone on making public places and spaces safe for women. Almost 100% of women and girls experience street harassment in their lifetimes, ranging from the uncomfortable to the downright dangerous.

This list provides a starting point for all to learn about and discuss the impact of street harassment. We hope it’ll inspire you to take action.

It’s time to stop violence against women. Together.

– Regina Yau, Founder and President, The Pixel Project

All visuals courtesy of Stop Street Harassment.

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Empowering Response #1:

ruhi

23-year-old Ruhi Rahman was riding the train in Newcastle, England, when a man started making racially threatening comments toward her. A woman sitting next to her jumped up to help her. After she intervened, most of the other passengers also spoke up and forced the man to leave.

Empowering Response #2:

Mercedes in Washington, D.C. faces a lot of catcalls during her early morning commute to work. One morning, men in a truck kept following and harassing her (“Good morning, sexy!” etc). She said, “Normally I would ignore situations like this because men tend to be bold because they’re in their vehicle, a confined space where they feel safe enough to make unflattering remarks. Ironic. I couldn’t keep walking this time, I was so fed up. I snapped and said, ‘Shut-up. Just shut the f*** up!’. Silence. They didn’t say anything else to me. I felt good about speaking up for myself …. Ever since I snapped a lot of the catcalling I normally experience in the morning and leaving work has declined tremendously.”

Empowering Response #3:

kellyIn October after the release of a 2005 recording of American president-elect Donald J. Trump engaging in what he calls “locker room banter” about forcing himself on women, many people spoke out against his behavior. The most visible response was on Twitter.

That night, author Kelly Oxford tweeted, “Women: tweet me your first assaults. They aren’t just stats. I’ll go first: Old man on city bus grabs my ‘pussy’ and smiles at me, I’m 12.” By the next morning, as many as 50 women tweeted their stories per minute of first-person accounts of sexual violence with the hashtag #notokay. Less than three days later, nearly 27 million people had responded or visited Oxford’s Twitter page.

Empowering Response #4:

Deanna Carter called out and shamed a man on the NYC subway who tried to masturbate in front of her. She said, “Rubbing your dick? What the f*ck are you doing? Do it again and I’m getting’ up out of this chair and I’m gonna bust your f*ckin ass on this train.” Then she told him to get off the subway at the next stop – and he did.


Empowering Response #5:

Illustrator Shehzil Malik in Pakistan became so fed up with street harassment that she created a series of images she called #WomenInPublicSpaces to “symbolise the struggle of Pakistani women who feel harassed in public spaces.”

Empowering Response #6:

Thanks to the hard work of activists in Nottingham, UK, the police force began classifying street harassment and other forms of misogyny as a hate crime and police began recording and monitoring it so they can look for trends.

Empowering Response #7:

A woman in Buenos Aires, Argentina, grew sick and tired of men harassing her during her work commute. One day a man on the street made kissy sounds at her. She turned around and told him to “stop harassing women” and “I don’t want to hear any more of your bullshit opinions about my body.” He smiled and started to harass her again. She said “I saw red, took the top off my coffee and threw the full thing in his face!” As she walked away, he called her a “Crazy, dumb bitch” but everyone around them laughed at him.

Empowering Response #8:

Milwaukee bus driver Sharon Chambers saw a girl waving in her direction. When she stopped for her, she saw that she was crying. The girl said a man had been following and harassing her. Chambers told her to get on the bus and that “no one was going to mess with her on my bus.” Chambers called the bus dispatch who notified the police. While they waited for the girl’s grandmother and the police, Chambers said, “Don’t worry about it. You are safe. I will fight for you; no one is going to hurt you.”

sharon

Empowering Response #9:

After a passenger made a lewd comment to an Alaska Airlines flight attendant as she demonstrated how to use a safety vest, she told him to be respectful. When he disagreed, she talked to other staff, and someone came and escorted him off the plane!

Empowering Response #10

A woman was walking home from work when she encountered two men walking toward her. “Hey girl, you look sexy,” said one. She turned toward him and yelled, “Mind your own business!” She said he got the point.

Empowering Response #11:

MJ is a light-skinned Hispanic woman who was at a California fair with her friends when two Hispanic men talked about grabbing her ass in Spanish, not realiaing she could understand them. She turned and screamed, “Go ahead and try!” They literally ran away.

Empowering Response #12:

flA man in Florida liked to start talking to women in stores by asking innocent questions and then escalating quickly to inappropriate and sexually graphic remarks and questions. He filmed the women as he did so. After he did it to a woman for a second time in a few years, she recognised him and remembered his strategy and she began filming him and questioning him and ended up chasing him out of the store. He fled in his car but the police pulled him over and arrested him for reckless driving. He was then charged with video voyeurism too. Many other women came forward to report similar experiences.

