The Pixel Project Selection 2016: 16 Books About Violence Against Women

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Stories have the power to fire the imagination and provoke new thoughts and ideas. For this purpose, The Pixel Project has put together a list of 16 books that depict violence against women and girls. Some of these stories are fictional and some are not, but all of them will educate the reader in some way about violence, rape culture, cultural mores and misogyny.

The stories on this list have been taken from various genres, from thrillers and dramas to science fiction and autobiographies but they all show a common trend of entrenched and pervasive violence against women in the diverse societies they portray. They do, however, offer threads of hope, with people and characters pushing back against the tide and fighting for a world where women and girls are free from violence.

This list is not exhaustive; there are hundreds of stories out there that deal with violence against women in its various forms. But we hope that these 16 stories will education and inspire you as they have galvanised others over the years to push for change in your community.

Written and compiled by Anushia Kandasivam


Selection number 1: Speak (1999) by Laurie Halse Anderson

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This young adult novel tells the story of a teenager Melinda Sordino who starts the new school year as a selective mute. She is ostracised by her peers because she had called the police to a house party but the truth about why she did this is not revealed until much later. Melinda finds a way to express herself through art with the help of a supportive teacher, which helps her come to terms with her trauma and finally give voice to it. Speak is written in a diary format, so the plot is non-linear and jumpy, mimicking Melinda’s feelings and her journey. It is interesting to note that this book has faced censorship because of its mature content. It was made into a film in 2004 starring Kristen Stewart.

Selection number 2: The Colour Purple (1982) by Alice Walker

colorpurpleA Pulitzer Prize winning novel set in rural Georgia, USA in the 1930s, The Colour Purple focuses on the lives of African American women, including their low social status, struggles through poverty and the sexism and sexual violence they have to live through. The story follows Celie, a poor and uneducated teenage girl who experiences sexual violence from a young age and who is forced to marry an older man. The novel not only explores the themes of violence, sexism and racism, it also touches on gender roles, with several characters blurring the boundaries of gender expectations. There is also a strong underlying theme of sisterhood – women supporting each other through the trials and tribulations of life. In fact, it is this strong bond between the main women characters in the novel that enables their self-realisation and growth. Despite its popularity and awards, The Colour Purple continues to be challenged by censors for its depictions of violence and homosexuality, among other things. It has been adapted into a film and a musical.

Selection number 3: La Dangereuse (2016) by Loubna Abidar and Marion Van Renterghem

la-dangereuseLa Dangereuse (The Dangerous Woman) is the French-language autobiography of Moroccan actress Loubna Abidar, based on interviews with Le Monde journalist Marion Van Renterghem, tells the story of how Abidar overcame poverty and physical and sexual abuse by her father to become one of Morocco’s most acclaimed young actresses. Last year, Abidar was vilified for playing the role of a prostitute in award-winning local film Much Loved and was later beaten on the streets of Casablanca. A refugee ever since, the 31-year-old speaks frankly in her book about the hypocrisy of men, the weight of tradition and taboos and the profound misogyny in her society and culture, but also declares that she refuses to live in fear.

Selection number 4: The Shining Girls (2013) by Lauren Beukes

laurenbeukes_shininggirls_1st_edThis science fiction thriller by South African author Beukes steps back and forth through time following a serial killer who is compelled to stalk and murder ‘shining girls’, young women with great potential whom he sees as literally shining. One of his victims, Kirby Mazrachi, who was attacked in 1989, survives and turns the tables, hunting him back. Besides the mystery and thriller elements, the novel also depicts a survivor’s story through Kirby and how she deals with the aftermath of her attack, and offers readers strong and powerful female characters who overcome their fears to fight back.

Selection number 5: Trafficked: My Story of Surviving, Escaping and Transcending Abduction into Prostitution (2013) by Sophie Hayes

traffickedThis first-hand account of a human trafficking survivor took the author’s home country by storm when it first came out because of one surprising detail – the author and survivor Sophie Hayes is from the UK, a country not known for human trafficking and where people are not as aware of sex trafficking as they should be. Hayes, a young, educated English woman, was tricked and abducted by a man she thought of as her boyfriend and forced to work as a prostitute in a strange country. Beaten and otherwise abused, Hayes took advantage of a chance opportunity to escape. This memoir has generated much discussion in the UK and other first-world countries about the unseen world of human trafficking as well as calls for more awareness and better law and policy. Hayes along with a small team also set up The Sophie Hayes Foundation, which conducts research on human trafficking, creates awareness and offers support to survivors.

Selection number 6: The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II (1997) by Iris Chang

therapeofnanking_1edcoverThis bestselling non-fiction book is about the Nanking Massacre, the 1937-1938 campaign of mass murder and rape by the Imperial Japanese Army after its capture of the city of Nanjing, then the capital of China. In the book, Chang details the atrocities committed by the Japanese Army, including killing, torture and rape; women and girls from all classes and of all ages were raped. The book has received as much criticism as it has acclaim but either way it did much to bring light to a much-ignored yet significant part of World War II, war crimes in general and war crimes perpetrated against women specifically.

Selection number 7: If I Were a Boy (1936) by Haki Stёrmilli

sikur_tisha_djale-if-i-were-a-boyThis Albanian-language epistolary novel (Sikur t’isha djalё) tells the story of a young girl named Dija as she goes through life in the strictly patriarchal Albanian society. Told through a series of diary entries read by Dija’s male cousin, it describes in first person the hardships, struggles and horrors she experiences throughout her life because of her having virtually no say in anything that happens to her. She is forced into marriage to a much older man, suffers abuse, and battles depression and suicidal thoughts.

Selection number 8: Indigo Blue (2005) by Cathy Cassidy

indigo-blueA children’s book, Indigo Blue is about young Indigo whose mother suddenly decides to move her and her baby sister out of their cozy house to a ‘flat from hell’. While at first she does not understand why they have to leave their old life and her mother’s boyfriend behind and suffer poor living conditions and not enough food, Indigo eventually learns to take charge and make the most of her situation. The novel depicts domestic violence, love and depression in various forms, giving young readers some understanding and insight into a family situation that has become prevalent in all societies.

Selection number 9: A Handmaid’s Tale (1985) by Margaret Atwood

thehandmaidstale1stedA dystopian speculative fiction novel set in the near future, A Handmaid’s Tale has won and been nominated for several awards and been adapted for film, radio, opera and stage. Exploring the themes of the subjugation of women, it tells the story of a particular young woman call Offred who is a handmaid, part of the class of women whose sole purpose is reproduction in a society where people are divided and distinguished by sex, occupation and caste. Clothing is colour-coded to reflect this division and it is strongly implied that while some men clothes, such as military uniforms, empower men, women have little to no power in society. The novel engenders discussion about control over people – Offred struggles for agency throughout the story – consent in relationships and the need for women to support each other.

Selection number 10: My Story (2014) by Elizabeth Smart with Chris Stewart

my-storyNow a child safety activist, Elizabeth Smart was 14 when she was abducted from her home in Salt Lake City and rescued nine months later. In this memoir, Smart tells of her ordeal, her determined hold on hope and how she devised a plan to increase her chances of escape or rescue. She also details how she coped after the fact, seeing justice served and her journey of healing and becoming an advocate. The novel emphasises the importance of individual self worth in survivors. Smart founded the Elizabeth Smart Foundation to prevent and put a stop to predatory crimes.

