Transforming Personal Pain Into Positive Action: The Pixel Project’s 16 Female Role Models 2017

Today is the first day of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence 2017 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 15 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 to stand up for themselves and for other women and girls instead.

Others on this list may not have experienced gender-based violence inflicted on themselves 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.

Without further ado, here in alphabetical order by first name is our 2017 list of 16 female role models. We hope that these women would be an inspiration to others to get involved with 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: Ana Salvá – Spain

Bangkok-based Spanish freelance journalist Ana Salva arrived in Southeast Asia in 2014, eventually focusing on reporting about violence against women in Cambodia. In 2016, she began investigating the crime of forced marriage and forced pregnancy under the Khmer Rouge regime and its impact on the mental and physical health of women. This resulted in an incisive article published by The Diplomat – “The Forced Pregnancies of the Khmer Rouge”. She said: “The international criminal laws continue to lack [interest] to address gender crimes that have impacted women worldwide. And for forced pregnancy, a lot of cases are forgotten. No international courts have pursued forced pregnancy to date. That is the problem for the future too, I think.”

Female Role Model 2: Anuja Gupta – India

Anuja Gupta is one of India’s leading experts on the issue of incest/child sexual abuse. In 1996, at a time when no one in the country was talking about this taboo subject, Anuja started the non-profit RAHI Foundation, India’s first incest/child sexual abuse response organisation. RAHI’s work has laid the foundation for this issue to come to light and continues to shape the way it is addressed in the country. Anuja said: “Everyone has to make violence against women and children their issue and I think the strongest action we can take is to not lose momentum regardless of our social or political contexts. No matter how far away it may seem, always keep an eye on the goal of a world free of violence.”

Female Role Model 3: Carrie Goldberg – United States of America

Carrie Goldberg is a pioneer in the field of sexual privacy who uses her legal expertise and the law to defend victims of revenge porn and other forms of cyber violence against women. The impetus for starting her own firm to tackle the issue of online sexual privacy and harassment came when she was harassed by a vengeful ex who threatened to send intimate pictures she’d given him to her professional colleagues. Today, her law firm, C.A. Goldberg, PLLC focuses on Internet privacy and abuse, domestic violence, and sexual consent. Goldberg is also a Board Member and Volunteer Attorney at the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative and its End Revenge Porn campaign.

Female Role Model 4: Daisy Coleman – United States of America

Daisy Coleman was 14 when she was raped and left on her family’s front lawn in the small town where she grew up, enduring a backlash from the townsfolk who subjected her to intense victim-blaming, cyberbullying, and slut-shaming. Today, Coleman is an anti-sexual assault activist standing together with teen sex assault victims behind the national campaign SafeBAE (Safe Before Anyone Else) to help prevent sexual violence and educate young people about the issue. As part of her work, she also appeared in Netflix’s documentary Audrie & Daisy about her experience.

Female Role Model 5: Hera Hussain – Pakistan and the United Kingdom

Hera Hussain is the founder of Chayn, a UK-based open source gender and tech project that builds platforms, toolkits, and runs hackathons to empower women facing violence and the organisations supporting them. Chayn’s resources and services include pro bono work for anti-violence against women organisations as well as a groundbreaking toolkit for women who want to build their own Domestic Violence case is so valuable to women who cannot afford legal representation. She says: “Tech gives us the chance to reach a wide audience on shoe-string budget and enable those women who are looking to understand what is happening to them and what to do about it.”

Female Role Model 6: Karla Jacinto – Mexico

Karla Jacinto was lured into forced prostitution at the age of 12 by a human trafficker who offered her money, gifts and the promise of a better life. By age 16, she estimates that she had been raped 43,200 times as she was forced to service up to 30 men a day daily for four years. Karla was rescued in 2008 as part of an anti-trafficking operation in Mexico City and is now fighting back against Mexico’s human trafficking crisis by raising awareness of how the criminals work so potential victims can spot red flags.

