The Pixel Project Selection 2018: 16 Books About Violence Against Women


Far from being merely a source of entertainment, storytelling frames reinforce and transmit culture and beliefs. More than that, stories have the power to fire the imagination and inspire new thoughts and ideas and thus to shape – or reshape – the perspective of individuals, communities and cultures about everything from tradition to gender.

In recognition of the power of storytelling to inspire change, The Pixel Project has put together our third annual selection of 16 books that depict violence against women and girls. Some of these stories are popular genre fiction while others are well-received non-fiction. Nevertheless, all of them will educate the reader in some way about gender-based violence, rape culture, sexism, and misogyny. The books and book series in this list have been selected from a wide range of genres including fantasy, crime/mystery, science fiction, and autobiography.

This year, our fiction selection are books led by female protagonists who have experienced VAW and whose stories show the aftermath of the violence on their lives and how they cope with it. For the first time, we also include a number of romance series and novels as acknowledgement of how romance has evolved to actively address issues of consent and violence against women.

Our non-fiction selection shows a common trend of depicting entrenched and pervasive violence against women and sexism in the diverse societies and worlds that they portray while offering threads of hope as people and characters fight for and maintain a world where women and girls are free from abuse.

This list is by no means complete as there are hundreds of books out there that deal with violence against women in its various forms. However, we hope that these 16 books and series will be a starting point for you, as they have for others over the years, to push for change in your community and culture.

Introduction by Anushia Kandasivam and Regina Yau; Written and compiled by Anushia Kandasivam and Regina Yau


Book Selection #1: Asking for It (2016) by Louise O’Neill

Narrated by 18-year-old Emma O’Donovan, who was raped after a party, this novel explores how a person can become objectified in a world ruled by social media and where misogynistic rape culture is the norm. An unusual and visceral story in that the protagonist herself is unlikeable with unlikeable friends and it does not hold back on portraying how vile the online world can become, it skillfully chronicles the physical and psychological effects of being violated, feeling voiceless and descending into depression. It also asks important questions about rape culture, sexism and social media abuse.

Book Selection #2:​ A Thousand Splendid Suns (2008) by Khaled Hosseini

The second novel by Afghan-American author Khaled Hosseini after his debut The Kite Runner, this story is primarily about female relationships, set against a backdrop of a patriarchal society, domestic violence and war. The story follows Mariam and Laila, born a generation apart but brought together by circumstance that makes them both sisters and mother-daughter to each other. It tracks the strong bond they form as they struggle to live with an abusive husband and the ever-increasing danger and hardship of living in Kabul, and how the love, strength and self-sacrifice of women are often the key to survival.

Book Selection #3: Desert Flower (1998) by Waris Dirie and Catherine Miller

Born to a nomadic family in the Somali desert, Waris Dirie was subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM) at the age of five. This autobiography details her difficult childhood in a harsh land, where she had to contend with oppressive patriarchal norms and sexual abuse, to an arduous journey to London where she worked as a housemaid, and then her remarkable transformation into an internationally acclaimed fashion model and human rights ambassador. In her book, Dirie speaks openly about living with the effects of FGM and frankly about why the practice must be stopped. Experiencing the everyday life of a survivor through her own words makes this a worthy read.

Book Selection #4: I Am Vidya: A Transgender’s Journey (2013) by Living Smile Vidya

A compelling autobiography of a transgender woman’s journey to find and live her true identity, this book is also a unique insight into the duality of conservative Indian society and its rich cultural history. Vidya chronicles her journey from being born a boy, realising her true nature, being an outcast from her family and society, suffering the indignities and violence forced upon transgender people and her eventual claiming of her true self.


Book Selection #5: Lake Silence (2018) by Anne Bishop

In her latest book set in the bestselling urban fantasy series of The Others, Anne Bishop makes her lead protagonist Vicki DeVine, a divorced woman who left her abusive husband to carve out a new life for herself as the proprietor and caretaker of a rustic resort that she inherited via her divorce settlement. Bishop presents a nuanced, sensitive, and compassionate portrait of a survivor navigating through PTSD and other fallouts from her abusive marriage while also solving a murder mystery involving her abusive ex. Not your usual urban fantasy or mystery fare. And the best part? The abuser gets his comeuppance in the most satisfying way.