Selection number 11: Echo Burning (2001) by Lee Child

echo-burningThe fifth book in the Jack Reacher series by Lee Child and a thriller at its core, Echo Burning also explores domestic abuse. In the story, Reacher is approached by a woman, Carmen, who wants her husband killed because he is about to be released from prison and return home, whereupon he will inevitably start beating her again. Child has said that, inspired by an American Old West gunfighter who ‘never killed a man that did not need killing’, he wanted to explore the idea of man who Reacher is told needed killing. The story also explores the ambiguity of character – there is always a question whether Carmen can be trusted – as well as the diversity of American society as reflected in the character of a powerful female lawyer.

Selection number 12: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2005) by Stieg Larsson

thegirlwiththedragontattooThis internationally bestselling psychological thriller, titled Mӓn som hatar kvinnor (Men Who Hate Women) in its original Swedish, was translated and published in English in 2008. The eponymous girl is brilliant but troubled researcher and hacker Lisbeth Salander, who assists protagonist Mikael Blomkvist as he has been hired to solve the disappearance and possible murder of a girl. There is a strong theme of violence against women in various forms, including sexual predation and murder, and the story shows how violence can happen to and be perpetrated by anyone from any social class.

Selection number 13: Rose Madder (1995) by Stephen King

rosemadderThough Stephen King has explored the theme of domestic violence in several novels, in Rose Madder it plays an integral part of the plot. The protagonist is Rose Daniels, who lives with an abusive husband for 14 years before finally deciding that she has to leave him. The story shows this turning point and her subsequent journey to self-realisation while dealing with the constant fear that her husband, a policeman who is good at finding people, will track her down.

 

Selection number 14: Something Is Wrong at My House: A Book About Parents’ Fighting (2010) by Diane Davis

something-is-wrong-at-my-houseBased on a true story, this book was created for children who are seeking help for and understanding of domestic violence. It is written so that it can be used by both very young and school-age children, with simple but clear text and illustrations to help children make sense of a frightening situation and encourage them to talk about it with trusted adults. It is also designed so that it can be used by teachers, school counsellors and nurses, and therapists.

 

Selection number 15: Woman at Point Zero (1973) by Nawal El Saadawi

woman_at_point_zero_1st_eng_edBased on the author’s encounter with a female prisoner in Qanatir Prison in Egypt during her research into female neurosis, the premise of this story is a psychiatrist visiting a prison in which she meets and speaks with an unusual female prisoner, Firdaus, who has been accused of murder and is scheduled for execution. The story is that of the Firdaus’ life from her poor childhood when she witnessed domestic violence, survives genital mutilation and sexual abuse, to being forced into marriage with an older man and living through a violent marriage. Firdaus tells of how she gained agency, power and reached self-realisation before everything came crashing down.

Selection number 16: Alias (2001 – 2004) created by Brian Michael Bendis and Micahael Gaydos

aliasomnibusPublished by Marvel Comics under it MAX imprint, the Alias comic book series follows protagonist Jessica Jones after she leaves behind her life as a costumed hero and becomes a private investigator. The overarching story arc across the 28 issues is Jones’ character development as she comes to terms with a traumatic past where she was manipulated and abused, and as she struggles to deal with the present-day physical, emotional and mental consequences. Adapted into an on-going television series called Jessica Jones in 2015, this series has won two awards and been nominated for others.


Photo credits:

  1. Speak – From www.nobelwomensinitiative.org
  2. The Colour Purple – https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19909555
  3. La Dangereuse – From Amazon.fr 
  4. The Shining Girls – from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39574596 (Book Cover design by Joey Hi-Fi)
  5. Trafficked: My Story of Surviving, Escaping and Transcending Abduction into Prostitution – From Amazon.com
  6. The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II  – From https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12768170
  7. If I Were a Boy – From https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36126680
  8. Indigo Blue – From Amazon.com
  9. A Handmaid’s Tale – From https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20132070
  10. My Story – From Amazon.com
  11. Echo Burning – From World of Books.
  12. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – From https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17084782
  13. Rose Madder – From https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15658136
  14. Something Is Wrong at My House: A Book About Parents’ Fighting – From Amazon.com
  15. Woman at Point Zero – From https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32458784
  16. Alias – From https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5599614

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)

The Pixel Project Selection 2015: 16 films about violence against women

Film-Reel-225x300 (1)In this day and age, film is a particularly effective medium for teaching and learning. This is why, for the past four years, The Pixel Project has been publishing lists of powerful films, documentaries and television shows that seek to inform and educate the public about the worldwide scourge of violence against women, its various forms, and what everyone can do to stop and prevent it.

In recent years, mainstream film has been slowly moving away from traditional sexist portrayals of women and VAW, both following and informing a trend in popular culture to be more respectful and aware of women’s rights. This year’s Mad Max: Fury Road, a blockbuster action film starring Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy, is a shining example of a film that used no gender stereotypes and that ignited lots of discussion on gender roles and portrayals. This is certainly a big step in the direction of gender equality but there is still, of course, much more to be achieved.

This year’s list of films and documentaries portray women and girls from diverse backgrounds who all have one thing in common – they are victims and survivors of violence against women. Though many of them may be difficult to watch because they deal with harrowing subjects in an explicit manner, it is important to watch them because they are portrayals of the truth. We hope that they will inspire you to join us in our quest to end violence against women and to be a catalyst of change in your own community.

Written and compiled by Anushia Kandasivam. Additional selections by Catalina Rembuyan and Regina Yau.

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 

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Selection Number 1: A Daughter’s Debt

One of the first films to explore women’s issues among the Hmong people, A Daughter’s Debt follows three generations of Hmong-American women as they talk about cultural practices that include bride purchase, polygamy and marriage by capture, and how these practices affect them in their community in the United States. The film was screened at the recent Cannes Film Festival as part of the Short Film Catalogue.

Selection Number 2: A Handful of Ash

For almost a decade, reporters Nabez Ahmad and Shara Amin shed light into one of the most taboo topics in Kurdish society: female genital mutilation. They took their documentary, A Handful of Ash, which was produced in 2003, to the Kurdish Parliament, allying with a German-Iraqi non-governmental organisation, Wadi. At first, no one paid attention except for a few female politicians. But the film and the campaign was the start of a movement. Three years later, Human Rights Watch released a report on female genital mutilation in Kurdistan. In 2011, female circumcision was outlawed across Iraqi Kurdistan. In 2013, two years after the campaign’s success, The Guardian released a 17-minute condensed version of A Handful of Ash, viewable of their website.

