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15 Daring Women & Teens

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15 daring Women & Teens who challenged the World 

Tsai Ing-wen: President of Taiwan 

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Tsai Ing-wen pinyin: Cài Yīngwén; born 31 August 1956  is a Taiwanese politician and academic who is the current President of the Republic of China (Taiwan) since 2016. A member of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), Tsai is the first unmarried female president of Taiwan.

Tsai Ing-wen was born on 31 August 1956, in Taipei, Taiwan, to Chang Jin-feng and Tsai Jie-sheng. She was the youngest of the nine children of her parents. Her father had a car repair business. merely years after Mao Zedong’s communist troops took Beijing and forced Chiang Kai-shek’s nationalists to flee across the Taiwan Strait. A bright girl, she graduated in law from the National Taiwan University and moved abroad for her higher studies. She returned home after earning a Ph.D. in law from the London School of Economics and embarked on an academic career. After teaching law at the School of Law at Soochow University and National Chengchi University for several years, she held a series of high-profile governmental positions under the then-ruling Kuomintang (KMT). Her involvement in politics intensified over time and in 2004 she joined the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Tsai was appointed to the post of vice president of the Executive Yuan in 2006 and was made the chairperson of the DPP a couple of years later. In 2015, she officially registered for the DPP’s presidential nomination primary and was nominated the party’s presidential candidate. As a part of her presidential campaign, she visited the US and addressed the Taiwanese diaspora there. In 2016, she won the presidential election with 56% of the vote, beating her opponent Eric Chu by a margin of 25.04%. She assumed the office of the President of Taiwan on 20 May 2016. Tsai Ing-Wen is Taiwan’s first unmarried president. Dr. Tsai is also the first female head of state in Asia who was not born into a political family. Dr. Tsai represented the DPP in the nation’s 15th-term presidential election in 2020 and was successfully re-elected with over 8.17 million votes, the highest total in history. Dr. Tsai was officially sworn in as the 15th-term President in May and concurrently serves as DPP chairperson. In 2016, she made a courtesy phone call to Donald Trump, who was the newly-elected US president at that time. That marked the first president of ROC to ever speak with the US president since 1979.In 2020, she was named by Time Magazine as one of the 2020’s “100 Most Influential People”. She is a pet lover. Her 2 cats Think Think and Ah Tsai, were featured mainly in her election campaign. She also adopted 3 guide dogs in 2016, namely Bella, Bunny, and Maru.

“We will put political polarization behind us and look forward to the arrival of an era of new politics in Taiwan,” Tsai said after her victory. 

Presidency- Stand with freedom

Ms. Tsai, 63, has placed herself as a defender of Taiwan's sovereignty against China's view that the island must one day be unified with the mainland. Beijing, meanwhile, turned up the pressure on Taiwan after she refused to acknowledge "The 1992 consensus", the vaguely-worded agreement which says Taiwan is part of "One China".

Her main rival from the Kuomintang (KMT) party, Han Kuo-yu, pushed for closer relations with China.

As a president, Tsai has done a lot of reforms and policies that have greatly benefited Taiwan. In terms of military power, her administration has raised the budget significantly. This is due to the goal of being self-sufficient in national defense and also the development of military sub-industries such as missiles and submarines. Perhaps her biggest undertaking was her ‘cross-strait policy’ that aimed to reject Beijing’s ‘one country, two systems’ model and opted for more co-existential peace instead. Due to Tsai’s disagreement with the contents of the ‘1992 Consensus’, Beijing suspended cross-strait communications in 2016. To this date, Taiwan is still battling against mainland China for equal status.

Tsai also made progress in the energy sector through the ‘Forward-Looking Infrastructure’ initiative. This includes adopting green energy systems and departure from nuclear energy. The Citizen Judges Act, a lay judge system inspired by Japan's jury system, was passed and will take effect in 2023. Tsai’s administration had done more on the people’s concerns such as labor reforms, pension reforms, and even the issue about the national languages.

In 2020, Tsai managed to become the president again for the second term. This also made her consequentially the DPP leader for the 3rd time. As of now, she’s still unmarried and has no offspring yet.

Angela Dorothea Merkel

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The Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel remains one of the foremost figureheads in global politics. An expert in a range of fields, Merkel is often described as the 'most powerful woman in the world'.

The longest-serving leader in the European Union and one of the most inspirational female speakers in the world, Merkel's influence is indisputable.

Angela Dorothea Merkel (born Angela Dorothea Kasner, July 17, 1954, in Hamburg, West Germany), is a German politician and scientist who served as the chancellor of Germany from 2005 to 2021, the first woman to hold this office. She is also the first German leader who grew up in the communist East. In 2007, Merkel was also President of the European Council and chair of the G8. She played a central role in the negotiation of the Treaty of Lisbon and the Berlin Declaration.

Merkel’s parents, Horst and Herlind Kasner, met in Hamburg, where her father was a theology student and her mother was a teacher of Latin and English. Merkel was educated in Templin and at the University of Leipzig, where she studied physics from 1973 to 1978. Merkel worked and studied at the Central Institute for Physical Chemistry of the Academy of Sciences in Berlin-Adlershof from 1978 to 1990. Angela Merkel speaks Russian fluently and even earned a statewide prize for her proficiency. After being awarded a doctorate (Dr. rer. nat.) based on a doctoral thesis on quantum chemistry she worked in research.

In 1977, Angela Kasner married physics student Ulrich Merkel. The marriage ended in divorce in 1982. Her second husband is a quantum chemist and Professor Joachim Sauer. He remains out of the spotlight. She has no children, but Sauer has two adult sons. In 1989, Merkel became involved in the growing democracy movement after the fall of the Berlin Wall, joining the new party Democratic Awakening. Following the first (and only) democratic election of the East German state, she became the deputy spokesperson of the new pre-unification caretaker government under Lothar de Maizière.

When the Kohl government was defeated in the 1998 general election, Merkel was named Secretary-General of the CDU. She was the first woman and East German to serve in this capacity with either of the two main parties.

Chancellorship of Angela Merkel

First CDU–SPD grand coalition, 2005–2009

On November 22, 2005, Merkel assumed the office of Chancellor of Germany, a position she held for four terms until December 8, 2021.

On November 22, 2005, Merkel took office as chancellor, becoming the first woman, the first East German, and, at age 51, the youngest person to date to hold the office.When announcing the coalition agreement, Merkel stated that the main aim of her government would be to reduce unemployment and that it was this issue on which her government would be judged.

CDU–FDP coalition, 2009–2013

Her party was re-elected again in 2009 with an increased number of seats and could form a governing coalition with the FDP. Merkel’s second term was largely characterized by her personal role in the response to the euro-zone debt crisis. Along with French Pres. Nicolas Sarkozy, Merkel championed austerity as the path to recovery for Europe’s damaged economies. 

2013-2017

On December 17 she became Germany’s third three-time chancellor in the postwar era (after Konrad Adenauer and Kohl). Midway through her second term, Merkel's approval plummeted in Germany, resulting in heavy losses in state elections for her party. However, she scored well on her handling of the euro crisis. Merkel's approval rating dropped again in October 2015, during the European migrant crisis.

