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5 inspirational women you should know about
Coming from a country like Pakistan, I believe any woman who challenges the status quo and breaks out of the patriarchal chains she was born and raised in is an amazing woman.
It’s quite admirable when these women, who have been raised to submit to and never question authority, decided to put their feet down and do something to empower other women. It’s also quite frightening to imagine what they must have gone through to take the stands they did. This is why I thought I’d compile a list of some amazing women from the world, mainly from developing countries who practiced immense courage and bravery in the face of taunts, death threats, and opposition from families. These women have left their mark in this world, and continue to do so.
Perween Rehman Pakistan
Earning her the nickname “guardian of the poor,” Perween worked on various community projects, most notably the Orangi Pilot Project, a non-profit project started to help the poor of the country. She was a passionate activist and worked tirelessly and fearlessly for the poor, especially in Orangi town — one of Karachi’s oldest and poorest towns where people are forced to live without basic necessities, mostly in slums.
A remarkable woman who, instead of choosing to work as a private architect and making millions, chose to act as a guardian for the poor of the city, something most of us wouldn’t even consider. She was shot and passed away on March 13, 2013 allegedly by the one of the mafias that thrives in these areas. She was unconditionally brave, and challenged the status quo every single day, something that just wasn’t acceptable.
“She had been receiving threats on her life for a long time. We had discussed this several times but every time I advised her to take care of herself, she smiled, waved her hand and said what will they do, I have to work a lot and that too in the middle of the people,” said Mr. Arif Pervez, a development professional and a friend of hers, to Dawn News.
Sampat Pal Devi India
Some of you are familiar with who she is and how kickass she is. Founder of the “Gulabi Gang” a.k.a. the “Pink Gang,” she and her gang members hail from the Banda District of Uttar Pradesh. She identifies herself as a part of a gang that was formed to deliver vigilante justice. Sampat acts as the leader of this group, who, all clad in pink saris, hold latthis or wooden sticks in their hands, ready to fight forms of gender-based violence.
She stormed the Banda district’s electricity council, where officials were only willing to turn on power in return for bribes and sexual favors, and demanded that electricity be returned to the households.
It is quite an amazing sight, to see so many women in pink saris, ready to deliver their own form of justice. Sampat Pal Devi was a child bride herself, married at the age of 12 to an ice cream vendor. The mother of five is truly a remarkable woman who has worked to establish a new level of sisterhood amongst women in India.
“I’m more powerful than the police,” she explains in a documentary.
Kakenya Ntaiya Kenya
She was once a girl whose future was planned out for her, like many other girls in her village. Unlike other girls, though, Kakenya fought against the customs and traditions of her tribe, and made a deal with her father: she would participate in the traditional Massai rite of passage, female circumcision, in return for an education.
It was a deal she would never give up on. She refused to submit to an arranged marriage, continuing to work hard and tirelessly for the education that she sacrificed for. Eventually, she received a scholarship to go study at a college in the United States. After completing her degree, she went back and built a school for girls — girls who will become tomorrow’s leaders, girls who will not have to strike such painful deals with their fathers for a basic right.
If you’re interested, make sure you watch her TED talk, which is as moving as her inspirational story and will definitely leave you overwhelmed.
“I’m helping girls who cannot speak for themselves. Why should they go through the hardships I endured? They’ll be stepping on my shoulders to move up the ladder—they’re not going to start on the bottom.”
Wajeha al-Huwaider Saudi Arabia
A women’s rights activist and campaigner, Wajeha made history by uploading a video of herself driving on Youtube 2008. Why is this a big deal, you may ask? Women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia. If you look closely, they are forbidden to do a lot of things, ranging from traveling without a male guardian to running for public office. In fact, the first time these women will ever vote will be in 2015.
Waheja and her actions gave birth to a chain of events which led to Saudi women standing up for their rights. The response to her YouTube video prompted her to co-found the Association for the Protection and Defense of Women’s Rights in Saudi Arabia with Fawzia al-Uyyouni.
“If you give a woman a right to move, you give her the right to find a job, to be independent,” she told The Huffington Post over the phone.
Awezan is someone who has encountered some terrible experiences in her life, and yet she has had the strength to gather herself and work for the betterment of other women. She has played an active role in the fight against female genital mutilation (FGM), having narrowly escaped it herself when she was just nine years old. Since setting up PANA (an organization making efforts to combat FGM) she has had to deal with everything ranging from death threats to abuses hurled at her on the road.
Her offices have been destroyed, and efforts to silence her voice have been prevalent for quite some time. However, Awezan, a poet and a brave activist, continues to work for the protection for young girls and women who have to go through this terrible ordeal. Kudos to her.
In an interview to The Independent: “I’m not scared – any change that has ever been made in any society required difficult times,” she says. “History will talk about us and will talk about our movement. Other women in the world have done this, and they were threatened and they were beaten, but they did it. Why not us?”