Female Role Model 7: Kerstin Weigl – Sweden

Kerstin Weigl is a journalist who has been awarded the “Lukas Bonnier´s Grand  Prize for Journalism” for her unique study of all the women who have died in Sweden as a result of violence in close relationships during the 2000s. The investigation was undertaken together with Kristina Edblom, for the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, uncovering and reporting the stories of 267 women since the series began. Kerstin is also the co-founder of Cause of Death: Woman, an investigative report on violence against women the US, South Africa, Egypt, Sweden, Pakistan, Mexico, Brazil, Congo, Spain and Russia.

Female Role Model 8: Malebogo Malefhe – Botswana

In 2009, Malebogo Malefhe was shot eight times by her boyfriend, putting her in a wheelchair for life. Malefhe, a former basketball player for Botswana’s national team, has devoted herself to fighting domestic violence in her native Botswana and combatting culturally-ingrained victim-blaming by teaching women that it is not their fault when men hurt them. She told NPR: “I tell women to look at the signs while they still have the time. Walk out while they still have the chance. […] I tell women that every time a crime is perpetrated, they should report it. […] Women need education to open them up to the realisation that abuse is prevalent and they need to find ways to overcome it.

Female Role Model 9: Marijana Savic, Serbia

In 2004, Marijana Savic founded Atina as part of the response of “the women’s movement in Serbia to the problem of human trafficking, and non-existence of adequate programmes of long-term support for the victims and help in their social inclusion”. Atina became the first safehouse for victims of trafficking in the country and provides comprehensive support for survivors of violence, exploitation and human trafficking in Serbia. Marijana said: “A person who survived violence needs more than accommodation. […] A right solution for many women is to get support from the community, to understand why the violence is happening, to have full support in safe place, which does not always have to be a safe house.”

Female Role Model 10: Paradise Sourori – Afghanistan

Paradise Sourori is Afghanistan’s first female rapper. Over the last eight years, she has had to flee her country twice, received numerous threats of rape, death, and acid attacks as well as being brutally beaten by 10 men on the street – all because she refuses to stop singing about the gender-based violence and injustices suffered by Afghan women. “[The police] told me I should stop singing,” says Paradise. “That’s when I knew that if I stayed silent, nothing would change.” Today she has resettled in Berlin, Germany and continues to make her music to champion Afghan women.

Female Role Model 11: Ronelle King – Barbados

Ronelle King is a rape and sexual assault survivor who had enough of the nonchalant cultural and social attitude towards violence against women and girls in Barbados. She “had the idea to start a hashtag that would create a forum for Caribbean women to share their daily experiences of sexual harassment and abuse” and so the #LifeInLeggings hashtag and movement was born. The movement has spread rapidly throughout the Caribbean region, The National Women’s Commission of Belize supports the group and UN Women has partnered with them to assist with regional projects.

Female Role Model 12:  Saida Ali – Kenya

Saida Ali was 16 when her older sister fled back to her family home after being assaulted by her husband. Ali helped her sister leave the abusive marriage and that was the start of her lifelong commitment to stopping violence against women. Today, Saida is the executive director of Kenya’s Coalition on Violence Against Women, taking on domestic violence and rape cases across Kenya. Her campaign, Justice for Liz, was waged on behalf of a schoolgirl who was raped and left for dead. The campaign garnered international media attention and the perpetrators were eventually jailed.

Female Role Model 13: Samra Zafar – United Arab Emirates and Canada

Samra Zafar arrived in Canada as a 16-year-old bride in an arranged marriage to an abusive husband who beat, controlled, and raped her. Determined to escape her marriage, she managed to squirrel away a few hundred dollars now and then even though her husband forced her to give up her earnings to him. With her savings and multiple scholarships, she funded her education, earning Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Economics from the University of Toronto with the highest distinctions. Today, Samra is the founder of Brave Beginnings, an organisation dedicated to helping women rebuild their lives after oppression and abuse.

Female Role Model 14: Sharmin Akter – Bangladesh

Sharmin Akter was only 15 years old when her mother attempted to coerce her into marriage to a man decades older than her. However, instead of surrendering to family wishes, she spoke up to protest for her right to an education. In recognition of her courage, she was awarded the 2017 International Women of Courage Award from the US State Department. Sharmin is now studying at Jhalakathi Rajapur Pilot Girls High School to fulfil her goal to become a human rights lawyer fighting against the harmful tradition of forced marriages.