Selection Number 3: After the Rape: The Mukhtar Mai Story

[Trigger warning: This video contains descriptions of rape] Mukhtar Mai is a Pakistani woman from a rural village who was gang-raped on the orders of a local tribal clan as a form of honour revenge in 2002. Mukhtar defied custom to speak up and report the rapes to the authorities. Mukhtar’s bravery and quest for justice ignited a series of events that has led to more awareness of women’s rights in rural Pakistan. Realising that education holds the key to changing society’s mentality, Mukhtar opened two schools for girls in her village as well as a crisis centre for abused women.  The documentary follows the progress of the school and tracks the profound impact that education and access to the crisis centre has empowered women and girls in this rural part of Pakistan.

Selection Number 4: Daughters of Mother India 

In 2012, a young woman was violently gang-raped and murdered in New Delhi. The incident sparked widespread outrage, generating discussion and criticism of India’s long history of gender violence and inequality, precipitating public protests against the state and central governments for what was seen as continued failure to provide security for women in India. Daughters of Mother India documents the response of Indian policy makers and activists to the epidemic of sexual violence in the country. The film has received strong commendations and high praise from viewers both within India and beyond.

Selection Number 5: Forced 

Calgary filmmaker Iman Bukhari wanted to bring to light the fact that forced marriages happen in a first-world nation such as Canada. Her documentary sheds light on the continuing cycle of forced marriages in families and though the film does emphasise that these marriages can happen to any gender, it follows the story of a female victim and features interviews with a mother who forced her daughter into marriage. Bukhari has stated that her intention for Forced is to open a dialogue about forced marriages with the aim of bringing the issue out into the open and helping to end the cycle.

Selection Number 6: GTFO

This documentary is about the pervasive misogyny and abuse of women in the gaming world. It documents not just gamers but also female game designers, developers, programmers and others in the gaming industry who consistently receive abuse for being the ‘wrong’ gender in what is still a boys’ club, as well as the abuse and intimidation of women who speak out against it. Documentary maker Shannon Sun-Higginson was inspired to make the film after watching a clip from a major gaming competition in which a player repeatedly sexually harassed his teammate.

Selection Number 7: Hey…Shorty

Inspired by the now iconic 1998 documentary on street harassment War Zone, this short documentary was created and produced by five interns at Girls for Gender Equity (GGE), an organisation in Brooklyn, New York, committed to the physical, psychological, social, and economic development of girls and women. The filmmakers, who ranged from 15 to 18 years old, spent eight months interviewing young women of colour in their neighbourhood about the impact of street harassment on their life. The documentary also features interviews with several men of colour, both young and old, about their intentions behind the behaviour, and examines the root causes of the phenomenon of the harassment of women in public spaces.

Selection Number 8: It Happened Here

[Trigger warning: description of rape and examples of rape threats] This documentary is about the pervasive and seemingly unstoppable phenomenon of sexual assault on the campuses of American colleges and the apathy and dismissive behaviour of the authorities involved. The film contains personal testimonials of five survivors and reveals their struggles to get justice and the blame they face from those who should be on their side. It also serves as a mouthpiece for these women and others who are speaking out against the institutionalised cover-ups of campus sexual assaults.

Selection Number 9: Out in the Night

This documentary asks the question: Do women have a right to defend themselves against street harassment? The film follows the story of four young African-American lesbian women who were walking through a New York neighbourhood one night in 2006 when they were confronted, harassed and assaulted by an older man. When the man became violent, the four friends fought back to defend themselves. When the police arrived at the scene, the women were arrested. They were subsequently charged with gang assault, assault and attempted murder. The film follows the lives of the women and explores how race, gender, gender identity and sexuality plays a part in violence perpetrated on strangers, especially women. It also discusses how these factors were sensationalised and criminalised by mainstream news media.

Selection Number 10: Provoked

This 2006 film starring Bollywood leading lady Aishwarya Rai tells the story of Kiranjit Ahluwalia, an Indian woman in an arranged marriage who moves to the UK with her husband, and who later kills him after enduring years of abuse. The film follows her trial, incarceration and subsequent appeal in court. In real life, Ahluwalia’s appeal became a landmark case in British law and is still used as precedent today; it changed the legal definition of the word ‘provocation’ in cases of domestic violence so as to reclassify her crime to manslaughter instead of murder. Ahluwalia’s case also created awareness of domestic violence amongst immigrant families in the UK.

Selection Number 11: Rape on the Night Shift

[Trigger warning: Survivor accounts in this video include vivid descriptions of sexual assault.] This documentary, a collaboration between PBS Frontline and The Center for Investigative Reporting at the University of California Berkley, tackles an issue that probably has never been explored in film before: the sexual abuse of immigrant women in the janitorial industry in the United States. The assaults are perpetrated by co-workers, managers, building supervisors or security guards. The film features firsthand accounts from survivors and explores and reveals the dangers and difficulties confronted by these women working in low-paying jobs in deserted buildings at night.

Selection Number 12: Searching for Angela Shelton

In this award-winning documentary, filmmaker Angela Shelton drives around the United States looking for and surveying other women named Angela Shelton. Shelton’s search for other Angela Sheltons started as a simple effort to locate as many women with the same name across the United States as she could. When speaking with the women, she found that about 70% of them were survivors of childhood sexual abuse or other forms of domestic violence. This, coupled with events in her own childhood, when she and her siblings were sexually molested by her father and stepmother, inspired her to make the documentary wherein she interviews the other Angela Sheltons, culminating in her confrontation with her father. Following the documentary, Shelton created a Survival Manual to help survivors of violence heal: www.survivormanual.com

Selection Number 13: Speak

At first glance, this film seems to be a typical teen movie, but it actually deals with a little covered topic – teen sexual assault. The film is told from the perspective of Melinda Sordino (Kristen Stewart), a sardonic teen who starts a new year of high school as a selective mute. She is ostracised by her peers and labelled her a ‘squealer’ as she had called the police to a house party. The truth about why she did this is not revealed until much later when Melinda herself comes to terms with her trauma and finds the courage to speak out. Based on the Laurie Halse Anderson novel of the same name, the film shows how sexual assault can damage a young person’s sense of identity and explores the difficulties victims face in verbalising their trauma and telling a person in authority what happened.

Selection Number 14: The Hunting Ground

The Hunting Ground is a documentary that exposes and discusses rape culture on American university campuses. Aired at the Sundance Film Festival this year, the film sparked strong reactions, gaining almost unanimous praise from critics and a standing ovation from audiences, but also passionate denial and skepticism from some viewers. Inspired by The Invisible War (selection number 15), The Hunting Ground follows Andrea Pino and Annie E. Clark, two survivors of sexual assault on campus who refused to be intimidated or silenced by their respective school administration and became activists on rape culture. A day before the film was released in theatres, the Campus Accountability and Safety Act was re-introduced by a bipartisan group of US Senators accompanied by Pino and Clark.

Selection Number 15: The Invisible War

This award-winning documentary is an investigation into rape and sexual assault within the United States Armed Forces. It features interviews with veterans from various branches of the armed forces, journalists, advocates, mental health professionals and members of the military justice system, among others, and touches on the inadequate care for survivors of sexual assault, failures to address incidences of sexual assault and forced expulsion of survivors from service. The film, which calls for changes to the way the military handles reports of sexual assault, has won numerous awards and has had some influence on government policies aimed at reducing the prevalence of rape in the armed forces.