Book Selection #6: Mommy’s Black Eye (2009) by William George Bentrim, illustrated by Christi Schofield

Domestic violence exists everywhere. Often, children may not actually witness the violence but see the aftermath, such as their mother’s black eye. Aimed at younger children who have not been exposed to the topic of domestic violence before, this book glosses over some of the bigger issues of domestic violence but explains what it is and attempts to help them understand what is going on in their lives. It concludes open-ended with discussion of counselling and potential healing as a family.

Book Selection #7: Practical Magic (2003) by Alice Hoffman

Practical Magic is one of #1 New York Times bestselling author Alice Hoffman’s most famous (and cherished) books. The story centers around the Owens family of witches who have, for more than two hundred years, been blamed for everything that has gone wrong in their Massachusetts town. Even more insidious is the curse that an ancestor laid on them that decreed that no Owens woman would ever find true love… and if she did, that relationship would end with her lover’s death. Among other feminist themes, the book focuses on Sally and Gillian Owens who attempt to escape the Owens curse, but end up having to deal with Gillian’s malicious and abusive boyfriend. Hoffman handles the subject of domestic violence very deftly through the eyes of both sisters – showing Sally’s unwavering support of Gillian despite their differences and how both of them cope with the fallout from the abuser’s actions and accidental murder.

Books Selection #8: ​Rape: A Love Story (2004) by Joyce Carol Oates

Beginning with an account of the gang rape of female protagonist Teena Maguire, which left her near dead, and which was witnessed by her young daughter, this story is a condemnation of misogyny, skillfully tackled by author Joyce Carol Oates, who also wrote When We Were the Mulvaneys. Oates spares none of her characters – Teena is shown to be both good and flawed, there are no doubts about who the attackers are and they are named and described contemptuously. This is an extraordinary exploration of the aftermath and myriad consequences a horrible crime can have on individuals and whole communities.

Book Selection #9: Room (2011) by Emma Donoghue

This story is perhaps better known through the award-winning 2015 film adaptation, but the novel is well worth the read. Told through the eyes of curious, bright 5-year-old Jack as he explores the only world he knows – the tiny Room where he was born after his mother was imprisoned by the man who kidnapped her as a teenager – the story is really about how Jack and his mother cope with their captivity, slowly learn to live in the outside world again and deal with their trauma, how other people react to them, and the complex feelings of happiness and grief that they and their family go through.

Book Selection #10: Set The Night On Fire (2016) by Jennifer Bernard

Jennifer Bernard is a Romance author who is well-known for her books starring firemen as the lead male love interest. While this may lead many people to regard her books as typical wish-fulfillment fare for straight female readers, Bernard’s books are a cut above many others in the crowded field of Contemporary Romance because she is very adept at handling the issue of consent. In Set The Night On Fire, the first book in her Jupiter Point series, she handles the issue of rape and victim-blaming with insight and a strong message about believing victims and holding rapists accountable.

Book Selection #11: ​Simply Irresistible (2017) by Jill Shalvis

#1 New York Times bestselling contemporary romance author Jill Shalvis is renowned for her humour and ability to portray emotions authentically, particularly in her female characters, as they go through the ups and downs of building relationships with the men in their lives. In Simply Irresistible, the first book in her Lucky Harbour series, Shalvis takes on the issue of intimate partner violence and how its effects ripple through the lives of the protagonist, her sisters, and her love interest. Shalvis’ approach is less on-the-nose than many of the other selections in this list so it may be a good option for introducing the issue to a fellow romance reader who may not have thought about it previously.

Book Selection #12: The Alpha and Omega series (2008 – ) by Patricia Briggs

The Alpha and Omega series is Patricia Briggs’ spin-off companion series to her celebrated Mercy Thompson Urban Fantasy series. Anna Latham, the lead female protagonist, is a survivor of prolonged abuse (including rape) by the deranged and power-hungry alpha of a werewolf pack which tried to force her Omega wolf into servitude to them. In the first book of the series (Cry Wolf), we see Briggs very adroitly explore and show the psychological effects of rape and abuse on victims, the damage caused by bystanders who would rather turn a blind eye, and the monumental struggle that survivors face in learning to trust and relax around others.

