Tribe of Women

Amazons of the Ukraine

In the Ukraine, a country where females are victims of sexual trafficking and gender oppression, a new tribe of empowered women is emerging. Calling themselves the “Asgarda”, the women seek complete autonomy from men. Residing in the Carpathian Mountains, the tribe is comprised of 150 women of varying ages, primarily students, led by 30 year-old Katerina Tarnouska. Reviving the tribal traditions of the Scythian Amazons of ancient Greek mythology, the Asgarda train in martial arts, taught by former Soviet karate master, Volodymyr Stepanovytch, and learn life skills and sciences in order to become ideal women. Little physical documentation existed on the tribe, until recently, when renowned French photographer, Guillaume Herbaut, met the Asgarda back in 2004 in the midst of the Orange Revolution.

via Asgarda | PLANET°.

Highlighting Women

New Revolutionary Women post!

Phoolan Devi

Phoolan DeviKnown as India’s Bandit Queen, Phoolan Devi stole from
the rich and gave to the poor. Her story evolved from being a member of a “lower” Indian caste, being forced into marriage at the age of 11, being raped and tortured… First by her husband, then by the police, and later by upper-caste members of her village. She escaped, and took revenge upon her tormentors (she stabbed her husband and dragged him out to the village square; later, she shot dead the villagers who raped her).

She proceeded to fight the caste wars as a field revolutionary, was charged with crimes and went to jail, and later on entered politics representing the lower-caste Samajwadi Party as an MP. Hated by some, she was a hero and a legend to the many she represented.

Phoolan Devi was assassinated in 2001 by three masked men in New Delhi.

View biographic timeline


Ibtisam Mara'ana

Ibtisam Mara’ana is a Palestinian-Israeli documentary filmmaker, perhaps best-known for her film Paradise Lost, considered to be the first film to be made from the perspective of a Palestinian woman. She is the founder of Ibtisam Films, a documentary film production house.

Ibtisam Mara'ana

Mara’ana was awarded the Dalai Lama’s Unsung Heroes of Compassion award in 2009 for her social and political activism for peace and on behalf of battered women in Arabic society.

Read an intervew with Mara’ana about her mother as feminist inspiration

View an interview with Mara’ana about her work:

Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera

Kasha Jacqueline NabageseraFor Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, being an LGBT rights activist means the daily threat of violence, imprisonment, and death. In Uganda, homosexuality is punishable by long jail terms, and violence is common. Her colleague, David Kato, was murdered last year because of his activism and voice against Uganda’s discrimination.

Nabagesera is widely recognized for her fearless human rights activism as founder of the LGBT rights organization Freedom and Roam Uganda.

In 2011 Nabagesera won the Martin Ennals Human Rights Defenders Award:

Afghanistan’s Supergran Crimebuster on Wheels

Afghanistan Woman Village Chief

It’s unusual for a woman to be a leader in Afghanistan but Zarifa Qazizadah has become the country’s only female village chief through force of personality and determination to get things done – even if that means cross-dressing, wearing a false moustache and driving around on a motorbike at night.

“I tell the men of the village, all I want is your prayers,” she says. “When you have a problem, I’ll speak to the government on your behalf and whenever there is any disturbance at night-time, I’ll pick up my gun and come to your house to see what’s going on.”

When the mother of 15 first sought political office, and told local men she wanted to connect the village to the electricity grid, they laughed.

That was in 2004. She lost the election, but she got the electricity all the same, and two years later the men asked her to apply for the post of head of the village – Naw Abad in the country’s northern Balkh province.

Now she guards the electricity supply with a vengeance, and if anyone wires their home up and starts stealing it, they have to watch out.

“I can’t let that happen because we have to respect the law,” she says.


Women in Power in Afghanistan

  • Habiba Sarabi became the first female governor in Afghanistan in Bamyan province in 2005
  • Fawzia Koofi was the first female deputy speaker of the Afghan parliament
  • One quarter of the seats in the Afghan parliament are reserved for women
  • Qazizadah is not the first woman to have held the position of village chief – another woman in a nearby village beat her to it, but she recently died


“When something happens in the village at night and I have to react quickly, I’ll put on men’s clothes and ride my motorbike.”

Women in rural Afghanistan are rarely seen riding motorbikes alone and Qazizadah disguises herself, with the clothes and a fake moustache, to avoid attracting too much attention.

