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 and co-founder of SafeBAE (Safe Before Anyone Else) to help prevent sexual violence and educate young people in the U.S. about the issue and to stand together with teen sex assault victims. 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)

The Pixel Project Selection 2015: 16 Striking Anti-Violence Campaigns for the Cause to End Violence Against Women

Every year, we at The Pixel Project come across a wide variety of innovative and powerful anti-Violence Against Women campaigns by our fellow activists and non-profits from around the globe, and 2015 is no exception. Notably, many campaigns took place this year in the United Kingdom, which signifies that great efforts are being made to eradicate Violence Against Women in that region. Still, much is to be done in the UK and worldwide.

We acknowledge that anti-VAW campaigners put themselves in perilous situations to advocate for the safety of others and we are immeasurably grateful for their bravery. From women marching the streets to women combating harassment online, each and every action, large or small, counts.

So today, in honour of all VAW activists, nonprofits and grassroots group who toil in such thankless situations to bring about positive change to the lives of women and girls facing violence, we present 16 of the most striking campaigns/programmes we have come across in the last year of our work.

What these campaigns have in common are:

  • The built-in “water-cooler” factor that gets the community buzzing about the campaign and by extension, the issue of VAW.
  • A good sense of what works in and for the culture and community where the activist/nonprofit/grassroots group is trying to effect change.

We hope that these campaigns and initiatives inspire you to take action and get on board the cause to end VAW.

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

– Written and compiled by Samantha Carroll

Call To Action: Help us reach the $25,000 fundraising milestone for our Celebrity Male Role Model Pixel Reveal campaign this holiday season by giving generously to our “16 For 16” fundraiser (which also includes #GivingTuesday)! Find out more and donate to get awesome book and music goodies at http://is.gd/16DaysGT2015 


Striking Anti-VAW Campaign #1: 90days – South Africa

South African performer, ambassador and Board Member of Epic Foundation, Natalie Chapman, started 90days last year as a way to raise funds for survivors of violent and sexual crimes. The 90days campaign’s mission is an ambitious one: 90 performances in 90 consecutive days in 90 different towns. This year, Chapman was able to secure big name South African performers to join her on her 90days initiative, which had them playing at women’s shelters as well as prisons. Chapman believes that it’s important to engage in discourse with perpetrators who are often victims of abuse too.

Striking Anti-VAW Campaign #2: Campaign4Consent – UK

Campaign4Consent is a campaign that aims to see sexual consent taught in schools as part of the UK’s SRE (sex and relationships education) national curriculum.  Campaign4Consent believes that consent is a crucial aspect lacking in SRE as well as information regarding abusive relationships and healthy sexual relationship advice for LGBT teens. The campaign has a letter the public can sign asking UK MP’s to incorporate consent into the national curriculum.

Striking Anti-VAW Campaign #3: Denim Day – Italy/USA/Canada

The Denim Day campaign is an annual event that takes place on 29th April and urges participants to wear a pair of jeans to bring awareness to rape prevention. The campaign started in Italy in 1998 when the Italian Supreme Court overturned a rape conviction in which a teenage victim’s jeans were “too tight”. Following the decision, female members of the Italian parliament wore jeans in protest. The movement has since grown and spread to the USA and Canada. This year performers and the campaign’s spokes-couple, Aloe Blacc & Maya Jupiter, attended the Los Angeles rally for Denim Day. The Denim Day campaign also urges men to wear jeans in support of the cause.

Striking Anti-VAW Campaign #4: Disney Princesses as Acid Attack Victims – Central/South Asia

This year, rock star artist Alexsandro Palombo, created a new visual campaign highlighting the acid attacks that affect women all over Central and South Asia. Palombo took well-known Disney Princesses and illustrated how they looked before and after they had been attacked with acid. These acid attacks not only scar victims, but can leave them blind, deaf and mute. Palombo’s aim was to draw attention to this issue in the most surprising way he could.

Striking Anti-VAW Campaign #5: Frame Her Right – India

The Frame Her Right campaign is an initiative of Half The Sky Movement, which aims to root out violence against women in cinema and entertainment. The campaign seeks “more gender-sensitized cinema that places women in positive — rather than exploited and exploitable roles.” Frame Her Right acknowledges that violence towards women didn’t start in cinema and also empowers women by providing tools to help them gain access to healthcare, education, and economic opportunity.

Striking Anti-VAW Campaign #6: Never Alone – Australia

One in three women has/will experience violence from a spouse or partner, and at least one woman is killed every week in Australia. Rosie Batty, whose former husband murdered their son in early 2014, has been working diligently to end domestic violence along with the Never Alone foundation. Members of the public can join the Never Alone campaign by pledging to stand beside those who experience family violence. Batty was awarded Australia’s person of the year for 2015.

Striking Anti-VAW Campaign #7: Ni Una Menos (Not One Less) campaign – Argentina

Ni una menos

The Ni Una Menos campaign aimed to bring awareness to femicide and gender violence in Argentina. In June, 300,000-500,000 protestors marched in the streets of Buenos Aires with signs that read “Ni una menos.”   In 2014, one femicide took place every 30 hours in Argentina. During 2008-2013, 124 of the femicide victims were between the ages 13 and 18.