Book Selection #13: The In Death series (1995 – ) by J.D. Robb

J.D. Robb is the pen name that #1 New York Times bestselling author Nora Roberts uses for her long-running and very popular near-future In Death series which features Lieutenant Eve Dallas and her criminal mastermind-turned-legitimate-business-tycoon husband Roarke. Eve survived vicious childhood sexual abuse by her father to go on to be one of the toughest officers in New York City and the go-to detective for difficult cases involving the full spectrum of crimes involving violence against women and children. Throughout this very long series, Robb/Roberts gives readers a clear and unflinching look at the lifelong effects of sexual abuse via Eve’s development as a character. The striking thing is that while Eve’s experience certainly drives her fight for justice, she does not let it rule her life and she does this with the help of her friends, co-workers, and husband – a clear message that it takes a village to help with the healing.

Book Selection #14:​ The Kitty Norville series (2005 – 2015) by Carrie Vaughn

New York Times bestselling Fantasy author Carrie Vaughn is best-known for her Kitty Norville series featuring the rise of Kitty Norville, a female werewolf and late-night radio talk show host for the supernatural, from an abused subordinate to a major power in her own right. The entire first book in the series (Kitty and The Midnight Hour) is a searing depiction of domestic abuse including coercive control tactics that the corrupt Alpha male of Kitty’s pack uses on her and other females – essentially dictating their lives as well as raping them when he feels like it. As the series progresses, Kitty goes on to leave the pack, try to help another subordinate female wolf leave, and eventually wrest control of the pack from him. Also notable is Kitty’s eventual choice of romantic partner, which sees her essentially opt to have a healthy relationship based on mutual respect and equality.

Book Selection #15: The Night Child (2018) by Anna Quinn

A psychological tale about a school teacher who starts seeing terrifying visions of a child, The Night Child starts as something of a thriller but as protagonist Nora Brown seeks medical help, she soon discovers that the apparition may be related to repressed childhood trauma. A debut novel by Anna Quinn, this story examines how the impact of childhood trauma lasts into adulthood. As a lot of the story unfolds in the therapist’s office, the fragility and strength of the mind and the importance of mental health for survivors is a strong theme. This novel may be emotionally challenging to read but it does offer hope in the form of the protagonist’s resilience and determination to save herself.

Book Selection #16: When I Hit You or, A Portrait of the Author as a Young Wife (2018) by Meena Kandasamy

Based on the author’s own experience of marriage, this first-person narrative tells the story of a newly-wed writer experiencing rapid social isolation and extreme violence at her husband’s hands. The narrator, a middle-class and educated Tamil woman, points out that she does not experience stereotypical Indian dramas of oppression but rather the villain is an educated and cultured man she married for love. A gripping and scathing exploration of insidious abuse, gender and societal expectations, and perpetuated toxic masculinity, it is also a story of a woman refusing to be silenced.



The top picture is a Creative Commons image :

Book Cover Credits 

  1. Asking For It – From “Asking For It” (Goodreads)
  2. A Thousand Splendid Suns – From “A Thousand Splendid Suns” (Goodreads)
  3. Desert Flower – From “Desert Flower” (Goodreads)
  4. I Am Vidya: A Transgender’s Journey – From “I Am Vidya: A Transgender’s Journey” (Goodreads)
  5. Lake Silence – Courtesy of Ace, an imprint of Penguin Random House
  6. Mommy’s Black Eye – From “Mommy’s Black Eye” (Goodreads)
  7. Practical Magic – Courtesy of Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Random House
  8. Rape: A Love Story – From “Rape: A Love Story” (
  9. Room – From “Room” (
  10. Set The Night On Fire – From
  11. Simply Irresistible – From “Simply Irresistible” (Goodreads)
  12. Cry Wolf – Courtesy of Ace, an imprint of Penguin Random House
  13. Naked in Death – From “Naked In Death” (
  14. Kitty Saves The World – Courtesy of Carrie Vaughn
  15. The Night Child – From “The Night Child” (Goodreads)
  16. When I Hit You or, A Portrait of the Author as a Young Wife – From “When I Hit You” (Amazon)

16 Ways to Take Action Against Human Trafficking

The Universal Declaration on Human Rights declared over 60 years ago that all humans were born free and equal with rights common to all and exclusive to none. Sixty-odd years later, in spite of the clear and express prohibition of slavery, trafficking in humans stands at an astoundingly and eerily high level, eclipsing all other eras. In other words, with 30 million people, mostly women and girls, currently being exploited and violated in the sex/human-trafficking trade at this precise moment, there have never been more people enslaved in global history.

