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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written and compiled by Anushia Kandasivam

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Author Against VAW 1: Alexandra Sokoloff

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

 

Author Against VAW 2: Christopher Golden

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

Author Against VAW 3: Claudia Gray

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

Author Against VAW 4: Colleen Gleason

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

Author Against VAW 5: Dan Wells

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

Author Against VAW 6: Darynda Jones

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

Author Against VAW 7: Gregg Hurwitz

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

Author Against VAW 8: Keri Arthur

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

Author Against VAW 9: Lauren Beukes

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

Author Against VAW 10: Laurie R. King

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

Author Against VAW 11: Max Gladstone

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

Author Against VAW 12: Meg Cabot

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

Author Against VAW 13: Nalini Singh

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

Author Against VAW 14: Steven Erikson

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

Author Against VAW 15: Tamora Pierce

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

Author Against VAW 16: Victoria V.E. Schwab

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written and compiled by Regina Yau

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Female Role Model 1: Balkissa Chaibou – Niger

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

Female Role Model 2: Bogaletch Gebre – Ethiopia

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

Female Role Model 3: Clementine Ford – Australia

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

Female Role Model 4: Fatou Bensouda – Gambia

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

Female Role Model 5:  Frida Farrell – Sweden

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

Female Role Model 6: Jacqueline de Chollet – Switzerland

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

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

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

Female Role Model 8: Loubna Abida – Morocco

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

Female Role Model 9: Nadia Murad Basee Tahar – Iraq

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

Female Role Model 10: Omaima Hoshan – Syria

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

Female Role Model 11: Rachana Sunar – Nepal

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

Female Role Model 12: Radha Rani Sakher – Bangladesh

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

Female Role Model 13: Sarian Karim Kamara – Sierra Leone

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

Female Role Model 14: Tabassum Adnan – Pakistan

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

Female Role Model 15: Vidya Bal – India

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

Female Role Model 16: Zahra Yaganah – Afghanistan

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

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Photo Credits:

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

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

_________________________________________________________________________

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.

Transforming Personal Pain Into Positive Action: The Pixel Project’s 16 Female Role Models 2013

16days-header-rolemodels-2013Today is the first day of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence 2013 campaign and The Pixel Project is kicking things off with our 4th 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 13 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, 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.

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.

So without further ado, here in alphabetical order by first name is our 2013 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.

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.

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Female Role Model 1: Caroline Criado-Perez – United Kingdom 

Caroline Criado PerezCaroline Criado-Perez is a freelance journalist and feminist campaigner who successfully campaigned to persuade the Bank of England to include a prominent woman (Jane Austen) among an otherwise all-male group of British luminaries on the back of British currency. The success of the campaign made her and other women (such as British MP Stella Creasy) the target of numerous threats, including threats of rape and murder on Twitter from the day of the Bank of England’s announcement in July 2013. At one point, she received 50 Twitter threats an hour. She fought back against the abuse publicly, which resulted in Twitter’s general manager in Britain, Tony Wang, announcing a one-click option on all posts enabling users to easily report abusive tweets, where previously there was no recourse for victims of online harassment on Twitter.

Female Role Model 2: Deeyah – Norway

deeyahDeeyah, a critically acclaimed music producer, composer, Emmy and Peabody award-winning documentary film director and human rights activist, is known for her outspoken support of women’s rights, freedom of expression and peace.  Her documentary about Honour Killing, ‘Banaz: A Love Story’, won an Emmy Award in 2013 and is currently being used by “individual police teams in different parts of the UK who have reached out to [Deeyah] directly in the last 12 months to ask for copies of the film to use in their training and awareness raising strategies.” Before making “Banaz: A Love Story” and founding AVA Foundation, she was a well-known music artiste in Norway who was forced to give up performing due to constant threats and attacks, but continues to use her music as part of her activism to stop violence against women and girls. She says: “

Female Role Model 3: Fartuun Adan – Somalia

Fartuun-AdanFartuun Adan is the founder of Sister Somalia, a group dedicated to supporting survivors of sexual violence with medical services, counseling, education and entrepreneurial advice. Her mission began in 2007 when she left her children in Canada, where they were refugees from the Somalian war after the brutal murder of her husband, Somali human rights activist Elman Ali Ahmed, to return to Somalia to continue her husband’s work. While working in refugee camps that mushroomed around Mogadishu, she noticed the high volume of rape and other violence against women and children, which led her to set up Sister Somalia – the first organisation in the country to come out publicly and talk about the astonishing number of sexual abuse victims.

Female Role Model 4: Julie Lalonde – Canada

Julie LalondeJulie Lalonde whose work to stop violence against women has pitted her against the administration of Carleton University in a protracted fight for an on-campus sexual assault centre, as well as against OC Transpo and the city, at times, over harassment and violence against women. She has been given a Governor General’s Award in Commemoration of the Person’s Case for “improving the lives of women and girls through her work to end sexual assault and sexual harassment.”