Selection number 16: The Storm Makers

This Cambodian-French co-production documents human trafficking in Cambodia where most of the victims of human trafficking are young women who are lured with promises of better opportunities abroad. In reality, they are held prisoner and forced to work in horrific conditions, sometimes as prostitutes.This film follows the story of a particular young peasant woman, Aya, who was sold to work in Malaysia aged 16, where she did not receive any salary and was beaten and abused. She returned to her village with a child, the result of rape. It also documents the lives of two powerful traffickers known as ‘Storm Makers’.

Transforming Personal Pain Into Positive Action: The Pixel Project’s 16 Female Role Models 2015

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Today is the first day of 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence 2015 and The Pixel Project is kicking off our 16 For 16 campaign 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 18 countries and 4 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. This year, we’re very proud to include a number of teenage activists who are campaigning against child marriage and acid attacks.

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 2015 list of 16 female role models. We hope that these women would be an inspiration to others to get involved with the global movement to end violence against women. 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.

Written and compiled by Regina Yau

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.

Picture credits are listed at the bottom of the article.

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 

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Female Role Model 1: Andrea Medina Rosas – Mexico

Andrea Medina Rosas_croppedAndréa Medina Rosas is a feminist human rights lawyer and independent consultant who works towards defending murdered and disappeared women, many who come from Ciudad Juárez, the city on the border of Mexico and the United States notoriously nicknamed the ‘capital of murdered women’. When Andréa was a teenager her feminist mother created an organisation for advancing women’s rights. Their first case involved helping a rape victim. Fifteen years later, Andréa is devoted to working with survivors of sexual violence and legally advocating for an end to violence against women. Andréa believes that women from different cultures need to come together to talk about gender violence and to work together on solutions.

Female Role Model 2: Charlotte Campbell-Stephen – Australia and Kenya

Charlotte Campbell Stephen_croppedIn 2006, Australian aid Charlotte Campbell-Stephen was brutally attacked and gang raped for 8 hours by a violent Nairobi gang. Campbell-Stephen courageously reported her rape in a roomful of male police. She took her rapists to court even though she was told by the police that no one won rape cases in Kenya (the Australian embassy in Kenya even advised her to go home). She was supported throughout her gruelling years-long court ordeal by the women from Nairobi’s slums, and Geoff Kinuya, the detective to whom she first reported her case in 2006. In May 2015, the documentary about her fight for justice, I Will Not Be Silenced, was launched at the 2015 Human Rights Arts and Film festival in Melbourne.

Female Role Model 3: Chieftainess Mwenda (Sophia Thomas Chibaye) – Zambia

Cheiftainee Mwanda_croppedChieftainess Mwenda (Sophia Thomas Chibaye) rules over 111 villagers is on a mission to stop child marriage – a mission which began when, four years ago, she learned about the dangers of teen pregnancies. She told the Thompson Reuters Foundation: “”No one should allow a child in school (to marry)”. Mwenda believes that educating her communities is the key to ending the practice of child marriage: “Children can only be safe in a school environment. As long as they remain in school they are safe from marriage.”

Female Role Model 4: Flavia Carvalho – Brazil

Flavia Carvalho_CroppedFlavia Carvalho is a tattoo artist who decided to use her skills to help survivors via her project A Pele da Flor (The Skin of the Flower) through which she tattoos over scars women had suffered from acts of violence free of charge. Carvalho was inspired to do so after she met a client who wanted to cover up a scar on her abdomen that was the result of a violent attack by a man whom she had turned down. She told The Huffington Post: “Each tattoo would act as an instrument for empowerment and a self-esteem booster… The project’s name refers to the Portuguese expression “A flor da pele” (deeper than skin), which speaks of how strongly we feel when facing an extremely difficult or challenging situation.”

Female Role Model 5: Fraidy Reiss – United States of America

headshot Fraidy Reiss_croppedFraidy Reiss’s marriage to an abusive husband was arranged by the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community she came from when she was just 19 years old.  Reuss told NPR that she knew her husband for only three months before they were married, and that as she tried to raise her two daughters, she began to fear for their lives because her husband would lunge at her and describe in graphic detail how he was going to kill her. After courageously escaping her abuser and leaving the community, she founded Unchained At Last – a nonprofit dedicated to helping other American women escape arranged and forced marriages. Unchained At Last also offers women free legal assistance and representation, as well as assistance with the social services they need to rebuild their lives.

Female Role Model 6: Hadiqa Bashir – Pakistan

Hadiqa Bashir_CroppedWhen Hadiqa Bashir was 10 years old, her grandmother tried to pressure her into a marriage but she saw how one of her classmates who got married in the sixth grade suffered from severe domestic violence and, with the support of her uncle, fought her grandmother’s decision and won. Today, Hadiqa is a 13-year-old activist working to end child marriage in her culture while calling for families to send girls to school. She goes from door to door in her community to talk to parents of girls about the benefits of educating daughters. She said: “I realised that many other girls would suffer like my classmate, and that’s when I decided to start this campaign. Educate your children, don’t make them marry early, give them freedom. That is my message.”

Female Role Model 7: Inkosi Kachindamoto – Malawi

According to the UN Population Fund, Malawi has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world. The country is ranked 8th out of 20 countries considered to have the highest rates, and in 2012 one in every two girls was married before the age of 18. In June 2015, Senior Chief Inkosi Kachindamoto created a major stir when she annulled 330 customary marriages in Dedza district in the Central Region of Malawi, sent the children back to school, and fired the village heads who sanctioned the marriages. She told the Nyasa Times: “I don’t want youthful marriages, they must go to school … no child should be found loitering at home or doing household chores during school time.”

Female Role Model 8: Madeleine Rees – United Kingdom

Madeleine_Rees_(cropped)_compressedBritish human rights lawyer Madeleine Rees has worked on ending violence against women in the various roles and capacities she has taken on over her career. She was a United Nations official in Bosnia during which she blew the whistle on the role of UN peacekeepers in sex-trafficking. She has also helped shape the protocol for the investigation and documentation of sexual violence in war zones. Currently the secretary general of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), Rees said: “Stopping rape in war is never going to be entirely possible but there are ways to create more accountability.”

Female Role Model 9: Malika Saada Saar – United States of America

MALIKA headshot_CroppedMalika Saada Saar is a formidable activist and human rights lawyer who has devoted her life to advocating for the rights of women and girls. While at Georgetown University, Saada Saar founded Crossing the River, a written and spoken word workshop for mothers in recovery from substance abuse. The group eventually became the Rebecca Project, a policy and advocacy group which advocates for  women and families. The Rebecca Project’s notable successes include effectively lobbying for a ban on the practice of restraining incarcerated women during childbirth. Saar is currently the Executive Director of Rights4Girls, a human rights organisation that focuses on curbing violence against women through public policy and awareness.

