Tag Archives: feminism

World-changers Needed for One-day Assignment

Old newspaper with classified ads showing jobs for womenHELP WANTED – WOMEN

World changers needed for one-day assignment.

CHANGE THE COURSE OF HISTORY.

Are you a US Citizen who wants to make the world better? This one-day job assignment takes place on November 6, 2018.

March to your local polling place and VOTE. Position is unpaid, but the rewards will benefit you and future generations.

Note: Recurring duties possible as future elections occur in your area.


You’re probably too young to remember when classified ads made a clear distinction between what was “women’s work” and which jobs were for men. The practice was outlawed in 1975. That legislation was but one tick in the timeline of women’s march to equality.

The Long March

Regal woman in gladiatrix dress leading a women's marchThe 19th amendment granted women the right to vote on August 18, 1920. On November 2 of that year, more than 8 million women voted for the first time.

It was a long battle from the start of the women’s movement in 1848 and the ratification of the 19th amendment on August 18, 1920. The battle even turned violent from time to time–most notably on the eve of Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration in 1912.

Suffragettes in 1910's dresses and hatsEight thousand women gathered for a suffrage parade in the nation’s capital. Dignified and determined, the procession was led by lawyer Inez Milholland, astride her horse, Gray Dawn. Women from all walks of life came to participate. The long-activist suffragist “Pioneers” led the charge. They were followed by working women in uniform: nurses, farmers, homemakers, doctors, pharmacists, actresses, librarians, and college women in academic gowns. The women wore sashes proclaiming “Votes for Women” and pinned jaunty gardenias to their lapels.

Crowd of spectators blocking the ambulance at 1912 women's marchAs they marched, men ridiculed from the sidelines. Up to 10,000 people came to watch. Many were drunk, crowding the procession. Women were grabbed, tripped, and assaulted. The injured languished, waiting for ambulances which had been blocked by the unruly spectators. Policemen stood by, indifferent to the violence.

“There would be nothing like this happen if you would stay at home,” said one cop to an injured woman. Over 300 women were injured and 100 hospitalized by the time the day was over.

One Hundred Years Later

Bunch of grinning male politicians

White guys congratulate themselves on making birth control access more difficult for 62 million women.

More than one hundred years later, the battle still goes on. The Equal Rights Amendment proposed in 1972 never passed. It died in 1982, falling short of enough states to ratify it.

The Paycheck Fairness Act (and similar legislation) which would guarantee women equal pay for equal work continues to be filibustered in Congress.

It was only last year when thirteen men sat down to decide women’s health care issues, like whether insurers should have to cover pesky things like mammograms, birth control, or maternity care. They wound up cutting Medicaid, which covers half of all US births and went on to gut access to birth control for 62 million women.

The More Things Change

It wasn’t until the 1900s that women across the United States could own property, take out patents, and keep their own wages.

As recently as the 1970s, a woman could not get a credit card, could not refuse sex with her spouse, nor could she report sexual harassment in the workplace. Landlords could refuse to rent to women, bosses could refuse to hire pregnant women, and judges could refuse to allow women on their juries.

As recently as 1988, women couldn’t obtain a small business loan without a male cosigner. One borrower had to resort to having her minor son co-sign for her before the bank would grant the loan.

Crazy laws still exist on the books. In Florida, an unmarried woman can’t parachute on a Sunday. In Michigan, a woman must provide permission to cut her hair, and in Waynesboro, Virginia, it’s against the law for a woman to drive a car on main street unless her husband is walking in front of the car waving a red flag.

And, on a more serious note, it’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind–except in North Carolina, where she cannot rescind consent and call it rape, even if an encounter becomes uncomfortable, painful, or violent. And in seven US states, rapists have parental rights.

Supreme court justice Brett Kavanaugh

Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh

The takeaway from all this is that the fight for equality is far from over. Some days it seems like women’s rights are eroding as fast a shoreline in hurricane season.

The 1994 Violence Against Women Act allowed women to seek civil rights remedies for gender-related crimes. But in 2000, the Supreme Court invalidated those portions of the law permitting victims of rape, domestic violence, etc. to sue their attackers in federal court.