Empowering Response #13:

Sarah in Denver, Colorado, was walking across the parking lot to go to work when she saw two boys across the street. One said, “I wanna lick your poop chute” and did an obscene tongue motion. His friend laughed. She noticed no cars on the street and rocks nearby and in a split second decided to cross the street and pick up a rock and threw it near him. He dodged it and ran away screaming, “You’re crazy!” She retorted, “Come back you coward! Come back and say something else to me!”

Empowering Response #14:

S.A. in India was going to meet her tutor when she noticed an ATM guard staring at her in a vulgar way. She was afraid at first but then “gathered courage.” She said, “Stop staring at me that way. It’s inappropriate.” She even threatened to hit him. “He felt quite guilty about what he did,” she wrote.

Empowering Response #15

A woman in Poughkeepsie, NY, was walking to work when two men working on the roof of a building started “hooting and hollering” at her. She stopped and yelled back, “I hope you fall off that building and are crippled for life because you’re already crippled in the head.” That shut them up completely.

Response #16:

luceLucé Tomlin-Brenner said, “I’ve been verbally, emotionally and sexually harassed by men I don’t know for more than half my life. It’s happened while walking down the street, riding on public transportation, working retail/service industry jobs, on college campuses, and while performing on stage. It’s happened in every city I’ve ever lived, visited, or worked in. It’s happened at punk shows that are supposed to be my safe places. These are not compliments, they are violations. They are threats to my mental and physical safety.” In response, artist Olivia Britz-Wheat designed a “Not Your Baby” tattoo for her at Blacklist Tattoo in Portland, Oregon

The Pixel Project Selection 2016: 16 films about Violence Against Women

Film-Reel-225x300 (1)This is the fifth year that The Pixel Project has published a list of powerful and thought-provoking films, documentaries and television shows that depict violence against women and girls. Some of these films were made for the sole purpose of information and education while others have entertainment as their primary goal while addressing important themes such as violence, rape culture, the conflict between tradition and societal evolution, and gender equity.

While pop culture has been slowly moving away from sexist and overly sexualised portrayals of women following a trend of more awareness of feminism, there are still those who are pushing back against the change, showing that there is still a long way to go before proper gender equality is achieved.

In this case, film can be an effective medium for disseminating the message that equality is beneficial to all, whether it be the individual, society or economy. The 16 films in this list tell harrowing stories of violence but are also portraits of survivors, supporters and fighters. We hope that they inspire you to join us in our quest to end violence against women and to be a catalyst for change in your own community.

Written and compiled by Anushia Kandasivam

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Selection number 1: A Crime Unpunished: Bangladeshi Gang Rape

In this short documentary, VICE News explores how a deeply ingrained patriarchal culture, traditional practices and religious beliefs come together to create a tacit acceptance by individuals, communities, local leaders and the police of violence against women and girls. In the film, VICE News correspondent Tania Rashid interviews survivors, the police, activists, and even rapists to bring understanding to the phenomenon of pervasive physical and sexual violence against women and girls in Bangladesh. 

Selection number 2: A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness

This film directed by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy documents the story of 18-year-old Pakistani Saba who refused to marry the man picked out for her by her parents. She married for love instead and survived a subsequent attempted honour killing by her father and uncle. Unusual in that it depicts the issue of honour killing from the perspective of a survivor, this documentary is a scathing and eye-opening examination of the traditions that influence the law when it comes to issues of gender-based violence, as well as a look at how societal pressure influences women to ‘forgive’ their assailants.

Selection number 3: Be Relentless

This bilingual (English and Spanish) documentary follows single mother of two and ultramarathoner Norma Bastidas as she sets the record for the longest triathlon ever, swimming, running and biking 6,054km from Cancun, Mexico to Washington DC, USA.  In this triathlon, Bastidas followed a known route of human traffickers to raise awareness about human trafficking, aid child protection projects and raise funds for scholarships for survivors in the USA and Mexico. Be Relentless is also the story of a survivor – as a 19-year-old, Bastidas was deceived into travelling to Japan for a modelling job that did not exist and ended up being sold at an auction. Years after escaping and now with a family of her own, Bastidas decided to use her athleticism for a cause close to her heart.

Be Relentless Trailer from iEmpathize on Vimeo.