Female Role Model 10: Massarat Misbah – Pakistan

Mussarat Misbah_croppedRenowned Pakistani beautician and entrepreneur Massarat Misbah was closing up one of her many beauty salons when she was approached by a young acid attack victim who begged her to help restore her face. Misbah was shocked at the disfigurement suffered by the young woman and decided to start a nonprofit arm of her beauty business called the Depilex Smile Again Foundation. To date, Misbah and her team have helped over 500 victims of acid attacks to restore their appearance through reconstructive surgery, apply for jobs, and rebuild their lives. Misbah told Women’s Agenda: “To me, Depilex Smile Again Foundation is a platform for survivors of acid and kerosene oil. It exists for them to come out of terrible situations and try to change their lives for the better.”

Female Role Model 11: Monica Singh – India and United States of America

Monica Singh_croppedA decade ago in Lucknow, India, Monica Singh suffered a brutal acid attack orchestrated by a man whose marriage proposal she turned down. Sixty-five percent of her body was burned severely and she had to undergo over 40 rounds of reconstructive surgery. Aside from rebuilding her own life as she works on her fashion career, she founded the Mahendra Foundation which provides support for other acid attack survivors. In her interview with The New York Times, she had this message for acid attack survivors: “Keep on living. Keep fighting. And be something that you always wanted to be. Forget that you lost your face, your soul is still intact, your mind is still intact. Keep on doing.”

Female Role Model 12: Muzoon Almellehan – Syria

Muzoon_Cropped16-year-old Muzoon Almellehan has been dubbed “the Malala of Syria” by her community of war survivors thanks to her tireless work to end child marriage over the past two years. Muzoon’s inspiration for her campaign began when she arrived in Jordan among an influx of Syrian refugees in 2013 and noticed that the rates of child marriage were rampant in the Za’atari refugee camp where she lives. UNICEF and Save the Children enlisted young activists to talk with parents about the importance of girls’ education. Muzoon joined up and quickly became an adept campaigner. She told the Daily Beast: “Lots people were listening [to me], even fathers… because I wouldn’t tell them in a forceful way, or say, ‘You have to send her to school.’ I’d initiate the debate and say girls’ education helps them the most.

Female Role Model 13: Sonita Alizadeh – Afghanistan

18-year-old Afghan music artiste Sonita Alizadeth uses rap music to push back against child marriage, including her own. When she was told that she would be married off as a teenage bride to a man she had never met, she wrote the song “Brides for Sale.” The song’s lyrics include: “Let me whisper, so no one hears that I speak of selling girls. My voice shouldn’t be heard since it’s against Sharia.” Sonita’s music video for the song features her wearing a wedding dress… and a barcode on her forehead as she pleads with her family not sell her off. Her parents loved the video and called off the wedding. Today, she uses her music to help other girls in danger of being sold off for marriage and to continue pushing against the tradition of child brides.

Female Role Model 14: Tania Rashid – Bangladesh and United States of America

Tania Rashid_croppedJournalist Tania Rashid has tackled the issue of violence against women through a story on gang rape in Bangladesh (which she had to pitch repeatedly for almost a year before it was accepted by Vice News), followed by her latest documentary production with Vice News, “Sex, Slavery, and Drugs in Bangladesh,“ gives appalling insight the daily happenings of Daulita which is the largest Bangladeshi brothel and the largest bordello in the world with more than 1,300 sex workers who serve over 3,000 men daily. Born in Saudi Arabia to a Bangladeshi father and Pathan mother before moving to the USA, Rashid was inspired by CNN journalist Christiane Amanpour to become a journalist dedicated to telling human rights stories.

Female Role Model 15: Peninnah Tombo – Kenya

Peninnah Tombo_croppedPenninah Tombo is a female genital mutilation survivor who has been harassed, threatened, and attacked by her tribe because of her dedication to helping Maasai girls escape female genital mutilation, forced early marriage, as well as helping them complete their schooling. In 1992, she founded Nasuru Ntoiye (Let’s Save the Girls) to advance her work. According to Tombo, her activism and advocacy on behalf of women and girls has met with stiff opposition because Masai men do not want their daughters to be educated and to learn they have rights. However, she continues to persevere and told the Los Angeles Times: “We are trying to change our way of living. We are trying to change the boys and girls, so that they can change our community.”

Female Role Model 16: Sima Basnet – Nepal

Sima Basnet - Sanjog Mandhar_CroppedSima Basnet and her friend Sangita Magar were studying at a tution center in Jhochhen, Nepal, when four masked men broke into the center, barged into the room, and splashed acid on them. Today, Sima speaks out against acid attacks. She told The Baltic Review: “I’ve always wanted to become a singer and I will not live in fear.” She adds: “I want some kind of justice, but I will go on with my life no matter what. This is my message to all girls and women out there; don’t give up.”

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Photo credits:

  1. Andréa Medina Rosas – From www.nobelwomensinitiative.org
  2. Charlotte Campbell-Stephen – From “I Will Not Be Silenced” trailer (YouTube)
  3. Chieftainess Mwenda (Sophia Thomas Chibaye) – From www.trust.org
  4. Flavia Carvalho – From ‘This Tattoo Artist is Covering the Scars of Domestic Violence Victims Free of Charge’ (Buzzfeed)
  5. Fraidy Reiss – Courtesy of Fraidy Reiss (www.unchainedatlast.org)
  6. Hadiqa Bashia – From Hadiqa Bashir’s Facebook page
  7. Inkosi Kachindamoto – Courtesy of UN Women
  8. Madeleine Rees – From “Madeleine Rees (cropped)” by Foreign and Commonwealth Office – http://www.flickr.com/photos/foreignoffice/8650982041/in/photostream/. Licensed under OGL via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Madeleine_Rees_(cropped).jpg#/media/File:Madeleine_Rees_(cropped).jpg
  9. Malika Saada Saar – Courtesy of Malika Saada Saar (www.Rights4Girls.org)
  10. Massarat Misbah – From ‘Meet The Woman Changing The Face Of Domestic Violence In Pakistan’ (Women’s Agenda)
  11. Monica Singh – Courtesy of Monica Singh (The Mahendra Singh Foundation)
  12. Muzoon Almellehan – From ‘Meet The Malala of Syria’ (Nina Strochlic/The Daily Beast)
  13. Sonita Alizadeh – From Instagram – @sonitaalizadeh
  14. Tania Rashid – Courtesy of Tania Rashid
  15. Sima Basnet – From ‘Nepalese Attack Survivors: “I Won’t Live In Fear”‘ (Sanjog Manandhar/Baltic-Review.com)
  16. Penninah Tombo – From The Los Angeles Times.

The Pixel Project’s VAW e-News Digest – The “16 For 16″ 2014 Edition

News-Coffee9-150x150Welcome to our 16 for 16 Special Edition of The Pixel Project’s VAW e-News Digest. In this edition, we bring you the top 16 news headlines in each category related to violence against women over the past year.

2014 can be seen as a banner year for progress in the global fight to end violence against women with the movement to end Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) continuing strong momentum in the UK and debuting in the USA, more people than ever (including ‘Harry Potter’ star Emma Watson) speaking out in support of feminism and stopping violence against women, more educational efforts ranging from schools teaching children about what forced marriage is (Australia) and what FGM is (UK), and what looks like an increasingly number of men getting on board the cause via efforts such as UN Women’s #HeForShe campaign and the White Ribbon campaign.