Third CDU–SPD grand coalition, 2018–2021

The Fourth Merkel cabinet was sworn in on March 14, 2018. The negotiations that led to a Grand Coalition agreement with the Social Democrats (SPD) were the longest in German post-war history, lasting almost six months.

In October 2018, Merkel announced that she had decided not to run for re-election in the 2021 federal election.

In September 2021, she said that "after 16 years one does not automatically ... return to the chancellery, 

International status

Merkel is a prominent figure within the European Union and has helped turn Germany into one of the world’s leading nations

Merkel was widely described as the de facto leader of the European Union throughout her tenure as Chancellor. Merkel was twice been named the world's second most powerful person following Vladimir Putin by Forbes magazine, the highest ranking ever achieved by a woman. In December 2015, Merkel was named as Time magazine's Person of the Year, with the magazine's cover declaring her to be the "Chancellor of the Free World."In 2018, Merkel was named the most powerful woman in the world for a record fourteenth time by Forbes.

Aung San Suu Kyi AC

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Aung San Suu Kyi was born on 19 June 1945 in Rangoon (then British Burma). She is the third child in her family. Her name is derived from three relatives; “Aung San” from her father, “Kyi” from her mother and “Suu” from her grandmother. Her father, Aung San, was instrumental in negotiating independence from Britain in 1947. He also founded the Burmese army and was assassinated by political rivals in late 1947.

Suu Kyi studied at primary schools in Rangoon; she attended schools in Burma until 1960, when her mother was appointed ambassador to India. After further study in India, she attended the University of Oxford, where she met her future husband, the British scholar Michael Aris. She and Aris had two children and lived a rather quiet life until 1988, when she returned to Burma to nurse her dying mother, leaving her husband and sons behind. There the mass slaughter of protesters against the brutal and unresponsive rule of military strongman U Ne Win led her to speak out against him and to begin a nonviolent struggle for democracy and human rights in that country. before studying in India (graduating from New Delhi University, 1964) and St Hugh’s College, Oxford University (1968). After Oxford University, she worked for the United Nations for three years. In 1972 she married  Michael Aris who was living in Bhutan – they had two children.

Around this time her husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer, but he was not allowed an entry visa to the country, however, despite her husband’s ailing health Suu Kyi was reluctant to leave now she had a prominent position in the movement for democracy.

 In July 1989, she was placed under house arrest by the military junta. She was told she could have freedom if she agreed to leave the country, but she preferred to stay. Under house arrest, she spent time studying Buddhism and political activism and remained popular with those who supported the ideals of democracy in Myanmar.

For her principled, non-violent protest against the military and support for democratic principles, she was lauded by many human rights groups and influential bodies around the world. Suu Kyi won the Rafto Prize and the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 1990 and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. In 1992, she was awarded the Jawaharlal Nehru peace prize by the Government of India for her peaceful and non-violent struggle under a military dictatorship.

Michael Aris died in London in early 1999. Prior to his death, the military junta denied him a visa to visit Suu Kyi in Myanmar, and Suu Kyi, anticipating that she would not be allowed to reenter the country if she left, remained in Myanmar.

For many years she was kept under house arrest, with the Burmese junta repeatedly extending her detention. According to the results of the 1990 general election, Suu Kyi earned the right to be Prime Minister, as leader of the winning National League for Democracy party, but her detention by the military junta prevented her from assuming that role.

The junta once again placed Suu Kyi under house arrest from September 2000 to May 2002, ostensibly for having violated restrictions by attempting to travel outside Yangon. Clashes between the NLD and pro-government demonstrators in 2003, the government returned her to house arrest. In 2009 a United Nations body declared her detention illegal under Myanmar’s own law. In 2008 the conditions of her house arrest were somewhat loosened, allowing her to receive some magazines as well as letters from her children, who were both living abroad. 

 In 2010, she was released from house arrest and travelled around the world speaking up for democracy in Burma. In the summer of 2012, she received an honorary doctorate from Oxford University. (Aung San Suu Kyi studied PPE at St Hugh’s College, Oxford University). In January 2012 Suu Kyi announced that she was seeking election to a constituency in Yangon, She easily won her seat in the April 1 elections and was sworn into office on May 2. In late May and early June 2012 Suu Kyi visited Thailand, her first trip outside Myanmar since 1988. Later in June she traveled to Europe, making stopovers in several countries. Highlights of that journey included giving the acceptance speech for her Nobel Prize in Oslo, Norway, and being invited to address the British Parliament in London. On 2 May 2012, she was elected to the National Parliament with other Democrat MPs.

 In 2015, her party, the National League for Democracy won a sweeping victory, although she was ineligible for the Presidency (due to provisions which prevented widows and mother of foreigners.) She claimed she would hold the real power in the new government. The president, Htin Kyaw, created a new role for her – the position of State Counsellor on 1 April 2016. This enabled her to assume the dominant position in the government.

Irom Sharmila : The World’s Longest Hunger Striker

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Irom Chanu Sharmila, also known as the "Iron Lady of Manipur" or "Mengoubi" is an Indian civil rights activist, political activist, and poet from the Indian state of Manipur, which is located on the north-eastern side of India

She went on a her hunger strike in November 2000, at the age of 28 years, to press her demand to abolish AFSPA, and vowed not to eat, drink, comb her hair or look in a mirror until the law was repealed. When she called off the hunger strike, her supporters didn’t take it very well.

Growing up in Manipur, Sharmila loved the land of her birth and was entranced by the stories of Gods and Goddesses, kings, and queens, as related to her by her grandmother. Like most people of Manipur, Sharmila grew up with a strong loyalty to the land. Right from an early age, Sharmila was passionate about defending the causes that she deeply cared about. She actively espoused social issues during her college days and participated in rallies to protest against violation of civil rights. Sharmila was also part communities such as the All-Manipur Students’ Union for Sightless, Centre for Organization Research and Education, and Human Rights Alert among others. People close to Sharmila talk about her passion for journalism and literature right from an early age.

On 2nd November, 2000, a makeshift bomb exploded close to an army convoy when passing next to a bus stop in Malom, Imphal. The army reacted to the bomb with gunshots killing ten civilians. The brutality of the incident triggered her to take up a protest against AFSPA in a peaceful and non-violent way and that took the form of a hunger strike.

She sat on a veranda near the spot of the killing and started her hunger strike. She said people came to watch her like it was a street play performance. She drew a huge crowd initially, but slowly the numbers thinned and disappeared. She was by herself before she knew it, and then the police arrested her for trying to kill herself.

Irom Sharmila was imprisoned under the now redundant Article 309 of the IPC, which allowed the imprisonment of anyone who tried to kill themselves up to one year. For the term of her sentence, she was hospitalized at the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences, Imphal, where she was force-fed via a nose tube.

Over the years, Sharmila has become a symbol for championing the cause of human rights. What started as a small step has now become a landmark struggle and a movement of iconic resistance.

 She was the Indian Nobel Peace Prize, 2005 nominee for her hunger strike, and she’s also the world’s longest striker.