Selection number 4: Gulabi Gang

This film follows Sampat Pal Devi, an extraordinary woman who leads the group of Indian women activists called the Gulabi Gang in her native state of Uttar Pradesh in India. The women wear pink saris (gulabi means pink in Hindi); the group was formed as a response to widespread domestic and other forms of violence against women. Sampat herself was married as a young girl and abused by her in-laws. After escaping her situation, she became an advocate for and supporter of women in the same situation, especially lower caste women who do not have a voice in society. Gulabi Gang highlights Sampat’s passion and strength as a leader, showing her unique way of resolving disputes and how she and her team work to empower women to fight against gender violence, caste oppression and corruption. The film sheds light on the plight of rural women who have little or no social power in a society where violence against women is pervasive.

Selection number 5: He Named Me Malala (2015)

This film about Malala Yousafzai, now 19, the young Pakistani peace activist and 2014 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, reveals the events leading up to her being shot by the Taliban. It depicts her recovery and continuing journey to speak out and work against opposition to the education of girls, especially opposition through violence. While it highlights the reasons behind Malala’s unwavering fight for gender equality, the film is also a portrait of a teenager who is both inspired and inspiring. The film shows her father playing an important role as supporter and a strong male advocate for her cause – he named her after a folk hero – but it also makes clear that Malala’s choices are her own.

Selection number 6: I am Nojoom, Age 10 and Divorced (2014)

This Yemeni drama (Ana Noojoom Bent Alasherah Wamotalagah) tells the story of 10-year-old Nojoom whose father marries her to a 30-year-old man and who asks a judge in Sana’a to grant her a divorce. Based on the autobiography of Nujood Ali, now 18, who was forced into marriage with a much older man when she was nine years old and directed by Yemen’s first female producer Khadija al-Salami (herself a survivor of forced child marriage), this film depicts the struggles of the young protagonist to obtain a divorce in the absence of laws against child marriage. I am Nojoom has received positive reviews from international press and is one of the entries for Best Foreign Language Film at the 89th Academy Awards.

Selection number 7: Jessica Jones

One of several current television series that is based on comics, Jessica Jones stands out for having a female superhero (the eponymous Jones) and for effectively portraying trauma and its psychological effects. The series addresses issues of rape, abuse, coercion, consent and post traumatic stress disorder with realism, with the stories’ noir quality letting the viewer get a visceral feel of the damage that assault can do. The writers have consciously avoided fetishising rape, and the viewer does not see it on screen. While the series does see Jones trying to use her abilities to help others, it also sees her struggle to deal with the aftermath of a sexually and emotionally abusive relationship, a journey that any victim of abuse can identify with.

Selection number 8: Mad Max: Fury Road

This blockbuster has a lot of things going for it, not least the heart pounding action that is phenomenally choreographed and executed. The focal point of this film is its female protagonist who never wavers from her cause and is strong enough to both take care of business by herself and ask for help. With its rallying cry of “We are not things!”, the film sends a clear message that women are not and should not be treated as property. The basic plot of the film revolves around five women escaping sexual slavery aided by another woman, Furiosa. This film has generated a slew of articles and Internet discussions on feminism, rape culture in film – it is interesting to note that though rape is a strong underlying theme in this film, it is never shown – and gender equity in pop culture.

Selection number 9: The Uncondemned

“In every single conflict, if you start asking questions, you will find that sexual violence is used. Why? Because it is an extremely effective tool of conflict.” Though rape was classified as a war crime in 1919, it was only in 1997 when it was first prosecuted by two tribunals attempting to offer justice for war crimes committed during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. This documentary recounts the trial of a former Rwandan politician for his knowledge of the rapes and involvement in other war crimes through the stories of the Rwandan women who came forward to testify and the group of young lawyers and activists who fought to have the systematic and targeted rape perpetrated during the war prosecuted as a war crime by the tribunals.

Selection number 10: Murdered by My Boyfriend

This BBC3 film centres on a little-covered topic – teenage intimate violence. Closely based on real events, it follows bright 17-year-old student Ashley who meets and falls in love with charming and seductive Reece, a young man a little older than her. Ashley’s idealistic dreams of love, marriage, motherhood and her career are slowly torn down by Reece’s increasingly controlling and abusive behaviour, paranoia and violence. The title tells the viewer how it ends, but the BAFTA-winning film still conveys a sense of building tension and tragedy as it portrays the gradations of abuse, such as teasing becoming bullying and love becoming control and how difficult it is for outsiders to understand what goes on in such a relationship.

Selection number 11: Murdered by My Father

The online-only follow-up to 2014 film Murdered by my Boyfriend, this BBC3 docudrama follows the story of 16-year-old British girl Salma who is torn between her father’s conservative values – he wants her to marry the man chosen for her so that he can ‘die happy’ – and her Western life, which includes a secret relationship.  Based on true events, the film examines forced marriage and honour killings among Asian communities in Britain – issues that many are unaware exist in this developed nation. Its portrayal of traditional values in conflict with ‘modern’ living will hit a cord with many viewers.