To kick things off, here are 16 of the biggest trending VAW headlines of 2014:

Every contribution matters. If you have any news you’d like to share about violence against women, please email The Pixel Project at info@thepixelproject.net. If you prefer to receive up-to-the-minute news concerning violence against women, follow us on Twitter . It’s time to stop violence against women together.

Best regards,
The Pixel Project Team


Violence Against Women – General


Domestic Violence


Sexual Assault / Rape


Human / Sex Trafficking


Female Genital Mutilation


Honour Killing and Forced/Child Marriage


Street Harassment


Activism

16 Ways of Preventing and Intervening in Child Marriages

M For MarriageThe practice of child marriage–matrimony before age 18–continues to disproportionately affect girls in certain cultures and communities with significant consequences to their education, health, and social life. Child brides have little say in when or whom they will marry, have little influence with their husbands and in-laws, have little opportunity to develop awareness of their rights, and are in no position to claim or demand them.

These large age gaps reinforce power differentials between girls and their husbands. Girls who marry before age 18 are more likely to experience violence within marriage than girls who marry later. Girls may lack the power to negotiate safer sex and have little access to information or services to prevent either pregnancy or infection. According to Girls Not Brides, girls under the age of 15 are 5 times more likely than women in their twenties to die during childbirth. Married girls are also more likely to have multiple children in shorter intervals and more likely to become disabled due to pregnancy or childbirth. Stillbirths and deaths during the first week of life are 50 percent higher among babies born to adolescent mothers than among babies born to mothers in their twenties. Children of adolescent mothers are also more likely to be premature and have low birth weight.

Governments are now recognising the importance of addressing child marriage and integrating societal changes to meet the UN Millennium Development goals. Supporting girls in avoiding child marriage, delaying having children, and finishing school brings opportunities for skills and income to eradicate poverty for future generations. Promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women ensures girls get choices as to when they marry and whom. Reducing child/forced marriage will reduce child mortality and disability related to child/teen pregnancy or childbirth. It will also improve maternal health which will reduce vulnerability to HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.

Though the practice of child marriage is rooted in tradition and culture, neither culture nor tradition is immutable and there is hope for change. This list presents 16 ways you can join in the efforts to end the practice of child marriage and influence change to ensure a better future for young girls and boys around the world.

Written and compiled by Angelique Mulholland with additional content by Regina Yau; Introduction by Carol Olson 


Way to Prevent Child/Forced Marriage #1: Educate Girls 

According to UNICEF, one in three girls in low- to middle-income countries will marry before the age of 18. Many studies have shown that it is more than likely that a girl who marries as a child will come from a community where education for girls is not valued. She will more than likely be illiterate and will have little to no understanding of her human rights. Girls having access to both primary and secondary education will improve their chances of access to employment and a means of supporting themselves and then in turn their families. It is important to reach out to communities and help challenge traditional and discriminatory views on access to education. INSPIRATIONAL EXAMPLE: Tostan, a women’s human rights charity based in Senegal, runs outreach programmes which educate community elders and decision makers about the importance of educating young women.

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Way to Prevent Child/Forced Marriage #2: Empower Girls

In many countries where child marriage is prevalent, girls are often seen as economic burdens. Girls in households where boys are favoured often have low self-esteem and little confidence. Dr Ashok Dyalchand, who works at the Institute of Health Management, Pachod (IHMP) in India, has conducted a research project on teenage girls living in rural areas of India. Using the Rosenberg scale, he measured the self-esteem of young girls and found that the lower the self-esteem, the higher the risk of child marriage. Dr. Dyalchan found that empowerment programmes for young girls are key to preventing child or early marriage by improving both their sense of self and self-efficacy through informing girls of their basic human rights, their legal right to refuse a marriage, and education programmes on health and sex education. Small scale studies have shown promising results from his programmes that make girl empowerment its central strategy –  the mean age of marriage of 14.5 years old has risen to 17 years old.

Way to Prevent Child/Forced Marriage #3: Educate Parents 

Some parents from traditional communities believe that child marriage is a way of protecting their daughter: providing for her economically so she will be taken care of; safeguarding her from harassment and sexual violence before she reaches puberty, and preventing premarital sex which is still taboo in many countries across the world. Unfortunately, families often do not know the negative and harmful effects of early child marriage, including pregnancy at such a young age which can lead to many complications as a girl’s body will not be ready for childbirth. Such parents will benefit from being educated on the very serious harmful effects of forced early childhood marriage. INSPIRATIONAL EXAMPLE: In Zambia, Chief Nzamane of the Mfumbeni tribe works with THE parents of girls who are at risk of being sold for lucrative dowries. He understands the financial pressures on families and finds way to help them stay financially secure without needing to force their daughters, in his words, into “lifelong trauma.”

Way to Prevent Child/Forced Marriage #4: Mobilise religious leaders and community elders

Religious elders and community leaders – nearly always men – are the decision makers in communities where early or child marriage is prevalent. Engaging and educating these powerful men is key to changing the attitude of a community on childhood marriage. INSPIRATIONAL EXAMPLE: Tostan’s Community Empowerment Programme focuses on engaging local elders and religious leaders and educating them on the harmful effects of traditions such as child marriage on communities as a whole. Once they are knowledgeable, Tostan will hold educational sessions with the whole village including the parents of high-risk girls and the girls themselves. As a result of these sessions, throughout Senegal villages have declared an end to some harmful practices including child marriage.

Way to Prevent Child/Forced Marriage #5: Support Adolescent Girls Who Are Already Married

Although the focus is on communities preventing child marriage, young girls who have already married also need support. As well as being isolated and having less chance to complete or continue their education, child marriage can put young girls at a higher risk of violence in the home- sexually, physically and psychologically. INSPIRATIONAL EXAMPLE: CARE has run a successful project in Ethiopia which has focused on supporting child brides. The TESFA project (meaning “Hope” in Amharic) focuses on educating child brides of their rights and providing them education on their reproductive rights, contraception and healthcare. The holistic approach giving all members of the community a chance to discuss the benefits of supporting child brides and the best ways in which to do it, has resulted in some very encouraging results over a three-year period.

Way to Prevent Child/Forced Marriage #6: Support Legislation Against Child Marriage

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One of the most powerful tools that anti-child marriage organisations and women’s rights activists and advocates have been campaigning for is for governments in countries such as Yemen where child marriage is prevalent to make child marriage illegal by raising the legal age of marriage to the minimum age of 18. If you live in one of these countries or communities, start supporting efforts to get such legislation passed by supporting the efforts of these organisations and activists including participating in community campaigning activities organised by them such as petitions and demonstrations. Where there are such legislations and laws in force but have trouble gaining traction over entrenched traditions, help prevent child marriage by notifying the relevant authorities or agencies about any child marriage may be taking place in your neighbourhood or community. Ditto if you live in countries with large immigrant communities that practise child marriage.

Way to Prevent Child/Forced Marriage #7: Advocate for Women as Community Leaders

In many communities that practise child marriage, women are often kept out of the decision-making processes and are not allowed a voice in local politics. It is vital that women are able to voice their concerns and advocate for women’s rights in all spheres as this is often what accelerates the elimination of harmful traditions such as child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM). INSPIRATIONAL EXAMPLE: Tostan trains women in leadership skills and advocacy. 80% of their Community Management Committees are coordinated by women and this gives them the vital skills and confidence needed to engage in local community meetings. As a result more and more women throughout Senegal and other areas where Tostan works are being seen, heard, and having a positive impact throughout local communities.