The police would arrest her again, on the same grounds, and she’d be back in the hospital with a nose tube again being force-fed. This went on for nearly sixteen years before she gave up. She believed people would join her in this fight and stand by her as they stood with Gandhi during the freedom struggle. She was fighting the big fight for many, many people living in conflict zones with state legitimized violence by the armed forces. But people went home at the end of the day while she was still in a hospital bed by herself. The Iron Lady was not a human being anymore; she was a symbol, an icon, and a beacon of hope for her resilience. Apart from her commendable commitment for championing social causes, Sharmila is also a talented poet. She has written over 100 poems in Bengali. 

Desmond Coutinho, a British Indian, read about a hunger strike in Manipur by Irom Sharmila. The story said that she loved to read, but she didn’t always have a book to read. So, he decided to send her letters with two books and he finally heard from her after three months. This was the beginning of a relationship that blossomed into a marriage and their twin daughters. But this relationship didn’t get the blessings from her family, friends, and supporters. Desmond, being an outsider, their relationship and courtship not being traditional, were some of the problems. And when Irom Sharmila decided to quit her fast, all hell broke loose.

International Attention and Honours
Her historic protest has not only garnered international attention but has also won Sharmila many awards and honours. In 2012, she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by the North East Network. Sharmila is also the recipient of Gwangju Prize for Human Rights which includes $125,000 prize money. She donated this money to the victims of human rights violation in Manipur. Additionally, Sharmila has also been honoured with the Rabindranath Tagore Peace Prize, Sarva Gunah Sampannah Award for Peace and Harmony and Adivasi Ratna Award. In 2010, Sharmila won a lifetime achievement award from the Asian Human Rights Commission. She has refused to accept any award until her demand of repealing AFSPA is fulfilled, which she probably considers to be the best reward for her struggle. Her struggle may be ongoing, but that does not mean success has been elusive. The mere fact that modification of AFSPA is now being discussed in party meetings and among political leaders is a testament to her achievement.

Now she also fights patriarchy, structural sexism, and other forms of oppression. She’s fighting against systems that tried to control her and dictate her life. But the act of choosing what she wanted, was the first step towards liberation.

 

Malala Yousafzai

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Malala Yousafzai was born on July 12, 1997, in Mingora, the largest city in the Swat Valley in what is now the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province of Pakistan into a lower-middle-class family. She is the daughter of Ziauddin and Tor Pekai Yousafzai and has two younger brothers. At a very young age, Malala developed a thirst for knowledge.

Malala’s Father was an outspoken social activist and teacher who ran a girls’ school in their village. Malala was an excellent student.  She loves school. But everything changed when the Taliban took control of their town in Swat Valley. The extremists banned many things — like owning a television and playing music — and enforced harsh punishments for those who defied their orders. And they said girls could no longer go to school.09. In January 2008 when she was just 11 years old, she said goodbye to her classmates, not knowing when — if ever — she would see them again.

On September 1, 2008, when Yousafzai was 11 years old, her father took her to a local press club in Peshawar to protest the school closings, and she gave her first speech—“How Dare the Taliban Take Away My Basic Right to Education?” Her speech was publicized throughout Pakistan. Toward the end of 2008, the TTP announced that all girls’ schools in Swat would be shut down on January 15, 2009. .

In February 2009 Yousafzai made her first television appearance, when she was interviewed by Pakistani journalist and talk show host Hamid Mir on the Pakistan current events show Capital Talk

In late February the TTP, responding to an increasing backlash throughout Pakistan, agreed to a cease-fire, lifted the restriction against girls, and allowed them to attend school on the condition that they wear burkas. However, violence resurged only a few months later, in May, and the Yousafzai family was forced to seek refuge outside of Swat until the Pakistani army was able to push the TTP out. In early 2009 The New York Times reporter Adam Ellick worked with Yousafzai to make a documentary, Class Dismissed, a 13-minute piece about the school shutdown.With Yousafzai’s continuing television appearances and coverage in the local and international media, once her identity was known, she began to receive widespread recognition for her activism. In October 2011 she was nominated by human rights activist Desmond Tutu for the International Children’s Peace Prize.In 2012 she spoke out publicly on behalf of girls and their right to learn. And this made her a target.

In October 2012, on her way home from school, a masked gunman boarded her school bus and asked, “Who is Malala?” He shot her on the left side of her head.She woke up 10 days later in a hospital in Birmingham, England. The doctors and nurses told her about the attack — and that people around the world were praying for her recovery. In 2014 after months of surgeries and rehabilitation, she joined her family in her new home in the U.K

After her recovery, Yousafzai became a prominent activist for the right to education. She gained global attention when she survived an assassination attempt at age 15. In 2014 Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in recognition of their efforts on behalf of children’s rights.

After winning the Nobel Prize, Yousafzai continued to attend school in England—she graduated from the University of Oxford in 2020 . In July 2015, with support from the Malala Fund, she opened a girls’ school in Lebanon for refugees from the Syrian Civil War. She discussed her work with refugees as well as her own displacement in We Are Displaced (2019).Her life, before and after the attack she endured, was examined in the documentary He Named Me Malala (2015). The title referenced the fact that Yousafzai had been named for the Afghan heroine Malalai, or Malala, who purportedly led her people to victory against the British in the 1880 Battle of Maiwand.

Nadia Murad

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Nadia Murad, by name of Nadia Murad Basee Taha, (born 1993, Kawjū (Kocho), Iraq), Yazidi human rights activist who was kidnapped by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL; also called ISIS) in August 2014 and sold into sex slavery. She escaped three months later, and shortly thereafter she began speaking out about human trafficking and sexual violence, especially as these issues pertained to Yazīdī women. Murad also spoke about the mistreatment of the Yazīdī community more broadly. She was appointed the United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking in 2016 and received several accolades. In 2018 she was a corecipient, with Congolese physician Denis Mukwege, of the Nobel Prize for Peace.

Murad was born in the village of Kocho in Sinjar District, Iraq, populated mostly by Yazidi people. Her family, of the Yazidi minority, were farmers.

Murad is the youngest of 11 children, not including her four older half siblings. Murad's father married her mother after the death of his first wife, who left him with four children. Both of her parents were devout Yazidis, though Murad did not know much about the religion growing up. Murad's father died in 2003.

As a child, Murad dreamed of owning a hair salon. She was attached to her home and never imagined leaving Kocho to live elsewhere.

At the age of 19, Murad was a student living in the village of Kocho in Sinjar, northern Iraq when Islamic State fighters rounded up the Yazidi community in the village, killing 600 people – including six of Nadia's brothers and stepbrothers – and taking the younger women and girls into slavery. That year, Murad was one of more than 6,700 Yazidi women and girls taken prisoner by Islamic State in Iraq. She was captured on 15 August 2014. She was held as a slave in the city of Mosul, where she was beaten, burned with cigarettes, and raped repeatedly. She successfully escaped after her captor left the house unlocked. Murad was taken in by a neighboring family, who were able to smuggle her out of the Islamic State-controlled area, allowing her to make her way to a refugee camp in Duhok, Kurdistan Region. She was out of ISIS territory in early September or in November 2014.  By early 2015, she had reached Germany thanks to the refugee program run by the German government.