The conversation surrounding human/sex-trafficking is not a particularly popular one, but remains a necessary one. Human/sex-trafficking thrives on the secrecy and shadow of unawareness, which currently pervades. This increasingly disturbing human rights violation is linked to forced prostitution, street crimes, domestic servitude, child labour and many other forms of exploitation.  Human trafficking is not only about individuals: it has a mass effect on our social fabric, economic stability and more abstractly reflects on our common humanity. Continue reading

Activism 101: 10 Ways to start becoming a Humanitarian on World Humanitarian Day 2011

This image is © World Humanitarian Day website.

Every day humanitarian aid workers and advocates help millions of people around the world. They battle hunger, disease and violence against women in some of the most inhospitable situations, locations and climates and they continue to do so despite the risks of kidnappings, death threats, murder and other deadly and abusive behaviour from the communities they work within.

Today is World Humanitarian Day –  a day for celebrating the people helping people.  World Humanitarian Day recognizes the sacrifices and contributions of those who risk their lives to give others help and hope. It is also about inspiring the spirit of aid work, charity and humanitarianism in everyone.

In honour of World Humanitarian Day this year, we bring you 10 ideas to inspire you to take action and get involved with the cause to end violence against women (VAW) which is one of the biggest humanitarian crises in the world:


Inspirational Idea 1: Start Small. Many people lapse into apathy because they feel that there is nothing that they, as an individual, can do to help others effectively. Yet every little action helps be it signing a petition, sponsoring a girl for schooling or helping spread the word about an anti-VAW campaign. Check out the World Humanitarian Day page for ideas on how to get involved starting THIS World Humanitarian Day!

Inspirational Idea 2: Volunteer, volunteer, volunteer! If you have several hours per week to spare, contact your local VAW nonprofit such as your area’s battered women’s shelter or rape crisis centre and sign up with their volunteer programme. Don’t have much time on your hands but want to help? Get involved with micro-volunteering or try virtual volunteering from home.

Inspirational Idea 3: Take a Sabbatical. If your employer/workplace and your finances allow you to do so, take a sabbatical and sign up for a full-time volunteering gig which can range from 3 months to a year. A volunteer placement abroad with communities in countries that need help the most can not only help widen your horizon but possibly kick off a lifetime of commitment to doing good.

Inspirational Idea 4: Get on the (Activism) Bandwagon. When you come across any anti-VAW campaign or event in your area or online such as Portraits for Pixels, SlutWalk, 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, Sexual Assault Awareness Month or Domestic Violence Awareness Month, don’t just sit back and do nothing. Contact the organisers and get involved!

Inspirational Idea 5: Follow the Role Model. If you’re stumped for ways to start your humanitarian work, seek out examples of men and women who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to help their fellow human beings and to change the world. No idea where to start? Check out our 2010 list of 16 Female Role Models to begin with and go from there!

Inspirational Idea 6: Be an Upstander. When you see a woman or girl experiencing any form of gender-based violence in your community, take action – call the local police, step in to diffuse the situation, enlist the help of other people around you. Don’t just walk away – follow your compassion and stop the violence.

Inspirational Idea 7: Find Kindred Spirits. Getting started with humanitarian work can be daunting given the scale of the challenges we face. Even the cause to end violence against women itself seems intractable as activists and aid workers battle deeply ingrained cultural and economic practices that can be both brutal and a prelude to brutality against women. You don’t have to do it alone – get your best friend to join you, join the local branch of social service clubs such as the Rotary International or Soroptimist International. Teamwork helps implement the work needed to bring change faster and more effectively.

Inspirational Idea 8: Act Local. Humanitarian work can be conducted anywhere in the world – you don’t necessarily need to go abroad to do it. Sign up to help raise funds for your local battered women’s shelter. Take a helpline shift at your local rape crisis centre. Help provide temporary shelter and a listening ear for an abused woman you know.