Way to Prevent Child/Forced Marriage #8: Provide Relevant Economic Support 

Inter-generational poverty is often the most prevalent reason cited for forcing girls into early marriage. Families may know about the harmful effects of child marriage, but may be forced to marry off their daughters as the dowry payment from the marriage of an older sister might be essential in ensure the survival of younger children. Providing economic support to families may be a way of helping parents who do not want to their daughters to get married early. INSPIRATIONAL EXAMPLE: The Berwan Hewane project in Ethiopia found that providing a family with a goat or a sheep for refusing to marry off an underaged daughter helped parents stand firm on that decision. In certain cultures and communities, this provision of livestock can mean the difference in the survival and longevity of a family; providing this much-needed resource to a family trapped by poverty gives them more options, including refusing to marry off underaged daughters.

Way to Prevent Child/Forced Marriage #9: Get Informed and Take Action

If this is the first time you have become aware about child marriage, one of the first steps you need take is to understand the issue do more research and learn about the human cost of this harmful practice as there are painful consequences of child marriage. Get informed and knowledgeable on the subject, then proceed with learning more about international, governmental, and grassroots efforts in your community and worldwide that are focused on the prevention and intervention in child marriage. Then, armed with that information and knowledge, decide how you can best support their efforts with your resources and skills, then reach out to the relevant activists and organisations and start taking action.

Way to Prevent Child/Forced Marriage #10: Talk about it

As with the wider human rights issue of Violence Against Women, child marriage is still a taboo subject; talking about it will help to educate societies across the globe about the harmful effects of child marriage. Many people, particularly in Western countries, are hesitant to criticise cultural practices as they are worried they will be perceived as racist or xenophobic. Standing up for the human rights of children should never be perceived as a negative act. Talk about it with your family and friends, share information on your social media forums and be passionate about ending child marriage today.

Way to Prevent Child/Forced Marriage #11: Men and Boys – Please Speak Out!

Like in every area of ending violence against women, men and boys are central to challenging gender norms and changing deeply entrenched traditional practices like child marriage. There would be no child marriage if men in affected communities did not choose to marry children. It is therefore vital that men are educated on the rights of girls and how early marriage can be harmful to her health and happiness and destructive to the family unit. We need men everywhere to speak out against discrimination and violence towards women and girls. INSPIRATIONAL EXAMPLE: In Morocco, a Maths teacher named Mohammed Baddi runs educational projects with Fondation YTTO, a Moroccan women’s rights organisation in the Amazir communities based in the Atlas mountains. He teaches young girls that; they can achieve more than the wife/mother status society affords them: “They are not machines, just meant to sew or to bear children.”

Way to Prevent Child/Forced Marriage #12: Take A Pledge

On 22 July 2014 something extraordinary happened: In a school in South London, UK, David Cameron, Malala Yousafzai, and hundreds of development professionals and representatives around the world pledged to end Early, Child or Forced Marriage (ECFM) and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) as part of The Girl Summit. 700 million other people did so too. The Girl Summit, co-hosted by UNICEF, is the first initiative of its kind that aims to accelerate and mobilise efforts to end FGM and ECFM within a generation. You can make your pledge here and add your voice to the chorus of millions by Facebook or Twitter. Do it today!

Way to Prevent Child/Forced Marriage #13: Sponsor a Girl Child

Sponsoring a child in a developing country has been a longstanding way for donors around the world to support underprivileged and vulnerabble communities in order to break the cycle of  violence, poverty, and illiteracy. Donating a small amount of money each month to a child with charities like Plan International can help girls who are vulnerable to child marriage. Education is one of the greatest preventatives of child marriage and studies have proven that the longer a girl stays in school, the less likely she is to marry or become an underaged mother. In some developing countries education is not free and families cannot afford to send their child to school and if they do, male children are given priority. By sponsoring a girl child each month you can help pay for their school fees and help her get the education she needs to avoid child marriage and to map her own path in life.

Way to Prevent Child/Forced Marriage #14: Support Anti-Child Marriage charities and organisations 

There are many amazing charities which are implementing some incredible campaigns to put an end to child marriage with encouraging results. Why not support them? Grassroots projects often desperately need support to keep going and your time or money can truly make a difference. To start you off, here are three major grassroots organisations working tirelessly every day to put an end to child marriage: Girls Not BridesSaarthi Trust and Tostan. If you would like to find out more about other charities working to end child marriage, our 2013 16 for 16 article that lists out 16 prominent anti-child marriage nonprofits and charities is a good starting point.

Way to Prevent Child/Forced Marriage #15: Support Obstetric Fistula campaigns and organisations

Fistula is a common problem for adolescent girls giving birth for the first time. A fistula can occur during an obstructed labour, often when access to emergency care is unavailable or limited. Obstructed labour is an agonising process and girls/women often struggle in pain until the baby dies in the birthing canal. There is often a loss of circulation that causes tissue to die, leaving large gaps between the birth canal and bladder or rectum, causing incontinence. This is not only painful for new mothers, but it can also cause social isolation and acute psychological distress. According to Freedom from Fistula Foundation, an estimated 2 million women in Africa suffer silently with an obstetric fistula. Supporting this charity and others doing similar work in the field is a natural first step in helping many victims of child marriage from the maternal healthcare approach.

Way to Prevent Child/Forced Marriage #16: Support Artists, Photographers, and Journalists who Raise Awareness About Child Marriage

Raising awareness about the issue is vital because child marriage has been hidden away for centuries and needs to be publicly addressed by the community in order to end the daily suffering of adolescent girls and the continual violation of their human rights. One way of doing so is to support and share the work of journalists, artists, photographers and activists to help raise the plight of child brides. INSPIRATIONAL EXAMPLE: Stephanie Sinclair is a photographer who started capturing images of child brides over 9 years ago. Stephanie sought to highlight the lives of girls forced into marriage in her photographs in a bid to raise awareness. Her work has now been internationally recognised and has been used as a conversation-starter about child brides.

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Nujood Ali, former Yemeni child bride, after her divorce. Photo Credit: Stephanie Sinclair

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.

16 Organisations Working to Stop Child Marriage

Child Brides twice as likely to be beatenChild marriage, defined as a formal marriage or informal union before age 18, disproportionately affects girls. Between 2011 and 2020, more than 140 million girls will become child brides, according to United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). In South Asia, nearly half of young women and in sub-Saharan Africa, more than one third of young women are married by their 18th birthday.

The implications for child marriage includes the fact pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death in young women aged 15–19. There is strong evidence highlighting the correlation between early marriage pregnancy and a failure to complete formal education. According to UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children 2009 report, If a mother is under the age of 18, her infant’s risk of dying in its first year of life is 60 per cent greater than that of an infant born to a mother older than 19. Even if the child survives, he or she is more likely to suffer from low birth weight, under nutrition and late physical and cognitive development. Child brides are at risk of violence, abuse and exploitation. Finally, child marriage often results in separation from family and friends and lack of freedom to participate in community activities, which can all have major consequences on girls’ mental and physical well-being.