Female Role Model 15: Stephanie Harvey – Canada

Stephanie Harvey is a five-time world champion in competitive Counter-Strike, and longtime female pro-gaming icon. In her 16 years in e-Sports as a player and 7 years as a games developer, she has routinely pushed back and spoken out against toxic misogyny, sexism, and the chronic online harassment of female gamers that is endemic in the gaming world. As part of her activism, she co-founded MissCliks, a gaming community group currently focused on “recognising the under-representation of women as role models in geek and gaming culture, giving support and exposure to those female role models, and helping to create a culture of authenticity, advocacy, unity, and bravery.”

Female Role Model 16: Vera Baird – United Kingdom

Commissioner Dame Vera Baird is an outspoken advocate for stopping violence against women in her capacity as the police and crime commissioner for Northumbria. She has publicly spoken out against a judge who made victim-blaming comments regarding a rape case and was recently negotiating with local government officials in an attempt to stop the withdrawal of funding for women’s refuges in Sunderland. Prior to becoming a police commissioner, she was a lawyer who championed feminist protesters, took on pregnancy discrimination cases, and influenced law in domestic violence cases. Baird was made a Dame in December 2016 in recognition of her life-long fight for gender equality.

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Photo Credits:

  1. Ana Salvá – From “Q&A: Journalist Ana Salvá on the Crimes of Forced Marriage and Forced Pregnancy Under the Khmer Rouge” (VOA Cambodia)
  2. Anuja Gupta – Courtesy of the RAHI Foundation
  3. Carrie Goldberg – From http://www.cagoldberglaw.com/team/carrie-goldberg/
  4. Daisy Coleman – Courtesy of Safebae.org
  5. Hera Hussain – Courtesy of Hera Hussain
  6. Karla Jacinto – From “Human Trafficking Survivor Karla Jacinto Was Raped 43,200 Times as a Teen, Now She’s Telling Her Story to Congress and the Pope” (Seventeen)
  7. Kerstin Weigl – From https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kerstin_Weigl_2015-11-06_001.jpg
  8. Malebogo Malefhe – From “Shot By Her Boyfriend And Now Using A Wheelchair, She Found A ‘New Me’” (Ryan Eskalis/NPR)
  9. Marijana Savic – From “Four women’s rights activists you need to know” (Atina/UNFPA)
  10. Paradise Sorouri – From “Afghanistan’s first female rapper: ‘If I stay silent, nothing will change’” (Eliot Stein/The Guardian)
  11. Ronelle King – From https://www.youtube.com/user/purehazeleyes
  12. Saida Ali – From “The Activist Taking On Patriarchy To End Domestic Violence In Kenya” (The Huffington Post)
  13. Samra Zafar – From “The Good Wife” (Luis Mora/Toronto Life)
  14. Sharmin Akter – From “Fighting Early Marriage: Bangladeshi girl to receive US award” (The Daily Star)
  15. Stephanie Harvey – Courtesy of Stephanie Harvey
  16. Vera Baird – From “Northumbria Police boss Vera Baird made a Dame in New Year’s Honours list” (www.chroniclelive.co.uk)

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

______________________________________________________________________

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)

16 Memorable Stories of Standing Up to Street Harassment 2015

holly1-200x300The Pixel Project is pleased to share the fifth 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.


Empowering Response #1: #WhatMySHSaid – Instagram

Chloe Parker has been harassed since she was 12 years old. Now 17, she started an Instagram hashtag #WhatMySHSaid where people write their age and location and what their street harasser said to them. Many posts are liked thousands of times. Chloe wrote, “The average age is twelve [for the story submissions] and the average reaction is disbelief, but with the topic comes horrible responses as well. I have heard people defending these pedophiles who creep on these girls, or say that street harassment is because of what the girl was wearing. We live in a culture of blaming the victims, and by saying a twelve-year-old is asking to be followed as she walks home from school is a testament to this. We as a society can and should change this culture that we promote and live in. It should not be up to the victims to change their lives and patterns to make harassers comfortable. This is not a problem that should be ignored.”