What gems the current Supreme Court has for us, we can only imagine.

Get Thee To A Polling Place

Embed from Getty Images

Maybe you’ve made up your mind and have inspiring candidates to vote for. Or maybe you’re only voting against beef-witted louts like North Carolina congressional candidate Mark Harris, who believes it is a wife’s duty to submit to her husband.

Look, I get it. Sometimes when you look at your options, it seems like a case of the ‘lesser of two evils,’ which is never an exciting reason to march to the polls. Politics is a greasy-gross-cesspool of greed and corruption, and that’s on a good day.

Campaign finance laws enable special interests to steer legislation. The two-party system thrives on divisiveness and pits us against one another to promote their high donor agendas.

The thing is, it’s not going to change–not without people like you. Today there is one tangible step you can take to make a difference:

VOTE.

Wondering who’s on the ballot and where they stand on the issues? Learn more at:

Women of Courage: Those Parkland Girls

This is not the post I planned to write.

For the last segment of my Women of Courage series, I planned to write a feel-good empowering piece about the girls. You know, our girls. The future. The girls of Generation Z.

I’ve got three Zs myself, and it’s the audience I write for when I write those nerd-girl books with smart protagonists and thinly veiled allegories about society-grappling-with-rapidly-changing technology.

But then, Parkland happened.

On February 14th, 2018, the United States endured yet another mass shooting. At a high school in Parkland, Florida, a former student charged into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School armed with an AR-15. Seventeen kids and teachers were killed.

In the US, we’re only too accustomed to how these things play out. For any NRA trolls, I’ve provided a Point/Counterpoint to save you the trouble of commenting, so you can get back to your target practice (see below).

On to the girls, those Parkland girls.

This time, contrary our typical pattern—the one where politicians offer ‘thoughts and prayers’, and tell everyone ‘it’s too soon’ to talk about common sense gun regulation—something different happened.

Those Parkland Girls and the Badass Girls of Generation Z

Three days after the tragedy, 17-year old Emma Gonzales wiped away tears as she lambasted do-nothing legislators at a gun control rally. Her impassioned speech went viral.

The Parkland kids weren’t backing down. They gave speeches, they did late night shows, they organized marches, they gave interviews. They launched a movement. They took crap from condescending conservative news hosts, they jousted with lawmakers at town hall meetings, they endured ridiculous fabrications.

“The right to bear arms … does not and never will overpower the individual’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”–Florence Yarad
These kids grew up in the dark shadow of Columbine. They grew up taking their shoes off to fly on airplanes and doing active shooter drills. They’ve seen seventy-one mass shootings in their lifetimes. All across the country, those kids rose up.

Smart kids. Savvy about social media, undaunted by trolls and bots. They know divisive memes won’t fix anything, so instead they went out and did things.

Girls like Florence Yarad, Parkland survivor who marched on the state capital and said, “The right to bear arms … does not and never will overpower the individual’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

They organized walkouts all over the country.

Girls like Demi Oo, a senior who participated in one of the walkouts in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, who said, “Although participating in a walk out is a very basic and minimal choice of action, it paves the beginning of change. Even though students don’t have the power to change the way our society is on our own, we have and use our voice in hopes to be heard by those who can help us.”

“We are intelligent and we are resilient and we are brave, and we are willing to fight for what we believe in.”–Lane Murdoch
Within days of this storm of activism, the Oregon legislature passed a bill banning convicted domestic abusers and stalkers from buying or owning guns. The First National Bank of Omaha cut ties with the NRA. Enterprise, Symantec, MetLife, Best Western, Delta and United Airlines followed suit, and the list continues to grow.

Those kids said #NeverAgain. They organized a march on Washington DC occurring March 24th and nationwide school walkouts are slated for April 20th.

Girls like Carly Novell who slammed back at Tomi Lahren’s statement that ‘the gun massacre in Florida wasn’t about guns’ by tweeting back:

“I was hiding in a closet for 2 hours. It was about guns. You weren’t there, you don’t know how it felt. Guns give these disgusting people the ability to kill other human beings. This IS about guns and this is about all the people who had their life abruptly ended because of guns.”