Murad was bought and sold several times before escaping in November. Her first attempt at escaping had resulted in a gang rape as punishment, and she decided then not to try to escape again. One day, however, she discovered that a door had been left unlocked, and she fled. She found her way into the protection of a Muslim family not connected to ISIL, who helped her escape to Kurdish-controlled territory.

She is an example of someone who has risen up from the torment she suffered and went on to do her best to remedy it not only for herself but for others as well.

For those who can stomach it, Nadia Murad has written two books encapsulating the horrors that she and other Yazidis went through; The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State. For those who would prefer watching, ‘On Her Shoulders’ is a documentary about her fight for the vulnerable Yazidi victims. The world was awakened to the horrors of sexual trafficking and brutalities at the hands of ISIS when Nadia Murad spoke to the UNSC (United Nations Security Council). Despite the death threats she received after speaking out, she continued in her fight to avail justice. In 2015, Amal Clooney appeared before the UN to represent Nadia Murad, and said, “She was burned with cigarettes, she just endured the most brutal acts known to humanity.”

When ISIS sent her really specific threats as Clooney revealed saying, “We will get you back . . . we will do everything to you . . .”, Nadia Murad instead continued her fight to bring justice for all the

The United Nations has so far failed to curb the violence in the Middle East. The unprecedented war crimes are almost unspeakable.

In 2016, U.N. appointed Nadia Murad as a Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking. She was also named as one of TIME Magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2016.

When ISIS sent her really specific threats as Clooney revealed saying, “We will get you back . . . we will do everything to you . . .”, Nadia Murad instead continued her fight to bring justice for all the victims and advocated for the release of more than 3,500 women and girls that still held in captivity by ISIS.

The United Nations has so far failed to curb the violence in the Middle East. The unprecedented war crimes are almost unspeakable.

In 2016, U.N. appointed Nadia Murad as a Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking. She was also named as one of TIME Magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2016.

In her role as a true humanitarian, Nadia Murad started a charity called ‘Nadia’s Initiative’ for protecting survivors of sex trafficking. Her aim is to have government agencies and international organizations support the sustainable re-development of the war torn Sinjar.

Her fight for justice has had her repeatedly calling upon the United Nations to bring about an end to systematic sexual slavery and trade of the displaced Yazidi families and support to their livelihood. 

Nadia Murad’s simple words “I wish the world would let women feel safe” ring true and are relatable to any woman who is reading this

victims and advocated for the release of more than 3,500 women and girls still held in captivity by ISIS.

Asieh Amini: Honor killings in Iran

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In the Mazandaran province of northern Iran, Asieh Amini grew up on a farm surrounded by kiwi and tangerine orchards. Born in 1974, Amini was the third of four sisters. When she was very young, her family, which came from the gentry of feudal times, owned animals and employed gardeners and housekeepers. In the north of Iran, women could own property, wield social power, and work on farms with their sleeves and their pants rolled up. But it was still common for men to have multiple wives, and because of this Amini’s extended family sprawled. Amini’s father was a teacher. Though he was a religious man, he wore his faith lightly. Amini was five in 1979, when revolution came. The monarchy fell; an Islamic Republic replaced it, with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini as its leader, and for a decade Iran convulsed with violence and privation. First came internal conflict over the revolution’s spoils, and then an enormously costly war with Iraq. The Aminis, no longer able to afford the animals or the gardeners or the farmworkers in straitened times, became middle-class. Amini and her sisters spun themselves a cocoon of nature and literature. When they weren’t playing outdoors, they read, wrote stories, and painted. 

She was not allowed to wear white shoes or short socks at school. She thought the required dark hijab ugly, and she cried when she had to put it on, but her mother gently explained that this was a rule no one could disobey.

In 1993, Amini went to Allameh Tabataba’i University, in Tehran, to study journalism. Amini studied journalism at Allameh Tabataba’i University in Tehran. After taking a job at the newspaper Iran, Amini soon became the cultural editor of its youth supplement. It was a challenging job on its own, but the resentment she faced as a young, single woman from her male colleagues made the work even more difficult. editor-in-chief scrutinized her every move. She put her head down and worked harder. Her days were often fourteen hours long.

Amini began working at a paper called Zan, which covered women’s affairs. There, she met photojournalist Javad Montazeri and the two soon married. But in 1999, hardline clerics opposed the open press and swiftly shut down many news outlets, including Zan. 

After giving birth to her daughter, Ava, in 2000, Amini became an editor with a daily newspaper, Etemaad, as well as the manager of the website, “Women in Iran.” In 2004, Amini discovered a story from a small town in her native province that shocked her. A 16-year-old girl named Atefeh Sahaaleh had been hanged for committing “acts incompatible with chastity.” Amini investigated and found out that the girl had been neglected by her family and was repeatedly raped by a neighbor and other men beginning at age nine. The neighbor paid her to keep quiet and she used that money to survive. When she was 13, Iran’s morality police arrested her and a judge sentenced her to one hundred lashes, the legal punishment for sex outside of marriage. The law decreed that women could be sentenced to lashings three times – the fourth time, they would be executed. Amini was unaware of these laws, having grown up in circles where they were never enforced. Deeply disturbed by these events, Amini gathered evidence and wrote about Sahaaleh’s execution. International law prohibited the execution of anyone under the age of 18, but Iran’s legal code held girls criminally responsible at the age of nine, and boys at the age of 15. However, Amini’s newspaper wouldn’t publish her piece – the editor wasn’t willing to go up against Sharia law and the judiciary. Another newspaper also declined the piece before a women's publication finally agreed to publish an edited version.   Amini soon heard of another girl who was set to be hanged for alleged crimes against chastity: Leyla, a 19-year-old with diminished mental capacity, also a victim of child rape. The judge, in that case, told Amini that his job was simply to apply the law, which held that Leyla was a threat to family life because of her sexual availability. Amini enlisted her friend, human rights lawyer Shadi Sadr, to help Leyla’s case. In the meantime, Amini published her story in the women’s magazine Zanan and the case garnered international attention. Amini and Sadr eventually got Leyla out of prison and into the care of a young women’s organization in Tehran.  

Amini felt compelled to bring attention to the stories of girls facing execution for these supposed crimes and to do what she could to end the practice. Amini joined with women’s rights activists and together they sought to improve conditions for women by addressing the discriminatory nature of Iranian law.  

 In March 2007, Amini and 32 other women were arrested during a silent sit-in at the courthouse where women’s rights activists were on trial for a previous protest. During her interrogation, Amini realized the police had been investigating her. Amini was released five days later, sure that her phones were tapped and her movements tracked, but the efforts of SSF continued. Amini was flooded with reports of unjust executions across Iran. Eventually, the stress of her work caused her to suffer a kind of nervous shock that included headaches, vision problems, and muscle paralysis. While Amini recovered, her partners, who had been targeted even more severely by the police, reorganized SSF into an umbrella organization based outside Iran.  In 2009, Amini was one of many demonstrators beaten in the protests following the reelection of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. She was soon warned that the police were questioning prisoners about her and that she should leave the country. Amini and her daughter were able to flee to Sweden under the auspices of a poetry festival to which she had been invited.  Amini eventually settled in Norway, aided by the International Cities of Refuge Network for writers facing persecution. While abroad, she has continued to advocate for the end to stoning and underage executions in Iran. She has published two books of Norwegian-language poems, Do not enter my dreams with a gun (2011) and I am missing you (2013). Amini has received accolades for her advocacy work including the Human Rights Watch’s Hellmann/Hammett award (2009); the Oxfam Novib/PEN award (2012); and the Ord I Grenseland prize (2014).  