Empowering Response #2: Parking Attendant Woes – Charlotte, North Carolina, USA

Every day for two weeks as a woman left a parking garage in Charlotte, North Carolina, the parking attendant would stare at her and say he wanted to see her smile and other similar remarks. She felt uneasy, and, as he continued day after day, she felt anxious and stressed. One day she pa0nicked and drove away while he was still talking. She resolved to talk to him and the next day. She asked him to stop telling her to smile as it made her feel uncomfortable. He said okay. She wrote, “I hope he’ll think before he makes these unwanted comments to anyone else. I didn’t complain to the company since he made an indication of respecting my wishes. I don’t plan to park there any more since I don’t want to see him again, but being able to say something took such a weight off my shoulders. I didn’t even realise how much this was affecting me until after I said something.”

Empowering Response #3: Standing Up Against Harassers – Kabul, Afghanistan

After witnessing a friend drop out of school because of harassment, Shafi in Kabul, Afghanistan, began standing up to harassers. She wrote, “Whenever I see people harassing girls or women in streets and university, I go to them and talk reasonably with them to stop them and explain to them that their act is wrong. I ask what if it happens to their sister or mother, what then? Now it is the time for everyone to start vanishing this bad and shameful culture. Yes, if we want to change then we can. We can start it right now!”

Empowering Response #4: Ladders Are Useful Items

ladder

Empowering Response #5: Caught on CCTV

After a drunk man grabbed a woman on a subway and kissed her, she reported him to the transit police. They found him on the train’s CCTV and circulated his image to local police stations. She wrote, “If you experience street harassment, report it to the police. It will make you feel proactive and powerful – and they might even catch the perpetrator.”

Empowering Response #6: No Free Pass for the Police – San Jose, CA, USA

A woman in San Jose, California, noticed a police sergeant (not in uniform) exposing himself and masturbating in a car. She turned away but he drove his car and parked so she had to see him again. She took photos of him and his license plate and he fled. She filed a police report and the investigators discovered he was a 13-year veteran of the police department. He was arrested and placed on administrative leave.

Empowering Response #7: Taking Harassment Seriously – Liverpool, United Kingdom

Two men in a car in Liverpool, UK, harassed a Russian woman. She felt too scared to say anything, but she ran back, called the police, reported what happened and gave their license plate number. She wrote, “The inspector rang me back to make sure I know they take it seriously. Then after an hour a female officer came to see me. It turned out it was a crime as section 5 public order offence, besides it was gender-based. The officer visited his house, etc. He now has a criminal record. Ladies, you don’t have to take this shit!”

Empowering Response #8: Facing Down Harassers… and Winning! – Tennesee, USA

When Bryanna was in college in Tennessee, a group of men would hang out by the door and harass her daily with sexual slurs. She felt humiliated and would try to run past them before they could say anything. But one day she decided to confront them. She wrote, “They whistled and said, ‘Damn!’ really loudly. So I turned around, marched right up to them (at least eight of them) and shouted, ‘What do you expect to happen from this? Do you really think a girl will turn around and say ‘Oh wow that’s such a compliment, being told my ass is fine by these complete strangers. Do you want to hook up?’ Has it worked for you yet?’ By the look on their stunned faces, I answered for them, ‘No, I didn’t think so. Get a life!’ and stormed off. The rush I felt was incomparable to anything else. I felt strong – like I could take care of myself.”

Empowering Response #9: Singing Against Harassment

Singer Empress Of wrote a song about street harassment called “Kitty Kat.” She said in an interview, “I remember a stranger saying something nasty to me on the street while walking home. I was so mad, but I couldn’t say anything back at that moment. What would be the point? When I got back I started to work on this aggressive sound on a track. As soon as I turned the mic on to record, I started to sing what I wanted to say to that guy on the street, but now I get to sing it every night in front of a crowd.”

Empowering Response #10: “That’s NOT a compliment!” – San Diego, CA, USA

A woman was walking her dog through downtown San Diego, California, when a man told her, “You have no idea how badly I want to play with your boobs.” She told him that his comment was inappropriate and he apologised. But then he told her she should “take it as a compliment.” She had already passed him, but turned around to yell back, “That’s NOT a compliment!” She wrote, “Let the harasser know what he is doing is wrong and unwelcome and that it’s not a compliment in order to help convert him to viewing it as a bad thing.”