These girls know that even though the media magnifies discord, 97% of Americans support universal background checks and 83% are in favor of a mandatory waiting period for all gun purchases.

Girls like Lane Murdoch who started a national movement with Change.org that’s already 150,000 strong. “We are intelligent and we are resilient and we are brave, and we are willing to fight for what we believe in.”

Girls far removed from the stereotype of ‘don’t let the boys think you’re smart or you won’t be popular’ bullshit that has shaped female identity since time began.

Carly Novel and Delaney Tarr on The Opposition With Jordan Klepper

Girls like Delaney Tarr, who appeared on The Opposition with Jordan Klepper and eviscerated NRA talking points.

Activist girls, standing up for what they believe in.

Six days after Gonzalez’s viral speech, and countless demonstrations later, Florida Governor Rick Scott announced he wants to make it “virtually impossible” for a dangerous person to get a gun and is crafting legislation to do just that.

Informed girls. Undiscouraged by our inability to fix the problem up to now.

“We’re going to make the world a better place” — Amanda Parsons

Girls like Amanda Parsons, a student who participated in a walkout in Iowa City, who said, “We’re going to save not only our generation, Generation Z, but the generations after us. We’re going to make the world a better place.”

And you know what? I believe it. They already are.


Point/Counterpoint

An NRA Troll Answers Your Country’s Questions About Gun Control #Satire

Q: Hi, as an international follower from [insert your country name here], I’m wondering, why don’t you just take everyone’s guns away?

A: We’ve got something called the Second Amendment.

Q: Okay, but I also thought you guys had an unalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Doesn’t that conflict?

A: See Second Amendment. Those kids are too young to understand that.

Q: Don’t they have a right to free speech?

A: See Second Amendment.

Q: Okay, but isn’t the first part of a “Well regulated militia” regulation?

A: We’re giving our teachers guns. Shut up already.

Q: Yeah on that ‘giving the teachers gun’ thing. Isn’t the Second Amendment a ‘right’, and not an obligation?

A: Stop knowing our laws better than we do. Why do you hate our freedoms?

Q: Sorry, no offense meant. What I’m wondering is, even if you give your teachers guns—don’t you folks have shootings in malls, movie theatres, churches, concerts, etc.? How do you propose to prevent mass shootings in those places?

A: You can’t prevent all violence. It’s impossible.

Q: Yeah, but you can’t prevent all car accidents. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have licensing requirements–make people take a driving test, have laws regarding drunk driving, for example.

A: Please put your response in the form of a question.

Q: Okay. Well, regulations worked in [insert country name here], don’t you think it might work there?

A: What we have is a mental health problem, not a gun problem.

Q: Yeah but we have mentally ill people in [insert country name here]. We just don’t give them guns.

A: Please put your response in the form of a question.

Q: Okay, so I noticed you said the blame falls on bullying/violent movies/video games/social isolation/disintegration of the family unit. We also have those problems here in [insert country name here], so I’m wondering—

A: QUIT TRYING TO TAKE AWAY OUR GUNS.

Q: Excuse me?

A: People kill people! Crisis actor! Good guy with a gun! It’s too soon to talk about gun control! Guyana! The jackboots are coming to take our guns and steal our precious freedoms!

Women of Courage: Hermione Granger

Hermione at the Battle of Hogwarts © Warner Brothers

Hermione Granger: The Badass Heroine We All Want To Be

Let’s face it. Without Hermione, Harry Potter would be a footnote in Voldemort: The Rise to Power, and we muggles would be little more than subservient house elves to our magical overlords.

For anyone who’s been living on Mars for the past couple of decades, Hermione Granger is one of three central characters in JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Spoilers abound, so if you haven’t read the books/seen the movies and still plan to, stop reading now and check out this compilation of cute baby sloth pictures instead.

Background

Emma Watson as a young Hermione Granger © Warner Brothers

Hermione was only eleven years old when an owl arrived at her postbox bearing the Hogwarts acceptance letter. One can only imagine her muggle parents’ surprise upon learning their daughter was a witch.