Greta Thunberg

Greta Tintin Eleonora Ernman Thunberg is a Swedish Teenager environmental activist who is known for challenging world leaders to take immediate action for climate change mitigation. Thunberg's activism began when she persuaded her parents to adopt lifestyle choices that reduced their own carbon footprint. Thunberg’s mother was an opera singer, and her father was an actor. Greta was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, which is now considered an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It is characterized by abnormalities in social interactions (as in classic autism) but with normal intelligence and language development. People with Asperger syndrome tend to focus deeply on one idea or interest, and Thunberg’s cause became climate change.

She first learned about the issue when she was approximately eight years old, and within a few years, she changed her own habits, becoming a vegan and refusing to travel by airplane. (Both livestock and airplanes emit a large amount of the gases that contribute to global warming, Greta is a woman of her word and immensely influenced her family by convincing them to reduce their carbon footprints Her mom, an opera singer who often goes on international flights, had to give up her career for Greta. For almost three weeks prior to the Swedish election in September 2018, she missed school to sit outside the country’s parliament with a sign that stated: “Skolstrejk för Klimatet” (School Strike for Climate). Although alone for the first day of the strike, she was joined each subsequent day by more and more people, and her story garnered international attention. After the election, Thunberg returned to school but continued to skip classes on Fridays to strike, and these days were called Fridays for Future. In December, she gained over 20,000 student allies and held strikes in over 270 countries every Friday. Her action inspired hundreds of thousands of students around the world to participate in their own Fridays for Future. Strikes were held in such countries as Belgium, Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Finland, Denmark, France, and the Netherlands.

Thunberg received numerous invitations to speak about climate change. In September 2019 her appearance at a UN climate event in New York City—which she traveled to on an emissions-free yacht—drew particular attention for her impassioned comments: “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words…We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!” In her speech, she frankly criticized the adults, leaders, and lawmakers for their poor actions on climate change. She was subjected to a lot of criticism at such a young age. However, she faced all of these without fear. She also called out the French, British and European parliaments. That month millions of protesters marched in climate strikes in more than 163 countries. While Thunberg was credited with shifting some people’s views and behaviours regarding climate change—her influence was known as “the Greta effect”—she was not without detractors. Brazilian Pres.Jair Bolsonaro notably called her a “brat” in 2019.

Her influence on the world stage has been described by The Guardian and other newspapers as the "Greta effect".She received numerous honours and awards, including an honorary Fellowship of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, inclusion in Time's 100 most influential people, being the youngest Time Person of the Year, inclusion in the Forbes list of The World's 100 Most Powerful Women (2019), and nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019, 2020, and 2021.

In early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic response required behavioral changes including social distancing, quarantine, and face coverings. On 13 March 2020, Thunberg stated that "In a crisis we change our behavior and adapt to the new circumstances for the greater good of society.

Emma Gonzalez

Emma Gonzalez is a famous American gun control activist. She is a survivor of the February 2018 Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida which resulted in 17 people losing their lives and several others getting severely injured. In response, Gonzalez co-founded the gun control advocacy group ‘Never Again MSD’. She came into the national spotlight after her fiery speech proclaiming the ‘We call B.S’ slogan at a rally against gun violence went viral. Since then, she has made several high profile media appearances and even organized the ‘March for Our Lives’ nationwide protest against gun violence, which became the largest student protest in American history. Glamour Magazine referred to her as ‘the face of the Never Again Movement’ and ‘a recognizable icon’ while The Washington post called her ‘La nueva cara of Florida’ and also compared her to the revolutionary Jose Marti. NBC News referred to her as ‘one of the most visible student activists to emerge from the shooting’.

Emma Gonzalez was born in 2000 to Beth Gonzalez, a math tutor, and Jose Gonzalez, a cyber security attorney who emigrated from Cuba to New York City in 1968. Gonzalez was raised in Parkland, Florida and has two older siblings.

She is expected to graduate from Marjory Stone man Douglas High School in the spring of 2018. Gonzalez serves as the president of the ‘gay-straight alliance’ in her school. She was the tracking team leader on ‘Project Aquila’, a school project which aimed at sending a weather balloon ‘to the edge of space’. Her fellow student David Hogg documented the whole project. Creative writing and astronomy are her favorite subjects while mathematics is her least favorite.

On 14 February 2018, a gunman opened fire in her school, killing seventeen people and injuring several more. Emma along with dozens of other students hid in the auditorium when the fire alarm went off. Although she made an attempt to exit through the hallway, she was told to take cover. After taking refuge in the auditorium, she was held there for two hours until police finally started letting students out.

In March of 2018, González kicked off March for Our Lives, a country-wide rally that captured the streets of major cities across the U.S., in a bone-chilling 6 minute and 20 second speech — most of which was complete silence, to make people around the world understand the excruciating feeling she and her friends felt during the time it took for the shooter to terrorize the school. In total, the speech, with silence, was the same length of time it took him to shoot up the school.“Six minutes and 20 seconds,” She also paid tribute to the victims by repeating their names and the things they would never be able to do and cherish again. she began her speech. González then named those who were killed that day, in a tone of anguish, and went on to say, “My friend Carmen will never complain to me about piano practice.” She continued saying names until her speech came to an abrupt hault, and she stood in silence for the remainder of the six minutes and 20 seconds, tears streaming down her face. At the end of the speech, she pleaded us all to fight for our lives before it’s “someone else’s job.” Approximately 200,000 people attended the rally in total.Emma Gonzalez joined Twitter shortly after her viral speech and high-profile media appearances. She acquired more than a million followers within a span of fewer than ten days.

Gonzalez was featured on the cover of Time Magazine’s March 2018 issue. She was featured alongside fellow activists Jaclyn Corin, David Hogg, Cameron Kasky and Alex Wind. She was profiled by ‘France 24’ in the same month.

Emma Gonzalez and her fellow students have been constantly attacked and criticized by the political right wing of American politics and press for their activism. Leslie Gibson, a Republican candidate running unopposed for the Maine legislature and lifetime NRA member called her a ‘skinhead lesbian’. He was subsequently forced to drop out of the race for the Maine legislature.

Achievements

In March 2018, as a result of Emma Gonzalez and her fellow students’ relentless protests and activism, the Florida Legislature passed a bill titled the ‘Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act’. The bill raised the minimum age for buying firearms to 21, established waiting periods’and background checks, provided a program for the arming of some teachers and the hiring of school police, banned ‘bump stocks’ and barred violent or mentally ill people from possessing firearms. The law which allocated around $400 million for implementation was signed by Florida Governor, Rick Scott, on 9 March 2018.