 

Female Role Model 5: Kakenya Ntaiya – Kenya 

Ntiya KakenyaKakenya Ntaiya, the founder of Kakenya’s Center for Excellence in the tiny, rural village of Enoosaen which helps at-risk girls flee from female genital mutilation (FGM). Kakenya was engaged at age five to the six-year-old boy next door and expected to undergo FGM and be a child bride but while she endured FGM, she broke the cycle by convincing her village elders to allow her to attend college in the U.S. and vowed to return and build a school, a maternity hospital, a future for girls. She earned a Doctorate in Education from the University of Pittsburgh and fulfilled her promise by returning to her village and building Kakenya’s Center.

 

Female Role Model 6: Kim Lee – China

kimlee3Kim Lee, an American woman who married a Chinese celebrity went public with her abuse case and won after an 18-month court battle. Women’s rights activists said it is a milestone case in China against domestic violence against women. Lee said: “I made a conscious decision. I used a Chinese lawyer, I used Chinese courts,” she says. “To be honest, a lot of my American friends did not understand this. They were like, ‘You’re crazy. You’re American. Go to the embassy immediately.’ But I did not want to teach my daughters, ‘No one can beat you because you’re American.’ I wanted to teach them, ‘No one can beat you because you’re a person, you’re a woman.’

Female Role Model 7: Kriti Bharti – India

Kriti BhartiIn a country where a staggering 40 per cent of the world’s child marriages take place, Kriti Bharti, an award-winning anti-child-marriage activist and women and children’s rights campaigner, has single handedly established the charity Saarthi Trust in 2012 to help victims of India’s child marriage crisis. Bharti says: “A lot of people who are determined to stop me from doing my work… Death threats have become a part of my life now and I have come to accept it as part of this job.” She has a group of around five volunteers to assist her but on almost all child bride-saving missions, she prefers to go alone. “I don’t want to put the lives of others at risk,’’ she says.

Female Role Model 8: Kym Worthy – United States of America

Kym WorthyKim Worthy, the first African-American woman to become prosecutor of Detroit, and her team discovered a backlog of over 11,000 rape kits while doing an inventory of Detroit police department evidence. Disgusted by the apathy of the police department in tackling rape cases, she assembled a team of volunteers to begin the lengthy process of cataloguing the rape kits. Worthy and her team of volunteers attracted national attention, and she was awarded a federal grant of $1.5m to continue the work. Since 2009, 1600 rape kits have been investigated by Worthy’s team, a staggering 37 serial rapists have been identified and 13 cases have been brought against suspects as a direct result of Worthy’s endeavours.

Female Role Model 9: Liu Ngan Fung – Hong Kong

Liu Ngan Fung_croppedAfter Liu Ngan Fung left her violent and abusive husband, she began volunteering with an organisation called Kwan Fook, helping other women suffering from domestic violence. She became a curriculum adviser to social work lecturers at Hong Kong University to stop the practice of sending women back to their violent partners. When she became a staffer for a member of the Hong Kong Legislative Council, she provided research and advice on domestic violence. Ms Liu was part of a coalition of community groups, politicians and advocates that successfully lobbied for changes to domestic violence laws and policies in Hong Kong.

 

Female Role Model 10: Mae Azango – Liberia

CANADIAN JOURNALISTS FOR FREE EXPRESSION - CJFEMae Azango is a Liberian journalist who has become internationally renowned (as well as infamous among traditionalists in her own country) for exposing the horrors of FGM as it is practiced in the Liberian outback. When she published an unusually detailed article about the fatal consequences of FGM in her newspaper, Front Page Africa, she began receiving death and FGM threats. Mae says: “My father wanted to send me [for FGM],” Azango says. “But my mother, who went to college, she said no. And that is what saved me.” Now, her journalistic mission is to help educate and empower other women to make the same choice for their daughters.

Female Role Model 11: Minh Dang – United States of America 

Minh DangAfter years of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, Minh Dang’s parents sold her for sex, starting at age 10. She kept the abuse hidden throughout her childhood and when she finished college, she was finally able to break free from them to rebuild her life. Today, she is a prominent anti-sex trafficking activist working with actress and activist Jada Pinkett Smith, and her non-profit Don’t Sell Bodies. Both women met with U.S. senators in Washington, D.C. Ms. Dang is committed to using her past not only to urge new legislation to end human trafficking, but also to help other victims who can’t yet speak out. “It’s not just one focus of stopping human trafficking, but building survivors in that process,” Dang said.