Poppy SmartEmpowering Response #11: Sparking a National Debate – United Kingdom

After weeks of trying various tactics for dealing with street harassers along her route to work in the UK (the harassment included men purposely blocking her path), Poppy Smart took the matter to the police. She said in an interview, “It made me feel really uncomfortable and the fact it went on for so long was the main reason I reported it. If it had just been an isolated incident – one, two, three, four times – maybe I could probably brush it off because these things happen and you have to kind of accept these people’s ignorance.” Poppy says she spoke to the owner of the building site. “He just sort of apologised. He obviously can’t control all of his staff all of the time and I appreciated that. I just wanted them to realise it is offensive and I wanted it to stop.” Her story sparked a national debate about the issue.

Empowering Response #12: Sanctuary from Harassment – New York City, USA

A man on the train in New York City rubbed his penis against a woman’s butt. She elbowed him but he kept doing it. Because of the crowd, she couldn’t easily get away. A woman nearby noticed what was happening and gave up her seat for her saying, “Come sit down, that man is trying to rub himself on you!”

Empowering Response #13: Not Remaining Silent – London, United Kingdom

Y.E. in London, UK, was the target of public masturbation on the Tube. No one else was on and when she moved away, he followed her, only zipping up his pants after a man entered the carriage. When YE got off the train, he followed and she ran to report him to a transit worker. The police took her report. She also decided to write about what happened. “I hesitated several times whilst starting to write this and contemplated just keeping it to myself, considering the crude nature of this incident. However, it has come to my attention that this is no longer becoming a ‘once in a blue moon issue’ and it could have easily been burdened on a child, family member, or another member of the public. Looking back at the past struggles in history, since when has any change occurred from remaining silent?”

smallstepsEmpowering Response #14: Anti-Street Harassment Workshops – Romania

Aila in Romania used to face harassment from high school students as she walked from her hostel to the university. Now she and a group of other women at the NGO FILIA are in the process of working with that high school to bring street harassment awareness workshops to the students. She wrote, “Change can be done. I am not a victim anymore, I am a person who can bring change and can help the other girls who are still living in that hostel.”

Empowering Response #15: Open Letter Tactic – Washington D.C., USA

 Sara in Washington, DC wrote an open letter to the man who harassed her. In it, she thanked a woman who spoke up. “To the woman on the sidewalk who said, ‘That’s so rude’ and shook her head when he drove off, thank you. Your three simple words in solidarity were my saving grace and snap back to reality, that no one, not even myself, has the right to disrespect my body. So, dear man in the blue minivan, I will use my body in the best way I know how — to share this story and inspire others to feel a little braver when they step into a crosswalk. To be what the woman on the sidewalk was to me: solidarity.”

Empowering Response #16: Reporting an Unwanted Grope – San Francisco, CA, USA

After a man groped AB at a shopping mall in San Francisco, California, she dropped her bag and ran after him. She lost him, but filed a police report. She wrote, “I’ve been harassed many times, but I’d never run after someone. Something snapped in me. And something broke when no one would help. I was proud that enough was finally enough, and I did something, even though he got away with it. At the very least, it’s caused me to talk about it and snap back when I get hollered at on the street.”

Transforming Personal Pain Into Positive Action: The Pixel Project’s 16 Female Role Models 2014

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Today is the first day of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence 2014 campaign and The Pixel Project is kicking things off with our 5th 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 18 countries and 4 continents.

Many of these astounding women 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, to 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 to stand up for themselves and for other women instead. Indeed, we are very happy to note that the extraordinary girls’ education activist, Malala Yousafzai, who was one of our Female Role Models of 2012 has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize this year. Well done, Malala!

Others on this list may not have experienced gender-based violence inflicted on themselves, 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.

Without further ado, here, in alphabetical order by first name, is our 2014 list of 16 female role models. Sadly, two of the role models on this year’s list (Angelica Bello and Efuo Dorkenoo) have respectively died in 2013 and 2014. Few people outside the anti-Violence Against Women movement may have heard of them and we hope that the general public will learn something about their extraordinary life’s work via this list. We hope that they and the rest of the women here will be an inspiration to others to get involved with 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.