Selection number 12: North Country

Inspired by real-life events that led to a class action sexual harassment law suit in the United States, this film chronicles the life of Josey Aimes (Charlize Theron) as she returns to her hometown after escaping an abusive husband and starts work at the local mine in the late 1980s. The female employees at the mine endure a constant stream of sexual harassment, intimidation, abusive language and other forms of assault from the male employees while their employer turns a blind eye. Aimes files a lawsuit against the company and eventually persuades her co-workers to join in a class-action suit. This film accurately portrays the ingrained gender bias and misogyny that dogged (and still dogs) the industrial employment sector, and how aversion to change and a pack mentality can lead to violence against the minority party. It also shows how standing up to what is right – in this case, a gender-equal and safe workplace – is fraught with difficulty.

Selection number 13: Palwasha – Rays of the Rising Sun

The first commercial television serial in Afghanistan, Palwasha – Rays of the Rising Sun is a soap opera style series that follows the life of a young woman called Palwasha, a rare female judge in her traditional and religious Afghan community. Created by Indian filmmakers, this Afghan serial uses the dramatic style of Indian soap operas that is incredibly popular in Afghanistan to bring social propaganda into Afghan homes, showing women in powerful leadership positions, addressing issues of domestic violence, and attempting to educate the public that they should trust the official legal system and not resort to serving justice themselves.

Selection number 14: Private Violence

This feature-length documentary seeks to bring awareness to the plague of domestic violence that women in the USA face every day. Told through the eyes of two survivors, one of whom is now an advocate for abused women, this film is takes a look at the intimate partner violence as an entrenched problem in a society that does not truly understand it and is meant to serve as a call for better and more urgent responses to it. The film basically uses the experiences of the two survivors as case studies to explore flaws in police and judicial responses, the obstacles women face when wanting to leave an abuser and misconceptions of domestic abuse.

Selection number 15: Room

This Oscar-nominated film tells the story of a young woman held captive in a small room for seven years and her five-year-old son, how they cope with their captivity, finally gain freedom and learn to live in the outside world. Though the woman, known only as Ma throughout most of the film, was abducted as a teenager and is systematically raped, the film does not show any of this. Told mostly from the perspective of the boy Jack, the film instead focuses on how he and his mother slowly learn to live in the outside world again and deal with their trauma, how other people react to them, and the complex feelings of happiness and grief that they and their family go through.

Selection number 16: What’s the Point?

Part of the At Stake documentary series by Project Change!, What’s the Point takes a close look at the practice of female circumcision in Indonesia. Although different from the practices in African countries – it does not remove the whole clitoris and labia – it is still an invasive and painful procedure that poses serious risks to the girls’ health. It is a widely accepted practice in Indonesia and believed to ‘clean’ the girl and keep evil spirits away from her. The film showcases the beliefs behind the often chaotic rituals of circumcision and the beliefs that inform and propagate this practice.

Watch the full documentary here.

The Pixel Project Selection 2016: 16 Songs About Violence Against Women (and Staying Strong and Positive)

Girl Playing Piano 1Music empowers, entertains, and helps listeners transcend pain. One song can bring its listeners together by expressing feelings and emotions that many are unable to articulate. The Pixel Project believes in the power of music to heal, inspire, and send a strong message about violence against women. This is reflected in our Music For Pixels campaign through which we collaborate with various artistes around the world.

For 2016, our selection spans different genres and decades to ensure that everyone can find a track to be inspired by. And if our list fails to inspire, it is our sincere hope that you find the soundtrack to your life nonetheless, as everyone needs a set of songs they can relate to in times of adversity.

It’s time to stop violence against women. Together.

Written and compiled by Rebecca Dean

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Song Number 1: Church Bells – Carrie Underwood

Carrie Underwood’s “Church Bells” follows the story of a woman, Jenny, who fights her way out of an abusive relationship. Jenny starts as a free spirit, who meets and marries a wealthy man, who turns out to be abusive. By the end of the song, Jenny fights back, escaping the relationship in any way she can. 

 

Song Number 2: Control – Janet Jackson

In “Control”, Janet Jackson solidifies her control over her words, actions and life. Control is an anthem for the independent woman. “Got my own mind / I wanna make my own decisions / When it has to do with my life / I wanna be the one in control.” 

 

Song Number 3: Family Portrait – P!nk

In “Family Portrait”, P!nk is a child growing up in an abusive household. She pleads with her parents “I’ll be so much better, I’ll do everything right / I’ll be your little girl forever / I’ll go to sleep at night,” believing the anger and fighting is her fault.  