Brainy and studious, she seemed a natural for highbrow-house Ravenclaw. Instead (without hesitation), the Sorting Hat placed her in Gryffindor, a house whose members are renowned for their courage. It didn’t take long to prove the Sorting Hat right.

How She’s Courageous

“We will fight! We’ll have to, to reach the snake! But let’s not lose sight now of what we’re supposed to be d-doing! We’re the only ones who can end it!”

The Harry Potter series wouldn’t be a series without Hermione. Without her courage and intellect, The Sorcerer’s/Philosopher’s Stone would have been a single foreshortened novel ending with Harry and Ron strangled by Devil’s Snare.

Most of the time, Hermione need only rely on her keen intellect to rescue her friends and untangle the many mysteries, but she never backed down when it came to defending the oppressed. Though there are plenty of articles which recount her badass credentials, here are some of the highlights:

  • She stands up to Umbridge’s umbrage.
  • She calls out Trelawny’s quackery.
  • She organizes SPEW, a society to protect the rights of house elves.
  • Came up with the whole Dumbledore’s Army thing.
  • Kept secrets, even when tortured by Bellatrix Lestrange.

And who can forget that satisfying moment in Prisoner of Azkaban when she punches Malfoy?

Hermione, portrayed by Emma Watson © Warner Brothers

Fans of the series may recall in Ron & Harry sweeping in to rescue Hermione from a mountain troll in the first book, but it’s worth noting they rescued her using the spell she taught them.

Interestingly, Rowling says she resisted her editor’s requests to remove the troll scene, stating “Hermione is so very arrogant and annoying in the early part of Philosopher’s Stone that I really felt it needed something (literally) huge to bring her together with Harry and Ron.”

Aside from the troll incident, Hermione rarely needed rescuing. Rowling was bemused that as the series unfolded people often said, “Don’t kill off Ron” but no one ever expressed such concerns about Hermione. The reason, Rowling speculates, is everyone knew Hermione could take care of herself.

The only time Hermione was ever truly helpless was after being Petrified by the Basilisk in Chamber of Secrets–and even then she held the climax-solving clue clutched in her hand! And, by Deathly Hallows, Hermione is pretty much rescuing Harry and/or Ron on every other page.

How Her Courage Affects Others

“Fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself.”

Since 1997, Rowling has sold over 450 million Harry Potter books. Some people swear they had no interest in reading until they came across the series. In the US, 49% of kids have read a Harry Potter book by age 15-17. 61% of Americans have seen at least one of the movies.

Children’s books often follow familiar patterns: princesses need rescuing, or a girl has a problem and enlists a boy to help solve it. There are exceptions to be sure—but few girls in popular fiction have the agency Hermione Granger has, and none have her far-reaching influence. She’s the most admired characters in children’s fiction, right after Harry.

She’s a great role model: unapologetically brainy, fiercely activist, and never afraid to take charge. By the way, she’s still taking charge: in 2019 she’ll be elected Minister of Magic.

In 2017, the Potter Alliance launched In World Without Hermione campaign for gender equality (Hint: #WithoutHermione, Voldemort wins, everyone dies). The annual campaign helps raise funds for girls’ education and has raised $43,155 USD since October of last year.

How Her Courage Affects Me

“Books! And cleverness! There are more important things! — Friendship! And Bravery!”

I was all grown up by the time the first Harry Potter book came out, but I confess I’ve read all the books once twice okay, at least six times. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve watched the movies. By the time the series was winding down, my son and I would have weekend movie marathons to prime ourselves for the next release.

Rowling’s portrayal of Hermione affects my own choices as a writer. Like Hermione, my protagonists tend to be brainy, although they tend to get themselves in way more trouble than Hermione ever did. But like Hermione, they don’t need a boy to rescue them. And Rowling’s refreshing portrayal of an enduring, platonic friendship was in my heart as I crafted my protagonist’s sidekick in The Kwan Factor.

Hermione and the witches of Hogwarts don’t live in a perfectly feminist world, but in a world that very much reflects our world. They proudly and unapologetically seize their place in it. What can be more inspiring than that?