Inspirational Idea 9: The Business of Compassion. If you own a business, start looking at ways of giving back to your community by starting a staff volunteer programme with your local women’s shelter or partnering with a social service club such as Rotary International to raise funds for your choice of anti-VAW nonprofit.

Inspirational Idea 10: Just Do It! We hope that this article has got you thinking about ways in which you can help women and girls worldwide… but thinking about it isn’t enough, the question is: “What are you going to do about it?” So take run with your inspiration today and take action before you talk yourself out of starting humanitarian work. After all – what you do today may well save someone’s life or change it for the better… forever.


Activism 101: 16 Ideas for Online Campaigning

In the fight to end violence against women, we need to use every single tool at our disposal to push for change.

For decades, activists and nonprofits used time-honoured tactics ranging from marches to lobbying to advertising. The more media-savvy ones would write Op-Eds for publication, arrange for interviews and embed the media in their marches and protests.  These activist activities are still very much alive and in many cases, still effective in raising awareness and funds for the cause.

Now, with Web 2.0 upon us in the form of the G&F (Google and Facebook) Era of interactive social media ranging from blogs to e-retailing to Twitter, it is easier and more important than ever for even the smallest nonprofit working to end violence against women. Amongst other advantages, it allows us to reach and engage with Generation Y and the younger ‘uns who are now growing up as natives of the virtual space.

Perhaps more importantly: It is easier than ever for the (wo)man on the street to get involved with the cause.  With internet access spreading faster than ever and the growing ubiquity of smartphones everywhere, there really isn’t any excuse not to get involved with the cause.

After all, activism to raise awareness can even be boiled down to a single, simple click of a mouse now.

As our contribution to the 6th day of “16 Days of Activism” 2010, The Pixel Project presents 16 ideas for online campaigning for the next-generation activist with a computer/smartphone and internet connection who wishes to take the first step towards helping end violence against women:

Idea 1: The Status Donation. If you have a Facebook or LinkedIn account (or are a member of any other social media site that has the status update function), dedicate an hour or a day on a weekly or monthly basis to giving a shout-out to your favourite nonprofit working to end violence against women. Remember to include the link to their website!

Idea 2: The Badge of Pride. If your favourite nonprofit working to end violence against women has virtual buttons, badges, avatars and banners available, download one and donate your social media profile picture for an hour or a day on a weekly or monthly basis to help raise awareness about the issue.

Idea 3: Theme Blogging. Do you have a blog? Consider devoting a post every week/month/quarter to commenting on the issue of violence against women based on any major news involving the issue.

Idea 4: Get Advertising: Do you have space for banner advertisements on your website or blog? Consider letting your favourite nonprofit put up banner advertisements there about their services be it battered women’s shelters, rape crisis helplines or community programmes.

Idea 5: Get With The Carnival. Are you a prolific blogger with plenty of mutual blogrolling with a community of other bloggers? Get aware of all the special days and events linked to the cause such as International Women’s Day, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and International Day of Elimination of Violence Against Women and get your blogging community organised in a blog carnival where everybody writes a blog post on the issue and pools it into a virtual collection of essays.

Idea 6: Comment, Comment, Comment. Do you read the blogs of activists and nonprofits working to end violence against women? Have you ever left a comment? If you haven’t, leave one the next time you read the blog both to speak up against violence against women as well as to send feedback to and share your ideas with the activists and nonprofits concerned. The more conversation there is, the better.

Idea 7: Tweet, Retweet. Are you on Twitter? Consider tweeting linked news about violence against women once a week/month. Not sure what to tweet? Keep your eyes open for relevant news tweets that comes through your Twitter stream and retweet it. Nonprofits such as The Pixel Project (@pixelproject) and news channel Twitter accounts are some of the best sources of tweets that raise awareness about the issue.

Idea 8: Follow The Leader. Consider adding some of your favourite nonprofits working to end violence against women to the list of Twitter folk that you follow. Many of them tweet news and views about violence against women and the state of the cause regularly.

Idea 9: Donate Online. Do you normally send your favourite nonprofit donations in the form of cheques? With an increasing number of nonprofits now accepting donations online, try donating online as many online donation programmes are also linked into the sponsors who can match your donation. Online donation also makes it easy for you to set up recurring small donations without having to pull out your chequebook repeatedly.