 

Song Number 4: Fight Like a Girl – Kalie Shorr

Kalie Shorr’s “Fight Like a Girl” is a female empowerment anthem taking back what it means to do things “like a girl.” Whereas in modern society “like a girl” is used as an insult, Shorr shows that being a girl is what makes her unstoppable. “You say I canʼt, well darling watch me / You canʼt stop me / Cause I fight like a girl”  

 

Song Number 5: Follow your Arrow – Kacey Musgraves

Kacey Musgraves’ “Follow your Arrow” is an anthem for women to be true to themselves – despite what limits society puts on them. Musgraves begins the song by criticising society’s stereotypes of women, with lyrics like “If you save yourself for marriage / you’re a bore / If you don’t save yourself for marriage / you’re a whore-able person.” Musgraves then encourages women to follow their heart and make themselves happy, no matter which path it takes them down. 

 

Song Number 6: How Come, How Long – Baby Face and Stevie Wonder

 In “How Come, How Long”, Baby Face and Stevie Wonder speak to bystanders of abusive relationships. The protagonist of this story “tried to give a cry for help”, but those around her made excuses – “nothing was wrong as far as we could tell / That’s what we’d like to tell ourselves.” In the end, the woman was killed by her abuser. The song ends with the singers encouraging everybody to “look for the signs” in order to potentially save a life.  

 

Song Number 7: I Get Out – Lauryn Hill

 In “I Get Out,” singer/songwriter Lauryn Hill sings about breaking free of the chains of an abusive relationship. Once forced to compromise, Hill recognises the cycle of abuse and is determined to be free. “You say “love” then abuse me / You never thought you’d lose me / … / Cause now I’m choosin’ life, yo / … / That’s how I choose to live.” 

 

Song Number 8: I’m Coming Out – Diana Ross

In “I’m Coming Out”, Diana Ross sings about being unapologetically true to herself. She encourages the listener to be confident in their personalities and be proud of the person they are. 

 

Song Number 9: Just a Girl – No Doubt

Inspired by her family’s overprotective nature because she is a woman, “Just a Girl” was written by Gwen Stefani in 1995. “Just a Girl” is a satirical take on the limitations placed on women and girls because of their genders. Stefani uses lyrics such as “‘Well don’t let me out of your sight / Oh, I’m just a girl, all pretty and petite” to exemplify the negative stereotypes placed on women in today’s society.  

 

Song Number 10: Love Me – Katy Perry

Katy Perry’s “Love Me” is an empowering song for those struggling with insecurities, especially when in a romantic relationship. Here, Perry realises that loving herself is necessary in order to maintain a happy, healthy relationship. “So now, I don’t negotiate with insecurities / They’re gonna have to take a back seat / I know I have to love myself, the way I want you to love me”  

 

Song Number 11: Not To Blame – Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell’s “Not to Blame” tells a story of a man who abuses his partner, driving her to suicide, and people’s reactions to the abuse. With powerful lyrics such as “Your buddies all stood by/ They bet their / Fortunes and their fame /That she was out of line /And you were not to blame” Mitchell highlights the victim blaming that still occurs in today’s society. 

 

Song Number 12: Q.U.E.E.N – Janelle Monae

Q.U.E.E.N was described as a “declaration of independence” by Paste Magazine in 2013. With lyrics including “They call us dirty ‘cause we break all your rules down / And we just come to act a fool, is that all right / They be like, ‘Ohh, let them eat cake,” / But we eat wings and throw them bones on the ground” Monae’s Q.U.E.E.N is designed to question society’s stereotypes and expectations of women. 

 

Song Number 13: Remedy – Adele

While Adele’s “Remedy” was written for her son, it is a powerful ballad reminding women to be there for themselves, and for those they care about. The lyrics, including “When the pain cuts you deep / When the night keeps you from sleeping / Just look and you will see / That I will be your remedy” empower women to look inside themselves to find the strength to survive even the harshest of situations.  

 

Song Number 14: Sit Still, Look Pretty – Daya

In this female empowerment anthem about women with their own dreams and goals, Daya sings lyrics such as “This queen don’t need a king” and “this gal right here’s gonna rule the world” After releasing Sit Still, Look Pretty, Daya told Entertainment Weekly “It’s important for young girls to know that they don’t have to act a certain way or depend on someone for happiness. They can find all of that within themselves.”  

 

Song Number 15: The Voice Within – Christina Aguilera

In this empowerment anthem, Christina Aguilera encourages girls to trust themselves in the face of challenges and adversity, just “like your oldest friend, just trust the voice within / Then you’ll find the strength that will guide your way.”  