Babatunde Osotimehin, M.D, Executive Director, UNFPA, sums up the ramifications of child marriage when she stated:

“Child marriage is an appalling violation of human rights and robs girls of their education, health and long-term prospects… A girl who is married as a child is one whose potential will not be fulfilled.”

Though the practice of child marriage is rooted in tradition and culture, neither culture nor tradition is immutable and there is hope for change. This list presents 16 organisations which directly and indirectly address ending the practice of child marriages and altering conditions which otherwise remain fertile for the practice of child marriages to continue.

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Organisation Working to Stop Child Marriage #1: Breakthrough – global

breakthroughBreakthrough is a global human rights organisation seeking to make violence and discrimination against women and girls unacceptable. They use the power or arts, media, pop culture, and community mobilisation to inspire people. In their program to end child marriage, they work directly within the communities in the Indian states of Bihar and Jharkhand, which have among the highest rates of child marriage in the country. Breakthrough is a Pixel Project partner.

Organisation Working to Stop Child Marriage #2: CARE – Global

Child-Marriage-Stats-02CARE is an international humanitarian organisation, which focuses on working alongside impoverished women. Part of their mandate includes directly addressing child marriage through targeting the provision of Education for girls. CARE works with families, communities and local organsations to reduce the prevalence and mitigate the harmful impacts of child marriage through educational and behavioral- change programmes.

Organisation Working to Stop Child Marriage #3: Egyptian Foundation for Advancement of the Childhood Condition – Egypt
CRINlogo_2010The Egyptian Foundation for Advancement of the Childhood Condition (EFACC) works to improve legal conditions concerning children’s rights and development in Egypt. ICRW summarises a systematic review of child marriage prevention programmes that have documented evaluations and offer analysis of the broader implications for viable solutions.

Organisation Working to Stop Child Marriage #4: Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) – Tanzania

FAWElogoFAWE is a pan-African NGO working in 32 African countries to empower girls and women through gender-responsive education. FAWE works hand-in-hand with communities, schools, civil society, and ministries to achieve gender equity and equality in education through targeted programmes.

 

Organisation Working to Stop Child Marriage #5: Forward – UK

forwardlogoAn African diaspora network, FORWARD was established in 1983. The International non-governmental organisation is a women’s led campaign which seeks to advance and safeguard the reproductive health of African women and girls. FORWARD strives to tackle FGM, child marriage and gender-based violence through educational workshops, advocacy, support programmes and information sharing.

Organisation Working to Stop Child Marriage #6: Girls Not Brides – Global

girlsnotbrideslogoGirls Not Brides is a global partnership of more than 300 non-governmental organisations from over 50 countries committed to ending child marriage.Members are based throughout Africa, South Asia, the Middle East, Europe and North America and work on child marriage in many different ways – by working directly with girls and child brides in their communities or focusing on research and advocacy to bring greater attention to this neglected problem. By coming together in partnership, Girls Not Brides members are raising their voices to call for action on child marriage locally, nationally and all over the world.

Organisation Working to Stop Child Marriage #7: Girls UP – USA

gu_logoGirls UP has dedicated advocacy and organisational efforts to ensure child marriage legislation is a priority in the US Foreign Policy Engagements. In March of 2013, their efforts were rewarded with a victory for women and girls living in the United States and abroad as The US House of Representatives passed the long-awaited child marriage legislation as part of a broader Violence Against Women Act.

Organisation Working to Stop Child Marriage #8 :  Humanium: Help the Children – Global 

LOGO-Help-the-childrenHumanium is an international child sponsorship NGO dedicated to stopping violations of children’s rights throughout the world.  They provide education on children’s rights and support in many countries around the world regarding child and forced marriage.

 

Organisation Working to Stop Child Marriage #9: ICRW – USA

ICRW Logo_smallInternational Center for Research on Women (ICRW) is a leader among organisations advocating for the United States to become more involved in curbing child marriage. ICRW is working with the United States Congress and the administration to raise the profile of this issue and bring more national and international support to end this harmful traditional practice.

Organisation Working to Stop Child Marriage #10: Saarthi Trust – India

saarthitrustlogoThe Saarthi Trust was set up by Kriti Bharti an award-winning anti-child-marriage activist and women and children’s rights campaigner who has been working to help children in Rajasthan for over five years. The Trust was set up in 2012 to address the child marriage crisis facing India. Kriti provides programmes, psychological support and education to women and children.

Organisation Working to Stop Child Marriage #11: Save the Children – global

header_save_the_children_logoSave the Children works around the world to develop programmes to protect children and prevent child marriage along with other forms of risk for child abuse, trafficking, and exploitation.

Organisation Working to Stop Child Marriage #12: Seyaj – Yemen

seyajlogoThe Seyaj organisation for childhood protection is a non-profit volunteering and independent non-government organisation specialising in defending child rights through monitoring, documentation and providing judicial advocacy. psychological support and education for child victims of crimes and violations including child marriage.

Organisation Working to Stop Child Marriage #13: The Coexist Initiative – Kenya

coexistlogoThe Coexist Initiative was founded in 2002 and officially registered in 2005 as a non -profit network for men and boys organizations that work in the areas of sexual and gender – based violence (SGBV) and HIV prevention in Kenya. The Coexist Initiative is unique insofar as it targets males in order to effect change. They advocate against child and forced marriage, against female genital mutilation, and other rights and societal benefits.

Organisation Working to Stop Child Marriage #14: The Knowledge Hub on Child Marriage – India

theknowledgehublogoThe Knowledge Hub (KHub) is a web-portal exclusively focused on the issue of child marriage, designed to cater to growing need for evidence-based approaches on prevention of child marriages in India and neighboring countries. It provides an easy access to authentic resources for strengthening the policy and programmatic environment on the issue at the state and national levels as well as their implementation at grassroots. KHub is the process of GEPP – Getting Evidence into Policy and Practice. The concept of KHub is not only to build a repository of existing knowledge on current status but also to create new knowledge/ evidences that will demystify the immense base of strategic and technical knowledge that exists already.

Organisation Working to Stop Child Marriage #15: Vasavya Mahila Mandali – India 

vasavyalogoVASAVYA MAHILA MANDALI (VMM) was established forty years ago with Gandhian ideology as a secular nonprofit voluntary organisation working in the rural as well as urban areas of Andhra Pradesh. VMM works to promote comprehensive social, economic and political development for women, children and youth in vulnerable situations including Child marriages, thereby empowering communities in A.P to improve their quality of life, and build a better civil society in India.

Organisation Working to Stop Child Marriage #16: World Vision – Marriage Later/Studies First Programme – Bangladesh

worldvision.brandmasterWorld Vision works towards the provision of global education for children who are at risk for exploitation, early marriage, and lower income-earning potential. In Bangladesh, they address barriers to education and work with communities and local governments to improve the quality of education children receive. The marriage later/studies first programme works with families to educate them regarding the impact of child marriage.

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