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 as well. Please do click through to learn more about these remarkable women.

– Regina Yau, Founder and President, The Pixel Project

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Female Role Model 1: Angelica Bello – Colombia

Angelica Bello_CroppedAngelica Bello founded the National Foundation for the Defence of Women’s Human Rights (Fundación Nacional Defensora de los Derechos Humanos de la Mujer, FUNDHEFEM) to protect women survivors of sexual violence in Colombia’s long-running armed conflict. In 2013, she participated as a spokesperson of survivors of conflict-related sexual violence in a meeting with President Santos to push for women’s voices to be heard in the debate about the ‘Victims and Land Restitution Law,’ which is designed to ensure land misappropriated during the conflict is returned to its rightful owners and to provide reparation to victims. She asked the President to implement measures to provide psychosocial support to victims, including survivors of sexual violence. Bello died under suspicious circumstances in late 2013 after enduring years of violent retaliation for her work.

Female Role Model 2: Anita Sarkeesian – Canada and the United States of America

Anita Sarkeesian_croppedAnita Sarkeesian is the pop-culture media critic who made headlines when she launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to support her production of a video Web series called Tropes vs Women in Video Games, which explores female stereotypes in the gaming industry. Her feminist critique of the gaming industry has garnered an ongoing vitriolic online backlash, including threats of death, sexual assault and rape, most recently escalating to hounding her out of her home and forcing her to cancel an event at Utah State University due to the threat of a mass gun massacre. Undaunted, Sarkeesian says: “I feel like the work I’m doing is really important […] the actual change that I am starting to see, the really sweet messages that I get from people about how they were resistant to identify as feminist, but then they watched my videos […] the parents who use it as an educational tool for their kids…all of this is really inspiring to me.”

Female Role Model 3: Dianna Nammi – Iran  and United Kingdom

diana-nammi-tempDiana Nammi started the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation (IKWRO) in her home in 2002 to provide advice and counselling for women from Middle Eastern, North African and Afghan communities in the UK. Since its founding in 1996, IKWRO has grown into a 16-staff organisation that takes thousands of phone calls and helped 780 women face-to-face in 2013. Nammi is a former Peshmerga fighter who has been fighting for women’s rights since she was a teenager growing up in Iran. Since moving to the UK in 1996, she has been instrumental in the campaign to bring honour killers to justice in British courts as well as striving to get forced marriages banned in the country.

Female Role Model 4: Efuo Dorkenoo – Ghana and the United Kingdom

Efua DorkenooEfua Dorkenoo, affectionately known as “Mama Efua”, is a Ghanaian campaigner who fought against the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) for decades. When she was a nurse and midwife-in-training in the 1960s in England, she encountered a woman in labour who had undergone FGM. The woman was so badly scarred that she was unable to deliver her baby through natural childbirth. Due to that encounter, Ms. Dorkenoo became a public health specialist and dedicated the rest of her life to educating the public about the effects of FGM and to ending its practice. Dorkenoo died from cancer in October 2014, leaving a lasting legacy of anti-FGM work.

Female Role Model 5: Emma Sulkowicz – United States of America

Emma Sulkowicz_CroppedEmma Sulkowicz is the Columbia University senior and visual arts major who has committed herself to toting around a mattress until the school expels the fellow student who raped her or he leaves on his own. Sulkowicz started doing this in August 2014 to make a statement about campus sexual assault when Columbia University allowed her rapist to stay on campus. Sulkowicz has made her unusual campaign the basis of her senior thesis – “Carry That Weight” is part protest, part performance art, and has helped rejuvenate the nationwide conversation about campus sexual assault. On 29 October 2014, the first #CarryYourWeight Day was launched in the U.S. and college students and anti-Violence Against Women activists carried mattresses and pillows everywhere to signify their solidarity with victims of rape and sexual assault.