 

Song Number 16: Where is the Love? – Black Eyed Peas

Where is the Love” confronts the anger, hatred and violence in the world, including topics such as discrimination, gang violence and more. Though written in 2003, the lyrics were rewritten in 2016 to reflect the current state of the world.  

Transforming Personal Pain Into Positive Action: The Pixel Project’s 16 Female Role Models 2016

header-female-rolemodels-2016

Today is the first day of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence 2016 campaign and The Pixel Project is kicking things off with our 6th annual list of 16 female role models fighting to end violence against women in their communities. The intent of this list is simple: to highlight the good work of the heroines of the movement to end violence against women wherever they are in the world. The women and girls in this year’s list hail from 16 countries and 6 continents.

Many of these outstanding women and girls have shown that it is possible to transform personal pain that came out of facing gender-based violence into positive action to stop violence against women, empower themselves and to show other survivors that it is possible to move forward with dignity and happiness. They have refused to let bitterness and pain get the better of them, opting instead to stand up for themselves and for other women and girls.

Others on this list may not have experienced gender-based violence first hand, but they have stepped up to do what is right: to speak up for women and girls who cannot do it for themselves, sometimes at great personal risk. All this requires immense courage, generosity of spirit and a strong enduring heart.

Here in alphabetical order by first name is our 2016 list of 16 female role models. We hope that these women are an inspiration to others to get involved in the cause. To that end, we hope you will generously share this list via Facebook and Twitter to give these extraordinary 16 women and their work a moment in the sun.

It’s time to stop violence against women. Together.

Note: Information for all role model profiles is sourced via online research and is based on one or more news sources, articles and/or The Pixel Project’s own interviews with them. The main articles/reports from which these profiles have been sourced can be directly accessed via the hyperlinked titles. Please do click through to learn more about these remarkable women.

Written and compiled by Regina Yau

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Female Role Model 1: Balkissa Chaibou – Niger

balkissa-chaibou_croppedBalkissa Chaibou wanted to become a doctor, but when she was 12 she found out that she had been promised as a bride to her cousin. She fought to get out of the pending marriage by taking her family to court and seeking refuge at a women’s shelter until the bridegroom’s party left. Balkissa is now 19 and she campaigns for other girls to say “no” to forced marriage. She visits schools, speaks to tribal chiefs about the issue, and has also spoken at a UN summit on reducing maternal mortality, which is a health issue linked to early marriage.

Female Role Model 2: Bogaletch Gebre – Ethiopia

bogaletch-gebre_croppedBogaletch Gebre is a victim of female genital mutilation (FGM) who was born in Kembatta, a region in Ethiopia where FGM was endemic and women were largely uneducated. She learned to read by visiting the church school under the pretext of collecting water and eventually received a scholarship to study in the U.S and Israel. She returned to Ethiopia to help better the lives of women and girls and has spent 16 years campaigning for women’s rights in Ethiopia. Through her relentless activism, Gebre has successfully reduced the rate of FGM in some parts of the country from 97% to just 3%.

Female Role Model 3: Clementine Ford – Australia

clementine-ford_croppedMelbourne-based Clementine Ford is an Australian feminist and author who has has written and spoken up fiercely and consistently about male violence against women, first in Adelaide’s Sunday Mail and opinion pieces in the Drum, then in the Fairfax website Daily Life. Her book Fight Like A Girl is part memoir and part polemic – detailing her development as a feminist and addressing the issue of violence against women head on. Ford is seen as a feminist who led “feminism back into the boxing ring” as she fights back against silencing and harassment online by naming and shaming men who verbally attack or threaten her, often replying to them publicly.

Female Role Model 4: Fatou Bensouda – Gambia

fatou-bensouda_croppedAs a high school student, Fatou Bensouda would sneak into nearby courts to watch the proceedings and she noticed that women in particular were not “receiving the protective embrace of the law. For me that is one of the things that informed my decision to say, ‘This is what I want to do.’” Today, Bensouda is the chief prosecutor of the international criminal court (ICC) in the Hague where she works to mete out justice to war criminals and genocidal despots. Her own position as a woman from West Africa has also informed the character of Bensouda’s ICC – she has made it an explicit goal of the court to challenge the rape and exploitation of women and children in war.

Female Role Model 5:  Frida Farrell – Sweden

frida-farrell_croppedWhen she was in her early twenties, Swedish actress Frida Farrell was tricked into attending a fake photoshoot, kidnapped, drugged and sexually trafficked to men in an apartment on London’s upmarket Harley Street. Over a decade after she escaped her abusers, Farrell co-wrote the film Selling Isobel which was based on her harrowing experiences in the hope that her story will stop other women getting into the same situation. She said: “I wanted people watching to know that it could happen to any girl,” Frida explains. “You don’t have to be foreign, poor or not speak the language. People think these kinds of things just happen to poor immigrants, but it could happen to English girls too.”

