“When women work together, it’s a bond unlike any other.” – Victoria Principal
At times when change is needed in society, the streets become more important than ever. When our minds are full of fear or worry, and when a problem is right there but no one will look directly at it – action needs to be taken. When it seems no one will raise their voice and insecurity becomes part of daily life, we start to understand the importance of the streets as more than just roads.
For people who agree that public problems are political matters, streets can be the best places to express ideas.
Great movements have been made from the streets. They give space to everyone; a person, two more, and a bunch of groups of people. People pay attention to those brave enough to speak, out loud and in public, for what they believe in.
If everyone stayed at home, sick and tired of discrimination, then nothing would ever get better. But when you find people who share your desire for freedom and equal rights, then nothing can stop you.
Our global history has been shaped by those who have taken to the streets to demand their needs and rights.
The world wouldn’t be the same if Martin Luther King Jr. hadn’t occupied public space. If women hadn’t gone out to march for their right to vote, society wouldn’t be the same today.
Women have long tried to empower themselves by exposing inequality, even when the system seems almost totally against them. Today, women, and some great men (with hopefully many more to come), are fighting the patriarchal systems that oppress women and restrict men.
Women continue to claim the streets as places to raise our voices and express ourselves.
It is on the streets that we can make the violence, persecution and oppression facing women visible. In public spaces we can demand what we deserve: rights and equal recognition of our role in society. Because women matter.
Peaceful protest is part of our right to free expression. It is a right that hasn’t always been enjoyed by all women around the world, and continues to be denied to many.
If you are able to raise your voice – my advice is to do it! Meet with your friends in public places, speak up about street harassment, open up space where women can feel safe to speak. Go ahead and give feminism what it needs – your voice.
We need to remember the importance of public space for activism.
Our streets hold great power and potential for social organization. Women can achieve monumental changes. And we should keep trying to do so, because the fight of some should be the fight of all.
Pakistan remains one of the most male-dominated societies in the world, and women still tend to be portrayed or stigmatised as subordinates. In the patriarchal culture of Pakistan, women are often limited to doing domestic work and forced to hide the talents and skills they possess.
Recently, however, more and more women have been breaking stigma and stereotypes by doing and achieving things traditionally seen as being ‘only for men’.
Here are 7 Pakistani women breaking stereotypes like they should be broken!
Namira Salim is the first Pakistani woman to reach the North and South Poles and, as a Founder Astronaut for Virgin Galactic, she’s the first future Space Tourist from South Asia to travel into space. Salim started her own initiative, SpaceTrust, which promotes Space as the New Frontier for Peace via novel peace theme initiatives to inspire change, encourage dialogue and enrich education.
Samina Baig is the first Pakistani woman to climb Mount Everest and the Seven Summits. She was awarded the Pride of Performance by the government of Pakistan, and runs initiatives that encourage women to take part in outdoor activities. Last year, Baig was appointed as the National Goodwill Ambassador for Pakistan by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
“Instead of looking up to role models, become one yourself” – Ayesha Farooq. Farooq is the first female to become a fighter pilot in the Pakistani Air Force. She’s also made history as the first woman to be assigned to one of Pakistan’s front-line dogfighting squadrons.
Sana Mir is the former Captain of the Pakistan national women’s cricket team. She was first female Pakistani cricketer to rank number one in the International Cricket Council bowler rankings, and led Pakistan to two gold medals in Asian Games in 2010 and 2014. Mir has been vocal in recent years when speaking out against body-shaming in sports advertising.
Zenith Irfan is the first female motorcyclist to ride across Pakistan and an all-round bad-ass. After her father’s early death, Irfan decided to fulfil his dream to tour the world on a motorbike. The journey was a huge step in a country where it can be taboo for women to venture out alone, nevermind on a motorbike, and CNN have called her “Pakistan’s boundary-breaking motorcycle girl”.