Arunima Sinha

There are inspiring stories and then, there are stories that shook you to the very core. These aren’t just life stories, these are tales of valour, determination, and perseverance. These stories celebrate a spirit that is so rare in this world, where everyone wants to opt for the easy way.

She was born on 20th of July 1988 in the state of Uttar Pradesh in Ambedkar Nagar. When she was three years old her father died and she could never feel the love of her father. It was from very early age that she was quite passionate about sports Arunima, herself used to cycle a lot, loved playing football, and was a national level volleyball player. Though she was extremely talented, she never really thought of a sporting career. Arunima wanted to join the Paramilitary Force. Unfortunately, she couldn’t get through.But, a dramatic change in her life took place when one of her legs had to cut off because of a train accident. At last in 2011, she got a call letter from CSIF. Arunima was over the moon. However, in a weird twist of fate, her birth date was wrongly mentioned in the letter.

Arunima grew up in Ambedkar Nagar, a small district near Lucknow. Her father worked for the Indian Army as an engineer. Her mother was a supervisor with the health department. Arunima has two siblings, an elder sister and a little brother. Arunima was bereaved at the age of 3 when her father passed away. Her sister’s husband took responsibility for the family. Everyone in Arunima Sinha’s family was into sports.

Arunima Sinha is World's first female amputee to have climbed Mount Everest and is also a former National level Football and Volleyball player. Arunima Sinha, the first amputee in the world to climb Mount Everest, has a had a tough life. No wonder that this woman has achieved feats that no one would have even imagined!

The Turning Point

Arunima left for Delhi to get the incorrect date on her call letter rectified. She was traveling in the general coach of the train- Padmavat Express. Soon, some goons entered the coach. They tried to pull Arunima’s gold chain. Arunima resisted their attempts, so they started attacking her. All this was happening in front of other passengers, but they didn’t bother to help her. The goons picked up Arunima and threw her out of the train. She collided with an oncoming train and fell on a train track. Before she could move, another train passed over her leg. The accident is a blot on humanity. What followed was even worse. Arunima lay there on the train tracks all night, bleeding. Later, it was found that 49 trains passed the spot that night. Not a single person helped her. In the morning she was taken to the hospital by some local boys. After a national outrage, she was given an additional medical compensation of Rs 200,000 from the Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports Ajay Maken. And, in addition to that she was also given a job recommendation in CISF and was offered a job in Indian Railways. She was admitted to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences and where she spent four months. A Delhi-based private company also offered her a prosthetic leg free of cost. Her leg had to be amputated. Since, there was no anesthesia, Arunima felt every bit of the surgery. The 

hospital lacked the most basic facilities. A stray dog entered Arunima’s room and started eating her amputated leg.

 “I have preserved the ticket to this day. And I am not a weak person that I shall think of committing suicide. But anyway, I gave up on the police the moment they came out with so many falsehoods,” Sinha told The Telegraph.

We cannot even imagine how traumatic the entire episode was for Arunima. Any normal person would have lost his or her spirit in front of such adversity. However, Arunima isn’t a normal soul. She should unimaginable courage and decided to bounce back so much stronger. When she was lying on the hospital bed, she gave herself a dream. After recovering, she started chasing this one dream that gave her the strength to live.

After getting released from the hospital she went to Banchendri Pal straight away instead of going home. Bachendri Pal was the first woman who climbed Mount Everest who inspired Arunima to work dedicatedly towards her dreams. Afterwards, she started working under the guidance of Bachendri Pal and that was one of the major steps in her life.

The next step was an 18-months course from Nehru Institute of Mountaineering. Arunima started with smaller peaks and had some near-death experiences. She didn’t let these obstacles stop her. She received a grant from Nehru Institute of Mountaineering and was later sponsored by Tata Steel.

Climbing the Mount Everest with two able legs is extremely difficult, so we can imagine how challenging it would have been with a prosthetic leg. It was difficult to even find a Sherpa who would understand and support Arunima in this mad endeavour!

 On 21st of May 2013, at 10:55 AM, she reached to the highest peak of the Mount Everest. Until she had already climbed to the highest peaks of six continents that include Everest in Asia, Aconcagua in Argentina, Kosciuszko in Australia, Carstensz Pyramid in Indonesia, Kilimanjaro in Africa and Elbrus in Europe. She aims to climb to the highest peak of the seven summits of the seven continents.

Arunima’s achievements and more importantly her spirit was honoured by the University of Strathclyde, a prestigious UK university in November 2018. She was conferred with the honorary doctorate at their graduation ceremony. “Arunima is an inspiration to amputees around the world. Not only has she shown real spirit, courage and determination in overcoming adversity, but she is also using her compassion and positivity to help other people. Arunima embodies the values of Strathclyde and we are delighted to recognise her achievements by making her an Honorary Doctor of the University,” said Professor Jim McDonald, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Strathclyde to India Times.

Neerja Bhanot 

 Neerja Bhanot was born on 7 September 1963, in Chandigarh, Punjab, India, to Rama Bhanot and Harish Bhanot, a Mumbai-based journalist. She was the couple’s third child, a much-longed-for daughter after two sons, Akhil and Aneesh.

She completed her high school from Bombay Scottish School and graduated from St. Xavier’s College. She was a vivacious young girl, sensitive, caring, and cheerful.

She got married shortly after her graduation, but the marriage proved to be a disaster. After being abused by her husband for dowry, she separated from him and focused her efforts on building a successful career for herself.

Pretty and confident, she undertook some modeling assignments and appeared in many television commercials and print advertisements for companies such as Benzersarees, Binaca toothpaste, Godrej Besto detergent, Vaporex, and Vicco Turmeric cream.

She then applied for a flight attendant's job with Pan Am, the principal and largest international air carrier in the United States at that time. There were nearly 10,000 applications, but Neerja was easily selected among the top 80. She was sent to Miami for training as a flight attendant and impressed her training instructors with her courage and zeal. She was soon made a senior flight purser with the airways—a big career achievement for a young woman of 22. On 5 September 1986, Neerja Bhanot was on duty in the Pan Am Flight 73, parked on the tarmac at Jinnah International Airport in Karachi, preparing for take-off. The flight was flying from Mumbai to USA, carrying 361 passengers and 19 crew members.

The passengers on the plane hailed from different countries, there wereIndians, Germans, Americans, and Pakistanis, among others. The terrorists were more intent on targeting the Americans. When Neerja was told to collect the passports of the passengers, she hid the American ones so that the terrorists could not identify them. Neerja Bhanot, committed an act of courage and compassion even though she had the opportunity to escape through the emergency exit first. But she chose her duty over her life.” Neerja continues to do her job even when the point of situation was highly risky, but that didn’t stop her, it didn’t make a difference to her motive,

The nightmare on the aircraft continued for long. The hijackers opened fire after 17 hours, prompting Neerja to open the emergency door. She could have escaped first, but chose not to. Instead, she helped the passengers escape. She was shot when she was shielding three children from the terrorists’ bullets after hours of saving the lives of several hostages.