Female Role Model 6: Jacqueline de Chollet – Switzerland

jacqueline-de-chollet_croppedOver the past 30 years Jacqueline de Chollet has been active in the fields of Women’s Health, Social Justice, Education, Public Housing, and the Arts. She created the The Global Foundation for Humanity U.S. and the Association du Project Veerni to support the Veerni Project – a project that tackles the issue of child marriage in Rajasthan, India by improving the health and education girls and women in the region. de Chollet said: “We believe that by giving these girls access to education, health and the workplace, Veerni can empower them to take their rightful place in the lives of their communities and their country. Only then will they be able to exercise their human rights and live free from coercion disease and poverty.”

Female Role Model 7: Laura Dunn – United States of America

Laura Dunn is the Founder and Executive Director of SurvJustice, a national nonprofit providing legal assistance to sexual violence survivors across the U.S. She founded SurvJustice after being raped by two men from her crew team at the University of Wisconsin in April 2004. She said: “Afterwards, I struggled for years through campus, criminal and civil systems without receiving justice. Through this tragic experience, I learned about the laws and how to advocate for survivors.” In 2014, Dunn graduated the University of Maryland Carey School of Law where she received the William P. Cunningham Award for her national campus sexual assault advocacy, which includes passing the 2013 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Reauthorization and advising the White House Task Force to Protect Students Against Sexual Assault.

Female Role Model 8: Loubna Abida – Morocco

Moroccan actress Loubna Abidar was vilified and assaulted for playing a local prostitute in the award-winning film Much Loved, ultimately sending her into exile as a refugee in France. However, she refuses to be silenced by fatwas, online death threats and violence. In her autobiography La Dangereuse, Abidar frankly discusses how she went from overcoming poverty, exclusion and physical and sexual attacks by her father to becoming one of North Africa’s the most acclaimed young actresses and feminist voices in recent years. In an interview with Women Of The World, Abidar said: “In the Arab world generally we have this problem of rapes committed by people known to the victims — by relatives, fathers, uncles. I don’t only talk about my own story, I have done a lot of work with activist associations, especially with little girls living in the mountains.”

Female Role Model 9: Nadia Murad Basee Tahar – Iraq

On August 3, 2014, when ISIS militants attacked Nadia Murad Basee Tahar’s village of Kocho, Iraq. Six of her nine brothers were killed. Murad (then 19 years old) and her two sisters were forced into sexual slavery while their mother was executed as she was considered too old to be a sex slave. Murad was raped, tortured, and beaten frequently until she escaped and made her way to Germany where she began devoting her life to assisting other Yazidi women and girls who have suffered as she did. Murad is now a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador. In September 2016, Murad announced Nadia’s Initiative which is dedicated to helping women and children victimised by genocide and crimes against humanity.

Female Role Model 10: Omaima Hoshan – Syria

omaima-hoshan_cropped15-year-old Omaima Hoshan, a Syrian refugee, runs workshops to discourage child marriage in Jordan’s Za’atari refugee camp. “When I see young girls getting married, it scares me,” Hoshan says in a video from the United Nations refugee agency. “Girls from my home have their future lost or destroyed. This is something I can’t accept.” Hoshan leads girls in drawing, acting and lecture sessions, spreading information about underage marriage and encouraging girls to stay in school and to speak to their parents about the issue, according to Mashable.

Female Role Model 11: Rachana Sunar – Nepal

rachana-sunar_croppedWhen Rachana Sunar was 15 and still in school through a scholarship programme, she was informed by her parents she would marry a man she had never met before. Sunar escaped child marriage by misleading her parents into thinking that if she dropped out of school they’d have to pay for the past three years of her scholarship. Today, Sunar is a very vocal campaigner against child marriage in Nepal and says that dialogue is the only way to change entrenched attitudes to girls in rural Nepal.

Female Role Model 12: Radha Rani Sakher – Bangladesh

radha-rani-sarkher_croppedWhen Radha Sani Sakher was 14, she narrowly escaped an arranged marriage with the help of an educated cousin and her mother. Sakher returned to school with the help of her teachers and an aid group. Today she studies social sciences at Dinajpur’s regional university and is part of the “wedding busters” who campaign to stop child marriage. To date, she has saved 20 girls from forced marriages. Sakher’s goal is to build a centre for girls to find refuge from underage marriages until they are legally adults because “The situation has improved a little in recent years, but underage marriage still enjoys impunity.”