She has also been known to come to the rescue of her villagers by wrestling Jeeps out of ditches with a tractor.

“She does the type of work that even men are not capable of doing,” says Molavi Seyyed Mohammad, one of her local supporters.

Qazizadah does not take “No” for an answer.

To keep her promise to voters on the electricity supply, even though she failed in her bid to get elected to parliament, she travelled to the Afghan capital, Kabul, with her four-year-old daughter and went straight to the home of the Minister for Power, Shaker Kargar, demanding to speak to him.

He agreed to see her the following day in his office, and by the end of the meeting he had given his consent.

There was one problem – the village itself had to pay for the posts and cables.

Qazizadah, who had already sold some of her jewellery to pay for the trip to Kabul, borrowed money wherever she could and remortgaged her house to raise the necessary capital.

Only one third of Afghanistan's population have access to electricity

Only one third of Afghanistan’s population have access to electricity

Five months later, everyone in the village had electricity in their home. “It was only then that people recognised what I’d done and started to pay me back,” she says.

The income from the electricity system was poured into construction of a new bridge over a dangerous river, connecting the village with a major road.

Qazizadah also sponsored the building of Naw Abad’s first mosque. Unlike most mosques in the country, it is designed so that men and women pray together.

“When people saw the work I was doing on these projects, they would start to join in,” she says.

“Now people can pray in their own village and the local boys don’t have to go so far to learn how to read the Koran.”

All this is a profound achievement for a woman who was married at 10 years old – and just 15 when she became a mother.

For much of her young adult life, she lived in a very remote village with her husband’s family where, she says, she was little more than a servant.

During Taliban rule, she moved to the regional capital, Mazar-e-Sharif, with her husband, where she had her first taste of community work, volunteering to help parents get their children vaccinated. Covertly, she helped teach young girls to learn to read.

Now aged 50, with 36 grandchildren, she is head of the local women’s council, as well as village head, and hosts large meetings of local women in her home, encouraging them to follow her example.

“I was just a housewife like you,” she told a group of 50 women at one of her recent gatherings.

“But today I can have a meeting with 1,000 people. I can meet and discuss issues with authorities. In Western countries, women can become presidents. These women are brave and they can achieve a lot.”

Zarifa Qazizadah spoke to Outlook on the BBC World Service. Listen to the programme here.

via BBC News – Afghanistan’s supergran crimebuster on wheels.

16 Female Role Models: Transforming Personal Pain into Positive Action « The Pixel Project

16 Female Role Models: Transforming Personal Pain into Positive Action « The Pixel Project.

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 Empowermenta 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 TimesRana 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.

Just came across this a few months later… Just as relevant as ever. If you do nothing else, see Asmaa’s video clip.

Cellar Door

We are, each of us, functions of how we imagine ourselves and of how others imagine us, and, looking back, there are these discrete tracks of memory: the times when our lives are most sharply defined in relation to others’ ideas of us, and the more private times when we are freer to imagine ourselves. […] it occurred to me that if others have so often made your life their business — made your life into a question, really, and made that question their business — then perhaps you will want to guard the memory of those times when you were freer to imagine yourself as the only times that are truly and inviolably your own.
— We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families: Stories from Rwanda by Philip Gourevitch

The passage above from Philip Gourevitch’s gorgeously written book about the 1994 Rwandan…

View original post 744 more words

Highlighting Women

The more I get involved with feminist activism and the more I read and research for this blog, the more I discover how many women are out there every day in every aspect of public and private life, dedicating themselves to changing the order of things.

Isn’t this beautiful?

2010 performance highlighting women’s rights in Tajikistan. The show, Three Stories, emphasizes issues affecting rural Tajik women. The first scene focuses on women’s right to education. The second scene shows the consequences of being in an unregistered marriage, and the third illustrates how mothers can get child support payments from their children’s fathers.

One of the pitfalls of any activism that wants to change existing power structures is falling into the place of a victim: On one hand, the “system” does victimize the other, whoever is defined as lower in the hierarchy. Such as women, transgender people, people of color, atheists… The list, of course, goes on and on. On the other hand, developing a victim mentality is not necessarily the best way to get out of that morass, IMHO. (Not that everyone has the luxury of making that choice.)