The Government of India posthumously awarded her the Ashoka Chakra Award (India's highest gallantry award for bravery in the face of the enemy during peacetime). Just a day shy of her 23rd birthday at the time of her death, she became its youngest recipient.

In 2005, her brother went to Washington DC to receive the 'Justice for Crimes Award' awarded posthumously to her as part of the 'Annual Crime Rights Week'.

'Neerja' is a biographical film on Neerja Bhanot. Directed by Ram Madhvani, the film revolves around the actual hijacking of Pan Am Flight 73 in Karachi

Taslima Nasreen

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Taslima Nasrin is a Bangladeshi writer who has been forced into exile by threats of both Hindu extremism and Islamic terrorism in her native country, prompted by her 1993 novel Lajja, which depicted sectarian violence in Bangladesh. Taslima Nasrin, (born August 25, 1962, in Mymensingh, East Pakistan [now Bangladesh]), Bangladeshi feminist author who was forced out of her country because of her controversial writings, which many Muslims felt discredited Islam. Her plight was often compared to that of Sir Salman Rushdie, author of The Satanic Verses (1988). She is known for her writing on women's oppression and criticism of religion. Some of her books are banned in Bangladesh. She has also been blacklisted and banished from the Bengal region (both from Bangladesh and West Bengal state of India).

She gained global attention by the beginning of 1990s owing to her essays and novels with feminist views and criticism of what she characterizes as all "misogynistic" religions. Nasrin has been living in exile since 1994. After living more than a decade in Europe and the United States, she moved to India in 2004 but was banished from the country in 2008, although she has been staying in India on a resident permit long-term, multiple-entry or 'X' visa since 2004.

Nasrin was born to Dr Rajab Ali and Edul Ara in Mymensingh into a Bengali Muslim family. Her father was a physician, and a professor of Medical Jurisprudence in Mymensingh Medical College, also at Sir Salimullah Medical College, Dhaka and Dhaka Medical College. After high school in 1976 (SSC) and higher secondary studies in college (HSC) in 1978, she studied medicine at the Mymensingh Medical College, an affiliated medical college of the University of Dhaka and graduated in 1984 with an MBBS degree. In college, she wrote and edited a poetry journal called Shenjuti. After graduation, she worked at a family planning clinic in Mymensingh, then practised at the gynaecology department of Mitford hospital and at the anaesthesia department of Dhaka Medical College hospital. While she studied and practised medicine, she saw girls who had been raped; she also heard women cry out in despair in the delivery room if their baby was a girl. She was born into a Muslim family; however, she became an atheist over time. In the course of writing, she took a feminist approach. Early in her literary career, Nasrin wrote mainly poetry and published half a dozen collections of poetry between 1982 and 1993 After fleeing Bangladesh in 1994, Nasrin spent the next ten years in exile in Sweden, Germany, France and the US. She returned to the East and relocated to Kolkata, India, in 2004, where she lived until 2007. After she was physically attacked by opposers in Hyderabad, she was forced to live under house arrest in Kolkata, and finally, she was made to leave West Bengal on 22 November 2007.

Taslima extensively writes in support of religious segregation, women’s oppression, and forced exile.  Bangladesh and India have banned some of her books like Dwikhandito in 2003, Lajja (Shame) 1993, Amar Meyebela (My Girlhood) 1999, Utal Hawa (Gusty Wind) 2002 for their controversial content. In 1993 Nasrin became an international cause célèbre when a fatwa (formal legal opinion) was issued against her in reaction to her novel Lajja (1993; Shame), which depicts the persecution of a Hindu family by Muslims.

Dr. Amani Ballour 

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Amani Ballour is a Syrian-born pediatrician and an advocate of women’s and children’s rights. Her story is portrayed by the Oscar-nominated documentary The Cave, which tells of the struggles of running an underground hospital during the Syrian civil war.

The youngest daughter in a family of three girls and two boys, Ballour says that from childhood she aspired “to do something different” rather than become a homemaker like her older sisters, who married in their teens and early 20s. Her heart was set on mechanical engineering, she enrolled in Damascus University. But the pressure of societal gossip, and her father’s opposition to her plans, prompted her to switch to medicine, a discipline she says was considered “a more appropriate career for a woman, but as a pediatrician or a gynecologist.”

Ballour chose healing children and ignored the many naysayers who mockingly told her that “‘once you get married, hang your degree in the kitchen.’ I heard this phrase so many times.”

Amani Ballour, born in 1987, is a Syrian pediatrician and an advocate of women's and children's rights. Her story is portrayed by the Oscar-nominated documentary The Cave, which tells of the struggles of running an underground hospital during the Syrian civil war. 

Ballour was born and grew up in the east of Ghouta. She is the youngest among two brothers and three sisters. Her sisters married and became homemakers at a young age; the eldest was 15. Ballour, on the other hand, from childhood she aspired “to do something different. She persisted in completing her education. When she was younger, she wanted to be an engineer, but her family strongly opposed such an unorthodox career choice, and Amani had to settle on becoming a doctor instead. So, she started to study medicine, but she didn’t want that in the beginning,” According to Doctor Ballour. However, over time, she came to enjoy helping people and decided to become a pediatrician because she’s always liked children. In 2011, when the wave of peaceful Arab protests reached Syria, Ballour was a fifth-year medical student, a year away from graduating.  She was still at the University of Damascus when the Syrian revolution started. Shocked by the way the government treated people who peacefully protested the violation of their human rights, Amani Ballour chose to give up her studies and move back to her village to help her community. The people in her place were being bombed and killed just because they had these very simple demands. She decided that she will help them because they are human, they are innocent, and they need help. As more and more hospitals in the area were being bombed and destroyed, the local healthcare community struggled to treat the population. A safe place was needed to help patients in a more protected environment – and so the Cave was created. Amani, who started working there in 2012, remembers how they set it up: “We found a place underground; it was very small. We called it the Cave. In the beginning, it was just two or three rooms in the basement of a building. We were in a besieged area, and that meant that there was no food, no medications, and also we were bombed all the time.”Taking enormous risks, they looked for supplies and equipment anywhere they could, raiding the bombed hospitals and searching the ruins, but locals still kept dying of starvation, injuries, and lack of medicine. Finally, people turned to desperate measures and dug underground tunnels leading to Damascus, smuggling food and medication to the besieged Eastern Ghouta. As little as it was, it helped them get by for a while. On August 21, 2013, Ballour and her dedicated colleagues faced a new horror: chemical weapons. The Sarin attack on Eastern Ghouta killed hundreds. Ballour recalls rushing to the hospital in the dead of night, picking her way past people, dead and alive, sprawled on the floor to reach the supply room to begin treating patients. “We didn’t know exactly what it was, just that people were suffocating. The hospital was repeatedly targeted in air strikes that penetrated deep into the Cave, destroying a ward, killing three personnel, and wounding others. On one occasion, Ballour had just stepped out of a ward into the corridor when the rockets crashed behind her.“I couldn't hear anything or see anything. The corridor was full of thick dust that was suspended in the air.” When it cleared, she found her dead colleagues: “Their bodies were in pieces.” 