Learn More

If all of this talk of Hogwarts has you jonesing for Harry Potter movie binge, now’s the time—the entire series is currently available on HBONow.  Or better yet, you can pick up your own box set at Amazon.

Read More

This has been an edition of Women of Courage. Check back next Sunday for the final installment of this series.

Women of Courage: Ching Shih

Ching Shih: Pirate Queen

Ching Shih, from Ancient Origins

Background

Chinese Junk

The year is 1796. The place: a floating brothel in the South China Sea. A beautiful prostitute is kidnapped by order of the notorious pirate leader Zheng Yi. He demands that she marry him. She agrees, but with conditions.

Her terms? A fifty percent split of his booty and the right to lead the fleet at his side.

Though her true name is lost to history, we know her as Ching Shih (literally ‘widow of Zheng’), and she was arguably the most powerful pirate in history.

 

Rise to Power

Pirate ships in South China Sea

After Zheng agreed to her terms, the pair took the Red Flag Fleet from 200 ships to 600, uniting rival pirate bands in the process. Zheng played the bold, brash leader, while Ching was the calculating strategist. Their power grew as they looted and blackmailed over an ever-expanding region.

Zheng died in a typhoon in 1807, leaving her with a tenuous grip on power. She acted quickly, wooing Zheng’s second in command Chang Pao. He readily agreed to marry her and she agreed to continue to co-captain the fleet. From there, her influence only continued to grow.

Under Her Leadership

“Under the leadership of a man you have all chosen to flee. We shall see how you prove yourselves under the hand of a woman.”

A consummate business woman and excellent military strategist, she controlled a vast network of pirates, farmers, spies across the whole of the South China Sea. Ships, boats, and coastal villages from Macau to Canton were required to pay her tribute. At the height of her power, she commanded more than 1,800 ships. An estimated 80,000 men, women, and children were part of her well-run syndicate. In comparison, the notorious Blackbeard had four ships and 300 pirates.

She governed with a strict code of bylaws and most infractions were cause for execution, including the rape of captives. Which is not to say that a pirate could not take a beautiful captive as his own. He only had to agree to marry her and be faithful. Promiscuity was cause for execution.

Known as the “Terror of South China”, the Chinese, Portuguese, and British navies were unable to defeat her. Her conquer of the Chinese navy was so complete, one epic battle even resulted in the sailors surrendering to enlist in her fleet.

A Most Audacious Retirement Plan

credit: Takoya Fischer as Ching (based on Cheng Shih) in the Pirates of the Caribbean series. Source

As you can imagine, the Chinese government was none to happy about the power the Red Flag Fleet wielded over the region and in 1810 the emperor amplified efforts to stop the outlaws.

With her keen instincts, perhaps Ching Shih realized her time was up.

She walked unarmed into the governor’s office and negotiated a surrender which included full amnesty for her and most of her fleet. Astoundingly, they all were able to keep any plunder they amassed.

Eventually, Ching retired to Guandong, where she ran a notorious gambling house and brothel. She died at the age of 69 with her family by her side.

 

 

 

 

Learn More:

Women of Courage: Lilia Aguilar Gil

Lilia Aguilar Gil: World Changer

Lilia Aguilar, Mexican politician, Harvard researcher, thought leader

Background

My mother told me ‘You need to excel because you’re a woman. You are going to change the world, because when you’re educated, you need to give back.’

Lilia Aguilar was ten years old the day two strangers showed up at her home with an astonishing story. They were her parents, they told her. They were intellectuals and activists, and they had left her to stay in rural Mexico for her own safety.

Sounds like the start of every epic hero novel, but this one is true. Up on until then, Lilia had believed the twenty other children living in the primitive home to be her brothers and sisters. In fact, they were all children of dissidents.

By age twelve, she had become an activist herself. At twenty-one, she was attending college at Harvard and flying to Mexico every weekend to campaign for a seat in Mexico’s Congress.

Since then, she’s served in various political offices in her conservative Chihuahua and now holds two Masters degrees.

