Thursday, March 29, 2012

crrrrageous women.

earlier in the month, marking international women's day, the u.s. state department presented
this year's international women of courage awards to ten women from around the world
who have shown leadership, courage, resourcefulness & willingness
to sacrifice for others, especially for the improvement of women's rights.

"these women ... have taken very different journeys to this moment,"
remarked first lady michelle obama at the event.
"but they are all here today because somewhere along the line,
they decided they could no longer accept the world as it is.

"and they committed themselves to fighting for the world as they know it should be.

"they saw corruption, & they worked to expose it.
they saw oppression, & they worked to end it.
they saw violence, poverty, discrimination & inequality —
& they decided to use their voices & risk their lives to do something about it."

go on — pick an inspiration, any inspiration:

aneesa ahmed, maldives.
aneesa ahmed is a vocal advocate for ending gender-based violence.
while serving as maldives' deputy minister of women's affairs,
ahmed raised the taboo topic of domestic violence.
she founded hope for women, an organization working to educate
students, police & other workers about gender-based violence,
& has been a public voice against female genital mutilation/cutting.

zin mar aung, burma.
zin mar aung was imprisoned for eleven years for her political activism.
once released, aung created & leads a self-help association for female ex-political prisoners,
& a political science school in rangoon. she co-founded a women's empowerment group,
& is currently launching an organization to raise awareness of issues
affecting ethnic minorities in conflict areas.

pricilla de oliveira azevedo, brazil.
major pricilla de oliveira azevedo joined the rio de janeiro police 13 years ago,
working in police battalions & street repressions operations.
she arrested a gang of criminals who had kidnapped & tortured her,
& was chosen to lead the fort police pacification unit in the slum of santa marta.
major azevedo has shut down drug-dealing operations, improved garbage collection
& health care, & broadened education & technical training opportunities.

samar badawi, saudi arabia.
samar badawi is powerful voice for women's suffrage & against the guardian system,
under which women can't marry, work or travel without a male guardian's permission.
badawi was the first woman to sue her father for abuse of the system,
& the first woman to sue the government for the right to vote, urging other
women to follow [law]suit. thanks to hers & like efforts, the government issued
a royal decree letting women vote & run for municipal office.

shad begum, pakistan.
shad begum is a human rights activist & leader in an extremely conservative area.
as founder & executive director of the association for behavior & knowledge transformation,
begum provides political training, microcredit, education & health services for women
in the most conservative areas of her country. she also ran & won local seats in
elections against conservatives who tried to ban female participation.

honorable maryam durani, afghanistan.
honorable maryam durani is a member of kandahar's provincial council,
& a voice for the rights of afghan women & girls. durani is also director
of the khadija kubra women's association for culture, & owner/operator
of the only local, female-focused radio station. she has survived multiple
assassination attempts & continues to face regular threats, but remains
dedicated to advocating for basic civil rights for all afghans.

hana el hebshi, libya.
hana el hebshi is a 27yo artchitect who has become a symbol of solidarity for many.
working under the pseudonym "numidia [new media]," el hebshi contributed greatly to proper
documentation of the violence of the libyan revolution, & shared with international media
the grave realities of living under the gaddafi regime, despite serious risk.

jineth bedoya lima, colombia.
jineth bedoya lima is an investigative journalist who continues to pursue
dangerous assignments in the interest of justice, particularly as it concerns
crimes of sexual & gender-based violence. lima herself was kidnapped in 2000
as she arrived at a prison for an interview with a key paramilitary member.
she was driven several hours & repeatedly gang-raped as "a message to the colombian press."
today, she serves as a spokesperson for an oxfam campaign against rape & other violence.

safak pavey, turkey.
safak pavey is the first disabled woman elected to the turkish parliament.
pavey has worked with the united nations high commission on refugees in the middle east,
south asia & africa, helped launch the un's interagency support group for
the convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, & continues to give voice
to disabled persons, women & minority populations in her home country.

hawa abdallah mohammed salih, sudan.
hawa abdallah mohammed salih was forced to flee with her family from their village
due to fighting between darfuri rebels & government forces, & grew up in an
internally displaced persons [idp] camp. today, salih is a prominent voice for idp's —
so much so that she has bee persecuted & detained many times by the sudan government,
& was finally forced to leave the country last year. she hopes to return to her homeland
to continue fighting for the rights of darfuris, especially women & children.

image source: u.s. state department.

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