Monthly Archives: December 2013

10 Women Who Shaped the Future

(CNN) – The women of the year helped bring the economy back from the brink, worked against tyranny, and championed equality, education and justice. Most of all, they helped open our eyes to how much remains to be done.

Malala Yousafzai

If 2012 was the year most of us first heard about the 14-year-old Pakistani girl, it was 2013 when we learned nobody could silence her, especially not the cowardly Taliban men who tried to kill her.

Malala had become a vocal advocate of the right of all girls to an education, a frightening prospect for the Taliban. In October 2012, machine-gun toting extremists walked onto a school van, asked for Malala, then shot her in the face.

Instead of intimidating her, the Taliban turned her into their own worst nightmare — a powerful girl more admired and articulate than ever.

This year we found that Malala’s impact is just beginning. As a leading candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize, her advocacy for girls inspires hope around the world. And she’s just getting started.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot

What is it about macho politicians who get so scared of brave women?

In Russia, President Vladimir Putin’s suppression of the political opposition spurred an unlikely force, the defiantly named punk rock group Pussy Riot. The female band protested Putin’s increasing authoritarianism. When five of them broke out into an anti-Putin song, “Punk Prayer,” at Moscow’s main Orthodox cathedral, two of them — Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina — were arrested and put in prison.

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Time to Honor Heroism of South African Women

Our guide’s eyes here were damp as she placed her hand on her belly. Her voice betrayed the struggle she was having controlling her emotions as our group of 14 women from the United States fell quiet.

We stood together in the warm South African sun, in the open plaza commemorating the events of June 16, 1976, when the Afrikaaner police opened fire on protesting high school students.

With the murmur of the fountain adding to the sense of peace and sorrow, Refilwe Mathe explained the route the protestors took and the words on the signs they carried, demanding they not be forced to study in Afrikaan, the language of the authors of the apartheid.

While her voice became even sadder, together we stared at the iconic photo of Hector Pieterson’s dead body, 13 years old, being carried toward a rescuer by 18-year-old Mbuyisa Makhubo as Pieterson’s sister,Antoinette Sithole, 17, ran alongside. The teen was one of about 200 who died during the 1976 student uprising, including Mathe’s own aunt and three uncles, she explained.

The pain and hope for change from the years of apartheid rule felt ever-present to me as I recently visited the country for the first time to meet female activists and learn more about how the nation’s constitution came to specifically include women’s rights.

As I stared at the image of Sithole, touched by her obvious pain, I began to wonder if there were similar tributes to the women of South Africa. During my 10-day stay, I heard of none.

The roar of the continuing violence, with its enormous toll on the lives of women and girls, was overpowering, though. Model Reeva Steenkamp was murdered by Olympic star Oscar Pistorius and he was released on bail. Three men were arrested for taking part in the gang rape and disembowelment of a 17-year-old, a murder so brutal that President Jacob Zuma, once a rape suspect himself involving a teen, issued a statement describing the crime as “shocking,” “cruel” and “inhumane.” Zuma also called for a “concerted campaign to end this scourge in our society.”

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Lipstick Revolt