Striking Anti-VAW Campaign #8: REDress Project – Canada

 The REDress Project was started in 2014 by Jamie Bell who collected 600 red dresses and put them on display. The idea was to symbolise the vacancy left by aboriginal women who have been murdered in Canada. This year, the REDress Project experienced significant development and its online community grew. Recently, Sisters in Spirit Vigils and the REDress Project created a call to action asking Canadians to hang a red dress or other red items of women’s clothing on their doors or windows, to raise awareness and stand in solidarity against the murdering of aboriginal women.

Striking Anti-VAW Campaign #9: Stop Telling Women To Smile – Mexico

In 2012, artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh plastered the streets of New York and Philadelphia with posters to address street harassment. This year, Fazlalizadeh continued her work by traveling to Latin America. Fazlalizade chose to take her Stop Telling Women To Smile campaign to Mexico after receiving countless emails from women in Mexico City who wanted her to bring her message to the region. In Mexico, it is estimated that 44% of women have experienced sexual violence at some point in their lives.

Striking Anti-VAW Campaign #10: Talk about abuse campaign – UK

Women’s Aid launched the Talk about abuse campaign in September to “encourage people to look for signs of domestic abuse among their friends and family, to talk about it, listen and support, and suggest further help.” The campaign is working to make the public more observant of their loved ones, to recognise when someone they care about is in danger, and to help intervene where possible.

Striking Anti-VAW Campaign #11: #ThatsNotLove Campaign – USA

 #ThatsNotLove is an initiative by OneLove, “a student-led movement to activate, educate, and empower others to change the statistics around relationship violence”. OneLove recently recorded a powerful video emphasising how abuse escalates over the course of a relationship. In the chilling campaign video, we witness how reasons such as “Because I love you, I text “I can’t live without you”” are warning signs of unhealthy behaviour.

Striking Anti-VAW Campaign #12: The Salvation Army Dress Campaign – South Africa

The South African Salvation Army - The DressWhile everyone on social media was trying to decide if ‘The Dress’ was white and gold or black and blue, the South African branch of The Salvation Army swiftly came up with a clever campaign to draw attention to VAW. The SA Salvation Army tweeted an image of a model wearing The Dress with the caption “The only illusion is if you think it was her choice. One in 6 women are victims of abuse. Stop abuse against women.” The image, which contained the logo for Carehaven, a shelter for abused women and their children run by the SA Salvation Army, instantly went viral.

Striking Anti-VAW Campaign #13: The Purple Rose Campaign – The Philippines

The Purple Rose Campaign Against the Trafficking of Women and Children, under the guidance of AF3IRM, has been running for the past 15 years and continues to advocate against sex trafficking in the Philippines. AF3IRM has partnered with “local communities and organizations to develop trainings and gather resources to provide sexual violence relief for women and children, to identify and stop trafficking, as well as to address reproductive justice and livelihood needs.”

Striking Anti-VAW Campaign #14: Turkish Men Wear Miniskirts In Support Of Women’s Rights – Turkey

After the violent murder of 20-year-old Ozgecan Aslan, men in Turkey took to the streets in miniskirts to campaign against VAW. The protestation spilled over to social media with Turkish men posting images of themselves online alongside the hash tag #ozgecanicinminietekgiy, which translates to “wear a miniskirt for Ozgecan”. The Campaign garnered 900,000 petition signatures asking that institutions to take responsibility for attacks on women.

Striking Anti-VAW Campaign #15: Violence against Women (VAW) campaign – Nepal

WOREC’s Violence against Women campaign is currently using programs to “address numerous multi-faceted issues responsible for VAW in Nepal.” The campaign aims to tackle the causes of women trafficking and other forms of VAW. WOREC has been working for years to end trafficking and run a Women’s Rehabilitation Centre as well as a Safe House.

Striking Anti-VAW Campaign #16: We Can Stop It – Scotland

Police Scotland created We Can Stop It, a rape prevention campaign that targets young men between the ages to 16 – 27. The campaign’s shocking advertisement asks “Do you really know what rape is?” Police Scotland used this perpetrator-focused approach, rather than telling women to be safe and advising them on how not to get raped. Police Scotland is also working with bar owners to train their staff to intervene when they spot women who may be vulnerable.

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

16days-header-female-rolemodels-2014-1n

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.

Activism 101: 16 Striking Campaigns for the Cause to End Violence Against Women

As we have noted and discussed time and time again, Violence Against Women (VAW) is an issue that is considered controversial, taboo and/or normal in many communities and cultures worldwide to the point where, depending on the community and culture, any of the following take place:

  • VAW is swept under the rug – characterised as a “private” family matter that should never be discussed in public.
  • VAW becomes the “elephant in the room” in public discourse whereby communities know who is doing the beating/who are the rapists/who is being cut etc but willfully turn a blind eye.
  • VAW is seen as too “triggering” or ugly a topic to be discussed in normal conversation even while the media and entertainment normalises and desensitises VAW.
  • VAW is ridiculed as a special interest issue – a “women’s issue” – even if women comprise half the planet’s population and are certainly not a minority/special interest group.
  • VAW is demonised as a feminist and sexist red herring by Male Rights Activists and other upholders of the patriarchal norm.