Female Role Model 6: Ikram Ben Said – Tunisia

Tunis, Tunisia.2014 August 18th Ikram Ben Said, 33 year old activist, portrait in her home nest to a poster of Martin Luther King. Francesco Zizola ?NOOR for TIMEWhen Ikram Ben Said took part in the Arab Spring’s first uprising in 2011, she knew that it was the beginning of the struggle for women’s rights in Tunisia. So she created Aswat Nissa (Voices of Women) –  the first women’s rights organisation in Tunisia to involve Tunisian women politicians regardless of where they fall of the political spectrum. “Laws can change the mentality,” says Ben Said. “So we have to work with politicians.”  Through Aswat Nissa’s campaigns and activities, Ben Said has worked to encourage more women to vote, train women politicians about governance, push back against laws that discriminate against women, and to educate communities that “you can be Muslim and advocate for women’s equality. It’s not against Islam.”

Female Role Model 7: Khadijah Gbla – Sierra Leone and Australia

Khadijah Gbla_croppedAnti-Violence Against Women activist Khadijah Gbla is a survivor: she endured female genital mutilation (FGM) at age 10, survived civil war in Sierra Leone, witnessed the murder of her father at 13, spent three years with her mother and younger sister in a Gambian refugee camp, and endured domestic violence from a man just 3 years her senior. Since migrating to Australia, she has channelled what she learned from her horrific experiences into positive education and support for other women. She has campaigned against FGM, started Khadija Gbla Consulting: a motivational speaking, cross-cultural training and consulting firm and also launched Chocolate Sisters – a series of workshops for young which will address issues such as body image, domestic violence and FGM.

Female Role Model 8: Laxmi – India

Laxmi - Stop Acid Attacks Website_croppedWhen Laxmi was 16, an angry suitor threw acid on her face while she waited at a bus stop in New Delhi’s busy Khan Market, disfiguring her permanently. Her attacker deliberately used the acid to destroy Laxmi’s face after she refused to respond to his advances. Instead of hiding herself in shame, Laxmi became the standard-bearer in India for the movement to end acid attacks. She campaigned on national television, and gathered 27,000 signatures for a petition to curb acid sales. Her petition led the Supreme Court to order the Indian central and state governments to immediately regulate the sale of acid, and the Parliament to make prosecutions of acid attacks easier to pursue.

Female Role Model 9: Dr. Maha Al-Muneef – Saudi Arabia

Dr Maha Al-Muneef_croppedDr. Maha Al-Muneef is a dedicated public advocate for survivors of domestic and sexual violence in Saudi Arabia. She founded the National Family Safety Programme in 2005 to combat domestic violence in Saudi Arabia, where activists have been campaigning for an end to the “absolute authority” of male guardians. She is an advisor to the Shura Council in Saudi Arabia. As a physician, she has worked with hospitals to change protocols for victims of rape and abuse, helped to create new police procedures for handling cases and develop special training programmes for medical personnel and law enforcement.

Female Role Model 10: Malalai Joya – Afghanistan

Malalai JoyaMalalai Joya earned her reputation as the “bravest woman in Afghanistan” when she, as an elected delegate to the Loya Jirga (an assembly to debate the proposed Afghan constitution), stood up and publicly criticised the room full of male politicians for allowing fundamentalist warlords too much power. Later, a mob gathered where she was staying, threatening to rape and murder her. She won a landslide victory when she ran for parliament in 2005, the youngest person to be elected, only to be kicked out after she compared the house to a “stable or zoo” in a TV interview. She says: “The situation for women is as catastrophic today as it was before. In most provinces, women’s lives are hell. Forced marriages, child brides and domestic violence are very common. Self-immolations are at a peak.”

Female Role Model 11: Manisha Mohan – India

Manisha Mohan_CroppedThe horrific gang-rape and murder of Jyoti Singh Pandey in New Delhi in 2012 was a tipping point for 22-year-old engineering student Manisha Mohan, who decided to put her engineering studies to practical use by inventing an unusual new anti-rape defense system for women in India – an electric bra called Society Harnessing Equipment (SHE). The bra contains a pressure sensor connected to an electric circuit that can generate a 3,800 kilo-volt shock, which is severe enough to burn a potential rapist. The moment its pressure sensors get activated, a built-in GPS also alerts the police. The pressure sensor has been calibrated for squeeze, pinch and grab; the force applied in a simple hug does not activate the device. There is also a switch so the woman can activate the system herself when in a dangerous location.