Female Role Model 12: Nimko Ali – United Kingdom 

Nimko AliBristol-based campaigner Nimko Ali, who is of Somali heritage, set up the charity, Daughters of Eve, to help girls at risk of Female Genital Mutilation and push for the practice to be stopped. Ms. Ali, who has lived in the UK since she was four, herself underwent FGM at age seven while on holiday in Djibouti. She says: “I only decided to go public very recently after seeing other girls put themselves in danger by speaking out. The weeks afterwards were the most horrifying of my life. I lost friends – one even offered to kill me for £500.” Undeterred, Ms.Ali and her fellow anti-FGM activists have continued to speak out about FGM in the UK where their message that FGM is child abuse and needs to be stopped has been gathering moment.

Female Role Model 13: Nusreta Sivac – Bosnia Herzegovina

Bosnia Rape as War CrimeNusreta Sivac, a Muslim Bosniak, was one of 37 women raped by guards at a concentration camp in Bosnia. Today, it’s partly thanks to Sivac’s efforts to gather testimony from women across Bosnia that rape has been categorized as a war crime under international law. Thirty people have been convicted at the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague and another 30 cases are ongoing. She personally helped put the man who raped her repeatedly during her two months in captivity behind bars. Sivac who has since testified in several cases, including against Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, is satisfied with what she has achieved, although she wishes the ongoing cases would accelerate. “It’s slow, very slow,” she said. “But it is a start.”

Female Role Model 14: Simona Broomes – Guyana 

Simona BroomesSimona Broomes is a Guyanese activist and the president of the Guyana Women Miners Organisation. She routinely travels to gold and diamond mining camps to rescue underage girls working as prostitutes. Her work has life-threatening consequences. In an interview with The Associated Press, she stated that she recently began carrying a gun after she was assaulted during one of her trips. Death threats forced her to close her mining equipment business and undeterred, she began organising fundraising barbeques to raise money to enable her to continue her work to extricate girls from forced prostitution at mining camps. In July 2013, she was honoured by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for her anti-sex trafficking work.

Female Role Model 15: Stephanie Sinclair – United States of America 

Stephanie SinclairStephanie Sinclair is a photojournalist who has spent almost a decade documenting some of the most eye opening images of child brides. She began her work on this issue after she discovered that many Afghan women who had set themselves on fire were child brides. Her project has led her to Ethiopia, India, Nepal and Yemen where underage marriage for girls is rife. The resulting images have been published worldwide by prestigious publications such as National Geographic and the New York Times magazine. When interview by Christiane Amanpour at CNN, she said: “I want to point out that child marriage is an issue in more than 50 countries around the world, and even in our own country we have had issues of it as well and still do, and so nobody is really exempt from it. It’s a harmful traditional practice that is slowly changing we just want to see it change even faster.”

Female Role Model 16: Valentina Sagaya – Indonesia

Valentina SagayaValentina Sagaya is the founder of Yayasan Institut Perempuan (Women’s Institute Foundation), the first women’s organisation in Bandung, Indonesia. Ms.Sagaya and her organisation has been pushing for reforms to laws that “dehumanise women, and even create and perpetuate violence against women,” a situation which she believes had a part in enabling the mass rape tragedy during the violence of 1998 across Indonesia. She says: “I can get so mad when facing injustice [against women].”  In addition to her work via her organisation, Ms Sagaya has also set up community-based groups to provide services to victims of human trafficking through the West Java Anti-Trafficking Movement Network. For her work in women’s human rights, she has been named as the Indonesia N-Peace Awards Role Model For Peace 2013.

Transforming Personal Pain Into Positive Action: The Pixel Project’s 16 Female Role Models 2012

Today is the first day of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence 2012 campaign and The Pixel Project is kicking things off with our 3rd 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 14 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, 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.

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. Continue reading

Transforming Personal Pain Into Positive Action: The Pixel Project’s 16 Female Role Models 2011

When we presented our first list of 16 female role models fighting to end violence against women in their communities back in December 2010, our sole intent was simple: to highlight the good work of the heroines of the movement to end violence against women wherever they are in the world. Indeed, this list came about because The Pixel Project team noticed the bright sparks of these women’s efforts in our daily work to collect, collate and share news about the violence against women movement worldwide.

We hoped that these women would be an inspiration to others to get involved with the cause and were delighted to see the outpouring of support that the Facebook and Twitter communities showed for the 2010 list of female role models. Thanks to the generous amounts of sharing and retweeting of the list by our supporters and their networks, those 16 women got an extra – and well-deserved – moment in the spotlight.

With such an overwhelmingly positive response to last year’s list, we decided to make the list an annual online milestone to continue shining a light on many more dedicated and awe-inspiring women activists toiling ceaselessly to prevent, stop and end violence against women in their communities. Continue reading