How She’s Courageous

Lilia Aguilar being interviewed

In the US, it might be difficult to comprehend the violence that takes place in Mexico and Central America.

More than 30,000 people have gone missing in Mexico in the past decade alone. Femicide is rampant and punishment next to non-existent.  A man is more likely to likely to go to jail for stealing a cow than for killing a woman. Since 1993, more than 1,500 women were brutally murdered in Juarez, their bodies left to rot in the desert.

Ms. Aguilar championed the creation of Juarez’s Femicide Committee, where she fights to change a culture of impunity for murdering women. She knows that speaking out against corruption can get one killed. She herself was kidnapped—although she dismisses the experience as ‘taken’, in a world where kidnap and extortion are chillingly commonplace.

How Her Courage Affects Others

As soon as I got back to Cambridge I was the student, with a lot of papers to write, discussing issues with amazing people like Amartya Sen. Two days later, I was in Mexico, wearing heels and suits, speaking in the media … But I believe in putting theory to practice, so I was doing both things because I thought it was possible to bring great change to my state.

Women of Mexico and Central America face many challenges due to violence, crime, and gangs.

“It’s a man’s world,” says Lilia. She goes on to explain that in a culture where sexism and misogyny is so entrenched, women first must be educated as to their rights before they can recognize that discrimination and violence against them is wrong.

She’s also outspoken thought leader. Lilia speaks at women’s events worldwide raising awareness about the risks women face in Mexico and Central America.

While in office, she worked to reform the outdated constitution and helped establish new laws for youth, women’s equality, and governmental transparency. She’s also fought for electoral equality and poverty alleviation.

How Her Courage Affects Me

As a mom to a Latina daughter, I was aware of the struggles the women of Central America face, but reading the accounts knocked the breath out of me. It was the sort of thing I sensed between the lines when I read my daughter’s birth mother’s interview.

My son has two young classmates who walked some 2,000 miles from Guatemala seeking asylum. For them and girls like them, the peril of such a journey is better than the almost certain death they face by staying.

Learn More

Lilia Aguilar and women like her are changing the world for Latinas. If you’d like to learn more about the challenges they face or find out more about Lilia, visit the links below:

This has been an edition of Women of Courage. Check back every Sunday through February for new articles celebrating real and fictional heroines to inspire you.

Women of Courage: Princess Leia

Star Wars 8 Princess Leia

Princess Leia Organa: The Princess Who Rescued Back

“You get to choose what monsters you want to slay. I’m sorry to say this again, but let’s face it – the Force is with you.” Carrie Fisher

There are real-life courageous women and there are fictional heroines, but today it’s my pleasure to discuss a woman who is both. Princess Leia Organa of the Star Wars franchise has been inspiring moviegoers for forty years.

When the series first launched, the young princess was already leading the rebellion against the Empire. Through four decades of films, Princess Leia was a soldier, a diplomat, general, and a war hero. Though the Force was strong in her, she chose serve her people as leader instead of becoming a Jedi. And while others’ loyalties shifted, or players drifted in and out of service to the rebellion, Princess Leia remained steadfast.

Carrie Fisher (1956-2016), the actress who portrayed Leia, was courageous in her own right. The outspoken Fisher was also a fierce advocate of mental health and openly shared her own struggles with addiction and bipolar disorder. Riotously funny, she fought the stigma of mental health with fierce honesty.

How She’s Courageous

From her first appearance in the iconic buns, to the gently graying general in 2015’s The Force Awakens, Princess Leia was an unflagging champion of the rebellion. She was one of only two characters who stood up to Darth Vader—a man whose own subordinates winced and scurried at his words. Perceptive and insightful, Princess Leia could instantly size up enemy or ally,  and deliver a character indictment in one biting quip.

In the original 1977 Star Wars script, Luke and Han Solo found Princess Leia bruised, beaten, and suspended upside down. It was only when the logistics of carting around a catatonic Leia became problematic that they revised the scene. The princess gig has never been the same.

How She’s Affected Me

Princess Leia changed everything I knew about princesses. As a girl who grew up on a steady diet of Disney Princesses, I understood perfectly that princesses needed rescuing. What I didn’t know was that this one would rescue back.