On March 18, 2018, Amani Ballour and her team evacuated the wounded and abandoned the Cave; she walked away with nothing but the clothes on her back, leaving behind the cherished white coat that she’d worn since she was a medical student. “It was so bloody that she couldn’t take it with her that was very special for her. Ten days later, Ballour was again on the move, this time to Idlib province in northwestern Syria bordering Turkey, the last rebel stronghold in the country. She’d never been to Idlib before. She volunteered to help a pediatrician in a village field hospital but couldn’t stay more than a few hours in the facility. When she looked at the children in Idlib she remembered her children and what happened to them. She She still has nightmares and every loud sound reminds her of a warplane. During thunderstorms, she says, if her husband isn’t home he calls her to reassure her that the noise isn’t an airstrike. Couldn’t see that again. She was very psychologically drained and tired.

Syria’s brutal civil war has cost the lives of lakhs of civilians—men, women, and children. It would have cost, even more, were it not for the life-saving efforts of Dr. Amani Ballour, the heroine of Feras Fayyad’s Oscar-nominated documentary The Cave. For her work, she was recently awarded the Council of Europe’s Raoul Wallenberg Prize, named for the Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Jews during World War II.

Sonita Alizadeh

Sonita Alizadeh, an Afghan girl who stood up against the "tradition of selling a daughter" in the name of "forced Nikah”, raised her voice for herself and gave a new direction to the girls of Afghanistan!

Sonita Alizadeh was born in 1996 in Afghanistan, one of eight siblings. When she was young, her parents and siblings fled to Iran to escape the Taliban. The family walked hundreds of miles in the rain and snow and ended up in a refugee camp in Tehran. In the refugee camp, Alizadeh helped support her family by cleaning offices and bathrooms and selling handicrafts. She was undocumented and, without papers, she was barred from attending school. Undeterred, Alizadeh began searching for a way to make sure she received an education. Eventually, she found a local NGO that provided education to young Afghans in the region. She learned to read and write and took a special interest in poetry and music. Alizadeh was drawn to the same music that most teenagers are—pop music. Alizadeh began experimenting with writing her own music. She wrote songs about being a refugee, the war in Afghanistan, and being a young woman, all in defiance of an Iranian law that barred women from singing. Yet she found pop music too slow and confining for what she truly wanted to say. It was when she heard her first Eminem song while cleaning a karate studio that the music clicked. The Detroit-based rapper’s raw sound, earnestness, and fast-paced music appealed to Alizadeh, even though she could not understand the English words. Alizadeh grew up speaking Dari before her family fled from the Taliban. Despite the language barrier, Alizadeh was drawn to the urgency in Eminem’s voice. Even though it was dangerous for a woman to speak out, Alizadeh wrote her first rap about child labor.

When she was around 16 years old, Alizadeh was living in Iran by herself. Her family had gone back to Afghanistan in order to prepare for her older brother’s wedding. Part of the preparations included raising money, and Alizadeh’s mother said the family was considering selling her into marriage in order to raise the necessary funds. This was not the first time Alizadeh faced being sold into marriage. The first time was when she was 10, but the marriage fell through. Child brides were an all-too-common story in Afghanistan, and Alizadeh rebelled against the idea. She had other dreams for her life and in response to the impending marriage, the feelings of many of her friends, and her own fears, Alizadeh wrote the rap “Daughters for Sale.” The song is sometimes called “Brides for Sale.” One of the millions of people and organizations who saw the song was the nonprofit Strongheart Group which reached out to Alizadeh. With the organization’s help, Alizadeh moved to the United States and began attending high school in Utah. Alizadeh did not tell her parents she was coming to the United States, saying “they wouldn’t have let me come here, so I basically ran away." After graduating high school, Alizadeh went to American University to take English classes. She then matriculated to Bard College in New York. She is still a student at the college, taking classes in human rights and international studies. She says that she frequently does her homework on a train or in a hotel room between speaking engagements and performances. Since her song went viral, Alizadeh has become one of the most visible advocates fighting against child marriage and for the rights of women. The tale of Sonita, which the rapper told in October 2015 at the Women in the World Summit in London, came to a happy end: the girl won a grant to study at the Wasatch Academy, in Utah, and now lives in the United States, where she is continuing her studies. 

As she advocates on a global scale, Alizadeh never forgets the direct impact she made on her own family. She recalled that while her parents were initially furious with her for refusing to get married, her success in school and music has changed their feelings. Alizadeh says her parents are now her “biggest fans” and understand “that girls are strong, they can make their own decisions, they can support themselves, they can also support others.” The change in her mother’s perspective has been the biggest shock for Alizadeh. She says, “I felt like if I can change my mom, if I can change my family, I can change other families, too, to think about their girls, to see that there are other possibilities for their girls other than just being mothers while they are children.”

Bana Al Abed

Bana, born in 2009 in Aleppo, Syria, is known worldwide for her tweets during the siege of the city in 2016 and for her subsequent calls for peace and an end to all global conflict. Her tweets have earned her a legion of admirers around the world by giving a remarkable insight into the daily horrors of life in the city at this time, including air strikes, hunger and the prospect of her family’s death. In December 2016, Bana and her family were safely evacuated from Aleppo to Turkey. Bana’s debut book, DEAR WORLD, published with Simon & Schuster in 2017 and has sold in over 17 countries globally. In her own words, and featuring affecting letters from her mother, Fatemah, DEAR WORLD is not just a gripping account of a family endangered by war it also offers a uniquely intimate, child’s-eye perspective of one of the biggest humanitarian crises in history. In the past year, Bana has been awarded the 2018 Atlantic Council Freedom Award and has been named a Rising Star by the Asian Awards 2018.

Bana al-Abed's born in 2009 in Aleppo, Syria her mother, Fatemah, was an English teacher before the war. Her father Ghassan is a lawyer who worked for the ruling local council in southeastern Aleppo. He was injured on 21 December 2016. She has two younger brothers, Noor and Mohamed. Bana also reportedly wanted to be a teacher but stopped going to school because of the war which destroyed it. Bana received an eBook copy of Harry Potter from J. K. Rowling in November 2016 after the account tweeted that she could not obtain a physical copy locally. Her family's house was destroyed during a bombing later that month, but she and her family said that they survived with minor injuries.

After the success of the Aleppo offensive by government forces, Turkey and Russia agreed on a ceasefire and evacuation of rebels and civilians from Aleppo. When the evacuations did not go as planned, her mother mentioned Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu for making the ceasefire work, and the Foreign Minister said that they were doing all they could to get her and others out. On 19 December 2016, it was reported that Bana Alabed was among the 350 people who were evacuated from the former rebel-held districts of Aleppo on that day after its capture by government forces.

After evacuating Aleppo, Bana was interviewed by Hadi Al Abdullah, where she clarifies that her father was injured in the Sukari district when their house was bombed.

On 21 December, Bana and her family were officially allowed to live in Turkey, and met President Recep Tayyip Edogan front of international press.

On 7 April 2017, the Twitter account tweeted in support of the Shayrat missile strike ordered by U.S. President Donald Trump as a reaction to the Khan Shaykhun chemical weapons attack three days before