Idea 10: Get Educated… the Google Way. Set up news alerts courtesy of Google News to get the latest news about the issue to educate yourself about the state of the cause. Persuade your friends and family to do the same – it could make for some interesting and eye-opening conversation at the family dinner table.

Idea 11: Get Supportive. Show your support by joining relevant Facebook pages and groups where activists, nonprofits and survivors come together to discuss solutions to violence against women. Join in the conversation in the comments boxes and discussion forums.

Idea 12: Sign that Petition. Everyone from the United Nations to individual activists now set up their petitions online where takes just two minutes to digitally sign your name to everything from stopping female genital mutilation to protesting the release of sexual predators. When you come across appeals for petitions, read the petition message and then add your name to it.

Idea 13: Fundraise online. While bake sales, charity dinners and other classic fundraising tactics will never go out of fashion, a very low-cost and low-hassle way of raising funds for your favourite nonprofit is via nonprofit community sites such as Ammado and Razoo. Start a fundraising project and get your friends and family to donate amounts as small as US$10.

Idea 14: Help Get It Viral. If a trusted nonprofit working to end violence against women sends you a message about a campaign and asks you to forward it in any way (email, Twitter, Facebook, blog), please share the news. All it takes is a couple of minutes to consider which of your friends may be interested and to click the ‘send/post’ button.

Idea 15: Donate Virtual Real Estate. Do you have far more server space than you need on your hosting plan? Consider donating that unused piece of virtual real estate to your local battered women’s shelter or rape crisis centre to set up short-term campaign microsites.

Idea 16: YouTube It. If you have a webcam and a YouTube account, consider recording a personal message speaking out against violence against women and get all your friends and family to do the same. Another way of helping raise awareness is to ‘favourite’ videos about violence against women and the work that is being done to end this atrocity so all your fans and friends can see it.

So what are you waiting for? Time to get clicking!

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

– Regina Yau, Founder and President, The Pixel Project

16 Female Role Models 2010: Transforming Personal Pain into Positive Action

When it comes to the issue of Violence Against Women, we shy away from it because it is difficult to face the ugly side of humanity. It is painful to think of, much less see, the women and girls in our lives suffering from violence simply because they were born female.

Yet every cloud has its silver lining, every tunnel has a light at the end of it, and every seemingly hopeless case has its seeds of hope.

While our “Pledge for Pixels” campaign is the warm-up for our flagship fundraiser – The Celebrity Male Role Model Pixel Reveal campaign – that is set to launch in early 2011, we would like to take this opportunity to salute some of the bravest and most formidable women activists working to end violence against women around the world.

Many of these wonderful 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.

Here are 16 of some of the most awesome women in the movement to end violence against women. We hope that they will inspire you as much they do The Pixel Project team:

Female Role Model 1: Anuradha Koirala – Nepal

Anuradha Koirala, CNN Hero 2011 and human trafficking activist, founded Maiti Nepal, a nonprofit which saved more than 12,000 women and girls from sex trafficking and prostitution, when she escaped an abusive relationship that left her with three miscarriages. After the relationship ended, Koirala used a portion of her $100 monthly salary to start a small retail shop to employ and support displaced victims of sex trafficking and domestic violence. Maiti Nepal was her brainchild for giving voice, legal defense and rehabilitation to victims of sex trafficking. The group also takes in rape and domestic violence survivors, as well as abandoned children. “The hardest part for me is to see a girl dying or coming back with different diseases at an [age] when she should be out frolicking,” Koirala said. “That’s what fuels me to work harder.”

Female Role Model 2: Betty Makoni – Zimbabwe

Betty Makoni is the founder of Girl Child Network Worldwide and a CNN Hero. As a survivor of child abuse and rape, Betty founded GCNW to educate and empower Zimbabwean girls. Her work has forced her to flee Zimbabwe for the United Kingdom where she continues to run Girl Child Network Worldwide, bringing her model of empowering girls from the ground up to numerous countries across the world. Betty’s incredible story has been captured in a poignant documentary, Tapestries of Hope, by Michealene Risley. Betty said: “We focus on girls to transform them from being like a passive victim to the “masculine” qualities that we want because… it’s all about standing tall. This is what we teach boys: a man is strong. We can say to the girls the same: a girl is strong”

Female Role Model 3: ‘Bibi’ Ayesha – Afghanistan

18-year-old ‘Bibi’ Ayesha had her ears and nose chopped off by her abusive husband and was brought to the United States to undergo facial reconstruction surgery. While in the United States, she bravely shared her pre-surgery face with the world by going on the cover of Time magazine. Aisha’s portrait is a powerful and visual Teachable Moment that inspires and galvanises all of us to work towards eliminating violence against women wherever we are in the world and with whatever skills and tools we have at hand.