So I believe in highlighting not only the injustices, rife as they are. I want to put a bright shining spotlight on the women who can and do stand up and insist their voice be heard. I really can’t do enough to give credit to these women. But I promise to continue featuring them as they come across my desktop and consciousness.

Haneen Zoabi

Haneen Zoabi is the first woman to be elected to the Israeli parliament (Knesset) on an Arab party’s list – the Balad (National Democratic Assembly) party.

Zoabi first came to public prominence because of her participation in the controversial 2010 Gaza Freedom Flotilla. In the ensuing raid on the flotilla, Zoabi mediated the evacuation of the wounded from the flotilla, and was subsequently among those arrested by the Israeli military. She was later censured by the Knesset for her participation, and stripped of parliamentary privileges. An investigation of Israeli nationals (including Zoabi) who participated in the flotilla took place, but ultimately was closed without charging anyone. Public opinion ran strongly against Zoabi (among Jewish Israelis, that is); she received death threats, and was jeered in the Knesset, and even faced a physical attack by fellow member of parliament Anastassia Michaeli.

See some great coverage of the entire saga in the Tikun Olam blog, including articles, pictures, and videos.

→ Here is an interview with Haneen Zoabi on challenging Zionism and demanding co-existence ←

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

“Tolerance of intolerance is cowardice.”

“I cannot emphasize enough how wrongheaded this is. Withholding criticism and ignoring differences are racism in its purest form. Yet these cultural experts fail to notice that, through their anxious avoidance of criticizing non-Western countries, they trap the people who represent these cultures in a state of backwardness. The experts may have the best of intentions, but as we all know, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
― Ayaan Hirsi Ali, The Caged Virgin:
An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam

“I would like to be judged on the validity of my arguments, not as a victim.”
― Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Infidel

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a controversial figure, to say the least.

Born into a traditional Muslim family, Hirsi Ali was raised in Somalia, Saudi Arabia, and Kenya, and like most girls of her background, underwent genital mutilation. When in her early twenties she found herself being forced into marriage with a distant cousin she’d never met, Hirsi Ali escaped and sought political asylum in The Netherlands (under circumstances that were later a subject of controversy as well, though the issue has since been put to rest).

She has since become an author, politician, feminist and anti- female genital incision activist, and outspoken critic of Islam, having renounced her religion and become an atheist. She was a member of the Dutch parliament from 2003 to 2006. She founded the AHA Foundation, whose mission is to protect the rights of girls and women in the west from oppression justified by religion and culture.

The controversy surrounding Hirsi Ali centers primarily on her opposition to Islam. Some critics accuse her of playing into right-wing Christian hands with her anti-Islamic stances. Others accuse her of over-generalization on the topic.

In 2004, together with director Theo van Gogh, she made Submission, a film about the oppression of women in conservative Islamic cultures. The film resulted in van Gogh’s assassination by an Islamic extremist, who pinned a death threat against Hirsi Ali to his victim’s chest. Because of the ongoing death threats against her (she is under fatwa for apostasy), Hirsi Ali subsequently announced that she would not make the planned sequel Submission II out of fear for her life. She now lives in the US in safe houses, under constant police protection.

Hedy Lamarr


“Any girl can be glamorous,” Hedy Lamarr once said. “All she has to do is stand still and look stupid.” Lamarr would know — the film star hid a brilliant, inventive mind beneath her photogenic exterior. In 1942, at the height of her Hollywood career, she patented a frequency-switching system for torpedo guidance that was decades ahead of its time.


If you are a fan of Hollywood’s glamour era, you probably know one of its major sex symbols, Hedy Lamarr. However, beyond being crowned by some the most beautiful woman in the world, and being famous for the first on-film simulated orgasm, Lamarr was a brilliant mind and a groundbreaking inventor.

Together with avant-garde composer George Antheil, Lamarr invented and patented a frequency-hopping radio signal intended to prevent jamming by the enemy of torpedo guidance systems (they called it the “Secret Communications System”). While the Navy didn’t immediately put the technology into use, they eventually dusted it off and found new applications for it. The kind that most of us now use.

Like wireless communications (ever heard of Bluetooth?). Yep, based on the invention of Hedy Lamarr.


“Hedy’s Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World,” by Pulitzer prize winning author Richard Rhodes

NPR: ‘Most Beautiful Woman’ By Day, Inventor By Night