Female Role Model 12: Marie Claire Faray – Democratic Republic of Congo

Marie Claire Faray_croppedMarie Claire Faray is an activist from the Democratic Republic of Congo who campaigns to end violence against women, especially in her home country. As a member of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, she continues to work and advocate to get women from all backgrounds to hold their government to account for women’s rights and to have their ideas and opinions heard and accounted for. She said: “[U]ltimately, in 2020, we want to look back and say “we have at least achieved this in this country” — for example “in the Democratic Republic of Congo, we have achieved more women in parliament, the end of violence against women, the end of sexual violence.”

Female Role Model 13: Mussurut Zia – United Kingdom

Mussurut ZiaMussurut Zia started getting involved in anti-violence against women work when she developed a project for disadvantaged women and children. She said: “These people were suffering sexual and domestic abuse. So I started to look at empowerment. It needed more than empowering people to leave their circumstances. They had to be able to survive on their own and believe that they didn’t have to sit there and take it. No matter what culture you come from abuse is wrong.” In 2007, she set up a community organisation, Practical Solutions, which raises awareness of forced marriage, honour-based violence and much more. As a director of the Muslim Women’s Network UK, Mussurut was recently asked to provide insight into the subject of Jihadi brides. Her next project is to go into schools to talk to children about the laws related to marriage and where to go if they find themselves in a forced situation.

Female Role Model 14: Pragna Patel – United Kingdom

Pragna Patel_CroppedPragna Patel is the Director and founding member of Southall Black Sisters (SBS), a landmark organisation in the history of black and Asian feminism in the UK. For over thirty years, SBS has been at the forefront of violence against women of colour in Southall and nationwide. They provide general and specialist advice to black and minority women on gender-related issues such as domestic violence, sexual violence, forced marriage, honour killings and their intersection with the criminal justice, immigration and asylum systems, health, welfare rights, homelessness and poverty.

Female Role Model 15: Rosi Oroczo – Mexico

Rosi Oroczo_CroppedAnti-slavery activist Rosi Oroczo, president of the nongovernmental Commission United Against Human Trafficking and a member of the 61st legislature, is the driving force in overcoming strong resistance and winning passage in 2012 of a tough new law to combat human trafficking throughout Mexico. Passed on June 14, 2012, it brings all Mexican states under the same extensive measures for prevention and punishment of trafficking. It grants increased powers for police and judges, granting anonymity and protection for victims, while providing new funding for rehabilitation projects involving them. Orozco believes the answer to end human trafficking  “begins with individuals caring about other people, noticing what’s going on in their neighborhoods and being willing to face up to traffickers and drive them out. We all have to refuse to tolerate this crime against humanity any longer.”

Female Role Model 16: Safia Abdi Haase – Somalia and Norway

Safia Abdi Haase_CroppedSomali-born Safia Abdi Haase is the first immigrant woman to receive Norway’s prestigious order of St. Olav for her work with women and children. She said her campaigning was based on her experiences of domestic abuse, female genital mutilation (FGM), forced marriage, domestic violence and sex trafficking. “I had to use my own body so that I could come out of Africa to come to Europe to give my three daughters life without violence,” she said. Ms. Haase had no formal education when she arrived in Norway. She put herself through primary and secondary schools, eventually obtaining a university degree in nursing. She has helped formulate the Norwegian government’s action plan against FGM and is regarded as an ambassador in the drive to combat violence against women.

The Pixel Project Selection 2012: 16 Films About Violence Against Women

The Pixel Project’s annual selection of films, documentaries and television shows that raise awareness about violence against women has been a fixture in our annual “16 For 16” campaign from the very beginning. We firmly believe that the “Show, Not Tell” principle is one of the most powerful ways to create a connection between the movement to end violence against women and the person on the street who might not have even given this human rights issue a thought before. Film and television are some of the best tools that activists and educators have at their disposal to shape and galvanise public opinion and action to prevent and stop violence against women (VAW) in their communities remains strong.

2012 has been a bumper year for films and documentaries about violence against women, some of which have won major awards. This indicates that this major human rights issue is starting to come out of the shadows and that the wall of silence surrounding it may not be completely eradicated but is, at the very least, cracked enough to start conversations. Continue reading