Female Role Model 4: Brenda Isabel – Kenya

Brenda Isabel, a young Kenyan survivor of sexual violence, turns her personal tragedy into communal good by starting a centre to help other young Kenyan women house their dreams and is working to make it self-funding by starting a business to make eco-friendly sanitary pads. Brenda wants to help change things by empowering other young women like her with education and life skills. She recently launched her own programme called The Human Relations Trust. What an inspiration and a great example of being able to move beyond the pain and to turn pain into a force for good! To learn more about Brenda and her amazing initiative, you can watch a video about her work here.

Female Role Model 5: Esther Chavez Cano – Mexico

The late Esther Chavez Cano began her distinguished work against violence against women in Mexico after she retired as an accountant. Profoundly shocked by the lack of police attention to the brutal killings of the women of Cuidad Juarez, she founded the March 8 Organisation to bring together campaigners protesting at the violence perpetrated against women in the area. She collected articles on the murders from local papers for several years, and distilled the reports into facts and figures that could be used to hound the police services and embarrass politicians. As her list of victims grew, so did her tenacity. In 1999 she opened the Casa Amiga shelter and rape crisis centre, which now helps thousands of women each year, free of charge.

Female Role Model 6: Holly Kearl – United States of America

For ten years Holly Kearl has addressed gender-based violence and women’s equity issues, starting with volunteer work at a local domestic violence shelter during her senior year of high school. Tired of strange men whistling and honking at her, calling out to her, following her, and grabbing her when she was alone in public, Holly wrote her master’s thesis on gender-based street harassment and how women were using online websites to combat it. In 2008 she founded an anti-street harassment website and blog and began working on an anti-street harassment book. In Aug. 2010, her book came out and it is available online: Stop Street Harassment: Making Public Places Safe and Welcoming for Women

Female Role Model 7: Iana Matei – Romania

Iana Matei is Romania’s leading advocate and activist for the end of the sex-trafficking of girls and women. Until a few years ago, Ms. Matei’s shelter here was the only one in Romania for victims of traffickers, though the country has been a center for the trade in young girls for decades. In 1990, as Romania was emerging from Communism, she participated in daily street protests and eventually fled to and resettled in Australia where she earned a degree in psychology and worked with street children. In 1998, she moved back to Romania where she began working with street children and eventually rescuing underaged girls from prostitution and sex trafficking under dangerous conditions.

Female Role Model 8: Julia Lalla-Maharajh – United Kingdom

Julia Lalla-Maharajh, founder of the Orchid Project, was volunteering in Ethiopia when she came across the scale and extent of female genital cutting there. She was determined to do something about this. When she returned to London she volunteered with FORWARD to discover more about organisations working in this field.  She was able to appear on the Plinth in Trafalgar Square spending her hour raising awareness about FGC, putting on and taking off 40 t-shirts to represent countries where FGC is practised and cutting the petals of 40 red roses.  Following this, she entered the YouTube/World Economic Forum competition, the Davos Debates. In a global vote, she won and went to Davos, to hold a dedicated debate with the head of UNICEF, Amnesty International and the UN Foundation.

Female Role Model 9: Kathleen Schmidt – United States of America

Kathleen Schmidt survived a childhood and brutal first marriage full of abuse to go on to a happy second marriage and a full life dedicated to helping others. Kathleen tells her story in the book, Escaping The Glass Cage as a way of sharing her strength and experience with others to show them that there is hope. She is also the founder of Project Empowerment, a weekly Blogtalkradio show where she interviews experts, survivors and leaders in the movement to end violence against women and domestic violence about their work and solutions to this seemingly intractable problem.