Female Role Model 13: Sarian Karim Kamara – Sierra Leone

sarian-karim-kamara_croppedSarian Karim Kamara underwent the brutal ritual of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) twice when she was just 11 years old. It took Kamara four years after becoming sexually active to get to know her body and experience her first orgasm. Today, she teaches other FGM survivors how to work with their bodies to experience sexual gratification and have a healthy sex life. Kamara said that an openness to explore one’s body in the wake of devastating physical trauma and a supportive sex partner are essential for FGM survivors to achieve sexual pleasure. “Even though the clitoris has been removed, that doesn’t stop us from having full capacity of pleasure during sex.”

Female Role Model 14: Tabassum Adnan – Pakistan

tabassum-adnan_croppedPakistani activist Tabassum Adnan was married off when she was just 13-years-old. After suffering 20 years of physical and mental abuse, Adnan divorced her husband, which resulted in the loss of her children, home, and finances. To help stop gender-based violence that commonly affect Pakistani women including forced marriage, child marriage, honour killings, acid attacks and domestic violence, she started the NGO Khwendo Jirga, a first of its kind women-only jirga, where women meet weekly to discuss violence against women and swara, or giving women as compensation for crimes.

Female Role Model 15: Vidya Bal – India

vidya-bal_croppedVeteran Indian feminist activist Vidya Bal has spent her life fighting against violence against women and other forms of gender discrimination. In 1982, she founded the Nari Samata Manch (Women Equality Forum) and has gone on to create, support, and counsel women’s groups. Bal said of her organisation’s work: “We want to create awareness that it is about being a good human being—and not about being a “feminine woman” or a “manly man.” Only then, we can aspire for an equitable society. This is a small experiment. I am hoping to make a small difference. Often I meet young boys telling me that after listening to my lectures their perspective of girls changed! Maybe that’s just a temporary thing—but still a good thing.”

Female Role Model 16: Zahra Yaganah – Afghanistan

zahra-yaganah_croppedZahra Yaganah grew up as an Afghan refugee in Iran and, at 13, was married off to a violent man. Today, her book Light Of Ashes – part fiction, part memoir – which chronicles her traumatic life as a child bride is one of the fastest-selling books in Afghanistan. Using her writing to speak out, Yaganah breaks taboos by explicitly writing about taboo topics including marital rape, menstruation and the lifelong damage caused by child marriages. Yaganah hopes that her book will help Afghan women break free of the violence. “It is impossible for Afghan women to read this book and not find an issue that reflects their life story,” she said. “Women can find their path, despite all the problems they have.”

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Photo Credits:

  1. Balkissa Chaibou – From “The girl who said ‘no’ to marriage” (BBC News Online)
  2. Bogaletch Gebre – From “How Bogaletch Gebre is Bringing an End to Female Genital Mutilation in Ethiopia” (KMG via ibtimes.co.uk)
  3. Clementine Ford – From “This is why we have women-only spaces, and why I don’t want to hear your complaints” (The Sydney Morning Herald)
  4. Fatou Bensouda – From “Fatou Bensouda, the woman who hunts tyrants” (Judith Jockel/The Guardian)
  5. Frida Farrell – From “The Sex Trafficking Victim Who Turned Her Nightmare Into A Feature Film (Huckmagazine.com)
  6. Jacqueline de Chollet – Courtesy of Jacqueline de Chollet
  7. Laura Dunn – Courtesy of Laura Dunn
  8. Loubna Abida – From “Actress Loubna Abidar refuses to be silenced by fatwas, death threats or violence” (Pierre Terdjman/New York Times)
  9. Nadia Murad Basee Tahah – From “A Yezidi Woman Who Escaped ISIS Slavery Tells Her Story” (Kirsten Luce/Time)
  10. Omaima Hoshan – From “This 15-Year-Old Syrian Girl Is Campaigning Against Child Marriage in Her Refugee Camp” (Makers.com)
  11. Rachana Sunar – From  “Child marriage in Nepal: ‘A girl is a girl, not a wife’ (Rachana Sunar/The Guardian)
  12. Radha Rani Sakher – From “Bangladesh’s ‘Wedding buster’ takes on illegal child marriage” (Bas Bogaerts/Plan International)
  13. Sarian Karim Kamara – From “Decades after undergoing genital cutting, woman teaches other FGM survivors how to enjoy sex” (Women Of The World/New York Times)
  14. Tabassum Adnan – From “Pakistani activist wins Nelson Mandela award 2016” (Tabassum Adnan/The Express Tribune)
  15. Vidya Bal – From “Meet the Feminist Fighting India’s Entrenched Misogyny” (Frances Smith/Vice)
  16. Zahra Yaganah – From “The former child bride who is using her story to liberate Afghan women” (Andrew Quilty/The Guardian)