Justice Tahira Safdar is the first woman chief justice of any court in the history of Pakistan, currently serving as the Chief Justice of Balochistan High Court (Balochistan is Pakistan’s largest province). In a patriarchal society like Pakistan, where the subject of law and the profession of judiciary are preserved for men, Tahira Safdar has set one of the finest and most inspiring examples for women in Pakistan.
Did you just say that car repairing can only be done by men? Well, Uzma Nawaz, the first female car mechanic in Pakistan, is here to prove you wrong.
These are just some of the women in Pakistan who have broken through in a society that’s still very much dominated by men. I find each of these women incredibly inspiring, and hope that they can be a source of inspiration for other women out there too. What are you waiting for?!
This blog post was originally posted on Upworthy.com as part of a project with Girls’ Globe, Upworthy and Johnson & Johnson.
When Jack Hisard was a young boy, he lost both his parents, one after the other, to diseases that could have been cured — if they had lived in other parts of the world.
First, Jack lost his father to malaria when he was only four years old.
“I remember that night clearly in my head because his last moments were spent sitting next to me in our small grass thatched hut in the village,” he writes in an email. “There was no hospital nearby where he could be treated.”
Malaria’s considered a Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD), which affect more than 1 billion people in over 149 tropical and subtropical countries. While these diseases are preventable, it’s estimated that 57 million years of life is lost due to premature disability and death from NTDs.
After Jack’s father’s death, life for his family became tough. His mother couldn’t provide for herself or her children for a number of reasons including the fact that she suffered from depression. Then, just two years after his father passed away, she had a stroke and died too.
The period after her death was difficult to say the least, but Jack was determined to find a way take care of his remaining family.
So, when he was just nine years old, he started fishing in Lake Victoria to pay for his school fees and feed his two younger siblings. He did this while still going to school, because he believed an education would ultimately make a difference in his life.
“Life was tough but my belief in education never faded,” he writes.
There were still some times when he couldn’t pay all of the fees associated with school so he had to miss some of it, but he still remained the top student in his class for many years. Finally, thanks to all his hard work and dedication, he managed to graduate high school and secure scholarships that would take care of his college tuition.
But while he was in high school and college, he was thinking about how to solve the problem of the lack of health services in rural areas like his hometown.
Jack had witnessed firsthand how devastating preventable diseases can be to a community when they have limited access to health care. Aside from his parents, he saw close friends, relatives and neighbours succumb to malaria and other treatable diseases.
In their village, homeopathic medicine had been the main medicinal resource for as long as he could remember, because people could easily access the herbs they needed.
“I remember the many times I accompanied my grandmother, an herbalist, to go deep into the forest to dig for roots and tree barks which would be used as medicine for various ailments,” recalls Jack.
When it came to assisting births, traditional midwives would conduct deliveries on the floors of people’s grass thatched houses. These midwives and healers didn’t wear gloves or use any form of sterilization. They would use boiling salt water to clean wounds after deliveries and, if complications arose during a delivery, lives would be lost because they didn’t have the lifesaving tools one might find in hospitals.
So he decided he’d find a way to bring better health care to his community. That’s when Mama Clinic was born.
Mama Clinic provides primary healthcare services, outpatient and inpatient care and free maternal and child health care services to people in rural Kenya. Jack started the organization back in 2012, when he was only 19 years old. In just the last six years, it’s served over 40,000 patients.
The clinic has a lab, which allows for proper screening for diseases and reliable diagnosis. They currently have 42 beds available and 14 full-time employees to attend to patients. Jack has also built partnerships with national hospitals to ensure that patients who are severely ill can be referred or transferred for more specialized care. In keeping with their mission of providing access to quality and affordable healthcare to all in rural Kenya, Mama Clinic currently manages two satellite clinics in two other remote districts in the country.
Beyond what the facility provides, Mama Clinic also conducts Community Health Outreach programs where volunteers walk from village to village providing free health screenings and treatment to the villagers who cannot go to the facility.
“No other child should have a loved one die to a Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD), and mothers need a safe place to deliver their babies near their homes” says Jack. “My experiences as a child shaped my dreams. I knew I wanted to be a doctor… a doctor who wants to make a difference in his community because I don’t want to see another child go through what I had to go through, to live without the care and love of a parents”he explains in his Youtube video for Mama Clinic.