Female Role Model 10: Layli Miller-Muro – United States of America

Layli Miller-Muro is the Executive Director of the Tahirih Justice Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting women from human rights abuses through the provision of legal aid and public policy advocacy. Miller-Muro founded the organization in 1997 following her involvement in Matter of Kasinga, a high-profile case that set national precedent and revolutionized asylum law in the United States. Fauziya Kassindja, a 17-year-old girl who had fled Togo in fear of a forced polygamous marriage and a tribal practice known as female genital mutilation, was granted asylum in 1996 by the US Board of Immigration Appeals. This decision opened the door to gender-based persecution as grounds for asylum.

Female Role Model 11: Lisa Shannon – United States of America

Lisa Shannon founded the first national grassroots effort to raise awareness and funds for women in the DR Congo through her project Run for Congo Women. They have sponsored more than a thousand war-affected Congolese women through Women for Women International. These women are raising more than 5000 children. She traveled solo into Eastern Congo’s South Kivu province for five and half weeks in January- February 2007, and again in May 2008. Prior to Lisa’s travels through Congo, was named a “2006 Hero of Running” by Runner’s World Magazine and O, The Oprah Magazine wrote, “Lisa Shannon read our report—and started a movement.” Lisa presently serves as an ambassador for Women for Women International.

Female Role Model 12: Olivia Klaus – United States of America

Filmmaker Olivia Klaus spent nine years creating “Sin by Silence,”a documentary on women in the United States sentenced to prison for killing their abusive partners. Klaus volunteered to work with the group Convicted Women Against Abuse (CWAA)—the subject of the film—after a friend in an abusive relationship turned to her for help. She named her film after something Abraham Lincoln once said, “To sin by silence when we should protest makes cowards of men.” She said: “This is my way of protesting and breaking the silence.” Klaus believes that anyone can get involved with stopping violence against women – from being there for a friend to volunteering for a shelter to protesting for legislation.

Female Role Model 13: Rana Husseini – Jordan

As a Jordanian woman journalist writing for The Jordan Times, Rana Husseini focused on social issues with a special emphasis on violence against women, as well as the brutal crimes that are committed against Jordanian women in the name of family honour. Her coverage of and dedication to ending this unjustified practice against women helped raise national awareness on a topic that is traditionally considered taboo. Until The Jordan Times began reporting on so-called crimes of honour, the local press shied away from addressing the issue. The government responded by introducing legal changes that suggest tougher punishments for perpetrators of such crimes.

Female Role Model 14: Roya Shams – Afghanistan

Roya Shams is a 16-year-old Afghan girl who walks to school every day to get her education, regardless of threats of violence from her neighbours and community. Roya is not only determined to learn and to finish high school, but she intends to go on to university and get a degree. She then plans to stick her neck out even further: in a country where a woman is easily cut down for having the nerve to speak up, the burning ambition of Roya’s young life is to become a politician. “We have to study,” she insists. “We have to show them the way.”

Female Role Model 15: Sunitha Krishnan – India

Dr. Sunitha Krishnan, born in 1969, is an Indian social activist, a gang rape survivor and Chief Functionary and co-founder of Prajwala, an institution that assists trafficked women and girls in finding shelter. The organization also helps pay for the education of five thousand children infected with HIV/AIDS in Hyderabad. Prajwala’s “second-generation” prevention program operates in 17 transition centers and has served thousands of children of prostituted mothers. Prajwala’s strategy is to remove women from brothels by giving their children educational and career opportunities. Krishnan and her staff train survivors in carpentry, welding, printing, masonry and housekeeping.

Female Role Model 16: Waris Dirie – Somalia

Waris Dirie is a Somali model, author, actress and human rights activist working to end female genital mutilation (FGM). Waris underwent FGM as a child and at the age of thirteen, she fled her family to escape an arranged marriage to a much older man. In 1997, Waris left her modeling career to focus on her work against FGM and was appointed UN Special Ambassador for the Elimination of FGM.In 2002, she founded the Waris Dirie Foundation in Vienna, Austria, an organization aimed at raising awareness regarding the dangers surrounding FGM. In January 2009, the PPR Foundation for Women’s Dignity and Rights’, was jointly founded by Waris and French tycoon François-Henri Pinault (CEO of PPR) and his wife, actress Salma Hayek. Waris has also started the Desert Dawn Foundation, which raises money for schools and clinics in her native Somalia.

– Regina Yau, Founder and President – The Pixel Project