That she was different was clear in the split-second it took for her to size up Luke Skywalker’s disguise.

“Aren’t you a little short for a storm trooper?” she asked, the corner of her mouth quirked in a wry smile.

Minutes later, as Luke and Han Solo’s half-conceived rescue plan crumbled before them, she snatched a blaster and declared, “Somebody has to save our skins.”

I sat a little straighter in my chair. It was 1977 and my whole perception of princesses–and women–shifted in that moment.

How She’s Affected Others

“Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.” – Carrie Fisher
Princess Leia was strong at a time when women in film weren’t strong. She was many girls’ first glimpse of a truly heroic woman (myself included). Not only was she brave, she was in control of her own destiny. She was an icon of unwavering leadership.

Carrie Fisher was deeply conscious what Princess Leia meant to women, and this integrity is reflected both in her performance and her contributions to the script and character development.

Learn More

Here’s the part where I normally include links to learn more. But in this case, I’m going to suggest you run out and buy a box set and go on a Star Wars binge. The Last Jedi is in theatres on December 15th, so there’s still time to get yourself primed for the next in the Star Wars series.

 

Women of Courage: Malala

Malala Yousafzai, Human Rights Warrior

In some respects, 20-year-old Malala Yousafzai is just like any other college student. She blushes at talk of dating, finds the curriculum at Oxford University challenging, and can’t resist teasing her younger brothers at the dinner table. But don’t let this soft-spoken Pakistani girl fool you: she’s a lion-hearted, Nobel-prize-winning champion of girls’ education.

Background

Malala was born in the picturesque Swat Valley of Pakistan in 1997. The child of a school owner and educational activist, her father wanted her to have every opportunity a boy would have. He vowed his daughter would attend school and be treated with equality.

“I tell my story, not because it is unique, but because it is not. It is the story of many girls.”When Mullah Fazhulla’s radio broadcasts first echoed down the concrete and steel canyons of Malala’s hometown of Mingora in 2004, the people  believed the changes were for the good. But, as the Taliban’s influence grew, their order affected every aspect of the citizen’s lives. The Taliban blacked the women’s faces from billboards. They burned televisions, computers, and CDs in the streets. They murdered policeman and bombed police stations. They staged public executions. And, in December 2008, they issued an edict banning girls from going to school.

By Southbank Centre [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

While other students stayed home–fearful of school bombings–11-year old Malala became an undercover BBC blogger. By age 14, the otherwise demure girl was publicly campaigning for girls’ education.

Her courage did not escape the Taliban’s notice. In 2012, they targeted the 15-year-old activist. Masked gunmen boarded her school bus, demanded her by name, and attempted to execute Malala with a gunshot to the forehead.

Her story could have ended there, but it was only the beginning of more influential work. Not only did she recover from traumatic brain injury, she went on to address the United Nations within the year. In 2014, she became the youngest recipient of the Nobel prize.

Humble and hardworking, today she balances college life while still leading the fight for girls’ education via the Malala Fund.

How She’s Courageous

“With guns, you can kill terrorists. With education, you can kill terrorism.”As if standing up to the Taliban were not enough, Malala remains an unflinching champion of good.

When sitting down with Barack Obama in 2013, she politely thanked the United States for all they’d done to support education for women and girls. She went on to inform him that his drone attacks were fueling terrorism, and that the US should instead focus efforts on education.

How Her Courage Affects Others

When girls are deprived of an education, the world is deprived of their gifts.Worldwide, more than 130 million girls do not attend school due to war, violence, and poverty.

Educating girls can end the cycle of poverty. Educated girls live longer and their own children live healthier lives. Education boosts overall economic growth and contributes to restoring peace and stability.

The Malala Fund is dedicated to every girl’s right to 12 years of free, safe, quality education. The non-profit foundation and has helped girls from Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, and Syria.

How She’s Affected Me

Malala’s courage makes my own heart swell with possibility. If one brave girl can do this, what can any girl do? What can all girls do?

You can learn more about Malala below: