Today is the first day of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence 2013 campaign and The Pixel Project is kicking things off with our 4th annual list of 16 female role models fighting to end violence against women in their communities. The intent of this list is simple: to highlight the good work of the heroines of the movement to end violence against women wherever they are in the world. The women and girls in this year’s list hail from 13 countries and 4 continents.
Many of these astounding women have shown that it is possible to transform personal pain that came out of facing gender-based violence, into positive action to stop violence against women, empower themselves and to show other survivors that it is possible to move forward with dignity and happiness. They have refused to let bitterness and pain get the better of them, opting to stand up for themselves and for other women instead.
Others on this list may not have experienced gender-based violence inflicted on themselves but they have stepped up to do what is right: to speak up for women and girls who cannot do it for themselves, sometimes at great personal risk. All this requires immense courage, generosity of spirit and a strong enduring heart.
So without further ado, here in alphabetical order by first name is our 2013 list of 16 female role models. We hope that these women would be an inspiration to others to get involved with the cause. To that end, we hope you will generously share this list via Facebook and Twitter to give these extraordinary 16 women and their work a moment in the sun.
Note: Information for all role model profiles is sourced via online research and is based on one or more news sources, articles and/or The Pixel Project’s own interviews with them. The main articles/reports from which these profiles have been sourced can be directly accessed via the hyperlinked titles. Please do click through to learn more about these remarkable women.
Caroline Criado-Perez is a freelance journalist and feminist campaigner who successfully campaigned to persuade the Bank of England to include a prominent woman (Jane Austen) among an otherwise all-male group of British luminaries on the back of British currency. The success of the campaign made her and other women (such as British MP Stella Creasy) the target of numerous threats, including threats of rape and murder on Twitter from the day of the Bank of England’s announcement in July 2013. At one point, she received 50 Twitter threats an hour. She fought back against the abuse publicly, which resulted in Twitter’s general manager in Britain, Tony Wang, announcing a one-click option on all posts enabling users to easily report abusive tweets, where previously there was no recourse for victims of online harassment on Twitter.
Deeyah, a critically acclaimed music producer, composer, Emmy and Peabody award-winning documentary film director and human rights activist, is known for her outspoken support of women’s rights, freedom of expression and peace. Her documentary about Honour Killing, ‘Banaz: A Love Story’, won an Emmy Award in 2013 and is currently being used by “individual police teams in different parts of the UK who have reached out to [Deeyah] directly in the last 12 months to ask for copies of the film to use in their training and awareness raising strategies.” Before making “Banaz: A Love Story” and founding AVA Foundation, she was a well-known music artiste in Norway who was forced to give up performing due to constant threats and attacks, but continues to use her music as part of her activism to stop violence against women and girls. She says: “
Fartuun Adan is the founder of Sister Somalia, a group dedicated to supporting survivors of sexual violence with medical services, counseling, education and entrepreneurial advice. Her mission began in 2007 when she left her children in Canada, where they were refugees from the Somalian war after the brutal murder of her husband, Somali human rights activist Elman Ali Ahmed, to return to Somalia to continue her husband’s work. While working in refugee camps that mushroomed around Mogadishu, she noticed the high volume of rape and other violence against women and children, which led her to set up Sister Somalia – the first organisation in the country to come out publicly and talk about the astonishing number of sexual abuse victims.
Julie Lalonde whose work to stop violence against women has pitted her against the administration of Carleton University in a protracted fight for an on-campus sexual assault centre, as well as against OC Transpo and the city, at times, over harassment and violence against women. She has been given a Governor General’s Award in Commemoration of the Person’s Case for “improving the lives of women and girls through her work to end sexual assault and sexual harassment.”
Kakenya Ntaiya, the founder of Kakenya’s Center for Excellence in the tiny, rural village of Enoosaen which helps at-risk girls flee from female genital mutilation (FGM). Kakenya was engaged at age five to the six-year-old boy next door and expected to undergo FGM and be a child bride but while she endured FGM, she broke the cycle by convincing her village elders to allow her to attend college in the U.S. and vowed to return and build a school, a maternity hospital, a future for girls. She earned a Doctorate in Education from the University of Pittsburgh and fulfilled her promise by returning to her village and building Kakenya’s Center.
Kim Lee, an American woman who married a Chinese celebrity went public with her abuse case and won after an 18-month court battle. Women’s rights activists said it is a milestone case in China against domestic violence against women. Lee said: “I made a conscious decision. I used a Chinese lawyer, I used Chinese courts,” she says. “To be honest, a lot of my American friends did not understand this. They were like, ‘You’re crazy. You’re American. Go to the embassy immediately.’ But I did not want to teach my daughters, ‘No one can beat you because you’re American.’ I wanted to teach them, ‘No one can beat you because you’re a person, you’re a woman.’
In a country where a staggering 40 per cent of the world’s child marriages take place, Kriti Bharti, an award-winning anti-child-marriage activist and women and children’s rights campaigner, has single handedly established the charity Saarthi Trust in 2012 to help victims of India’s child marriage crisis. Bharti says: “A lot of people who are determined to stop me from doing my work… Death threats have become a part of my life now and I have come to accept it as part of this job.” She has a group of around five volunteers to assist her but on almost all child bride-saving missions, she prefers to go alone. “I don’t want to put the lives of others at risk,’’ she says.
Kim Worthy, the first African-American woman to become prosecutor of Detroit, and her team discovered a backlog of over 11,000 rape kits while doing an inventory of Detroit police department evidence. Disgusted by the apathy of the police department in tackling rape cases, she assembled a team of volunteers to begin the lengthy process of cataloguing the rape kits. Worthy and her team of volunteers attracted national attention, and she was awarded a federal grant of $1.5m to continue the work. Since 2009, 1600 rape kits have been investigated by Worthy’s team, a staggering 37 serial rapists have been identified and 13 cases have been brought against suspects as a direct result of Worthy’s endeavours.
After Liu Ngan Fung left her violent and abusive husband, she began volunteering with an organisation called Kwan Fook, helping other women suffering from domestic violence. She became a curriculum adviser to social work lecturers at Hong Kong University to stop the practice of sending women back to their violent partners. When she became a staffer for a member of the Hong Kong Legislative Council, she provided research and advice on domestic violence. Ms Liu was part of a coalition of community groups, politicians and advocates that successfully lobbied for changes to domestic violence laws and policies in Hong Kong.
Mae Azango is a Liberian journalist who has become internationally renowned (as well as infamous among traditionalists in her own country) for exposing the horrors of FGM as it is practiced in the Liberian outback. When she published an unusually detailed article about the fatal consequences of FGM in her newspaper, Front Page Africa, she began receiving death and FGM threats. Mae says: “My father wanted to send me [for FGM],” Azango says. “But my mother, who went to college, she said no. And that is what saved me.” Now, her journalistic mission is to help educate and empower other women to make the same choice for their daughters.
After years of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, Minh Dang’s parents sold her for sex, starting at age 10. She kept the abuse hidden throughout her childhood and when she finished college, she was finally able to break free from them to rebuild her life. Today, she is a prominent anti-sex trafficking activist working with actress and activist Jada Pinkett Smith, and her non-profit Don’t Sell Bodies. Both women met with U.S. senators in Washington, D.C. Ms. Dang is committed to using her past not only to urge new legislation to end human trafficking, but also to help other victims who can’t yet speak out. “It’s not just one focus of stopping human trafficking, but building survivors in that process,” Dang said.
Female Role Model 12: Nimko Ali – United Kingdom
Bristol-based campaigner Nimko Ali, who is of Somali heritage, set up the charity, Daughters of Eve, to help girls at risk of Female Genital Mutilation and push for the practice to be stopped. Ms. Ali, who has lived in the UK since she was four, herself underwent FGM at age seven while on holiday in Djibouti. She says: “I only decided to go public very recently after seeing other girls put themselves in danger by speaking out. The weeks afterwards were the most horrifying of my life. I lost friends – one even offered to kill me for £500.” Undeterred, Ms.Ali and her fellow anti-FGM activists have continued to speak out about FGM in the UK where their message that FGM is child abuse and needs to be stopped has been gathering moment.
Nusreta Sivac, a Muslim Bosniak, was one of 37 women raped by guards at a concentration camp in Bosnia. Today, it’s partly thanks to Sivac’s efforts to gather testimony from women across Bosnia that rape has been categorized as a war crime under international law. Thirty people have been convicted at the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague and another 30 cases are ongoing. She personally helped put the man who raped her repeatedly during her two months in captivity behind bars. Sivac who has since testified in several cases, including against Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, is satisfied with what she has achieved, although she wishes the ongoing cases would accelerate. “It’s slow, very slow,” she said. “But it is a start.”
Simona Broomes is a Guyanese activist and the president of the Guyana Women Miners Organisation. She routinely travels to gold and diamond mining camps to rescue underage girls working as prostitutes. Her work has life-threatening consequences. In an interview with The Associated Press, she stated that she recently began carrying a gun after she was assaulted during one of her trips. Death threats forced her to close her mining equipment business and undeterred, she began organising fundraising barbeques to raise money to enable her to continue her work to extricate girls from forced prostitution at mining camps. In July 2013, she was honoured by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for her anti-sex trafficking work.
Stephanie Sinclair is a photojournalist who has spent almost a decade documenting some of the most eye opening images of child brides. She began her work on this issue after she discovered that many Afghan women who had set themselves on fire were child brides. Her project has led her to Ethiopia, India, Nepal and Yemen where underage marriage for girls is rife. The resulting images have been published worldwide by prestigious publications such as National Geographic and the New York Times magazine. When interview by Christiane Amanpour at CNN, she said: “I want to point out that child marriage is an issue in more than 50 countries around the world, and even in our own country we have had issues of it as well and still do, and so nobody is really exempt from it. It’s a harmful traditional practice that is slowly changing we just want to see it change even faster.”
Valentina Sagaya is the founder of Yayasan Institut Perempuan (Women’s Institute Foundation), the first women’s organisation in Bandung, Indonesia. Ms.Sagaya and her organisation has been pushing for reforms to laws that “dehumanise women, and even create and perpetuate violence against women,” a situation which she believes had a part in enabling the mass rape tragedy during the violence of 1998 across Indonesia. She says: “I can get so mad when facing injustice [against women].” In addition to her work via her organisation, Ms Sagaya has also set up community-based groups to provide services to victims of human trafficking through the West Java Anti-Trafficking Movement Network. For her work in women’s human rights, she has been named as the Indonesia N-Peace Awards Role Model For Peace 2013.