Unfortunately he’s up against a number of obstacles. The high rates of malnutrition and the broken health care system in Kenya make people vulnerable to contracting NTDs.
Right now Kenya lacks operating facilities, medication and professionals. A mere 4,300 doctors currently work in the public healthcare sector for the country’s 38.6 million people.
What’s more, in 2017, it was estimated that around 9 million people in the country are undernourished, according to a report released by the United Nations last year. Severe malnutrition stunts growth and makes children more susceptible to diseases because it weakens their immune systems. High rates of malnutrition are also affecting almost 40,000 pregnant and nursing mothers in Kenya and their babies.
Malnutrition in childhood and pregnancy can be very dangerous. Women who are malnourished while pregnant face higher risks of mortality during labor and premature births. These are exactly the types of problems Jack’s Mama Clinic is trying to address by bringing a functioning health care facility full of professionals to his underserved community. His initiative makes screenings and treatment more accessible, which in turn is helping combat these treatable health problems.
Jack knows that in order to offer the most comprehensive health care, he’s got to flesh out his education even more.
That’s why he’s currently attending Michigan State University where he’s studying public health and nutrition, and focusing on the epidemiology of diseases and their relation to nutrition. He wants to learn how poor nutrition can make it easier for people to contract NTDs, because that’s such a huge problem in rural Kenya.
His next step is to become a medical doctor so he can acquire the expertise and experience to better attend to his patients, expand Mama Clinic’s work and run it long term.
He knows that this knowledge is essential for him to run the best health clinic he can and ultimately save more lives in his community.
But perhaps what’s most rewarding for Jack is seeing how his dedication to education is inspiring other kids in his village to follow in his footsteps.
As the first person in his village to go to college, he hopes his story will also lead to more of them attending university. “It became my dream to give that hope to other people,” he says.
Despite growing up in challenging conditions, living in a slum and losing his parents at a young age, he exceeded expectations at school, received a full ride fellowship to Watson University and has represented Kenya through the Young African Leaders Initiative. Needless to say, he’s a prime example of what hard work and dedication can lead to.
Sometimes the best motivation is overcoming the most difficult of experiences. If anyone is a testament to that, it’s Jack.
“If you have dreams and are willing to pursue them, there is a way out of poverty.”
The transition between childhood and adulthood is a time to face the reality of making your own decisions – decisions that could make or break you.
For me, as a young woman in Uganda, the transition from girl to woman began at university, right from choosing what course to study to the never-ending thoughts and questions of what I wanted to be in the future.
After university, I went through one of the toughest and most confusing times for most young Ugandans – the months between when you are done with school and when you await graduation. You are not a student and neither are you employed, you have no source of income and neither are you getting much support from your parents. There’s only the constant question in your head, WHAT NEXT?
Since then I’ve been involved in a number of campaigns, volunteered with different organizations, held a successful fundraiser and outreach and I’m currently in the process of starting up my own organization whose main focus will be girls and young women. At the moment I own a small beauty supply store that was started online and moved into premises a year later. I’m now on the search for bigger premises, as well as working on another business idea.
The journey has been difficult at times, but I’ve learnt a lot in my transition from girl to young woman so far. Here’s my top advice!
Take the risk.
This is both in business and life in general. Do not listen to that little voice in your head telling you that you can’t make it. It’s not easy to ignore it but once you succumb to it, you’ll always be held back and never realize your full potential.
“If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you have never done.” (Thomas Jefferson)
Grab every opportunity.
Sometimes we come across opportunities that we think are too big for us or that we don’t deserve. Fill out as many applications, knock on as many doors, visit as many offices, make as many calls as you can. You may not get them all but even one can make a difference, besides – how will you know if you don’t try?
“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” (Milton Berle)
The saying goes that Rome wasn’t built in a day. The most important step is to start and let the small things multiply. Eventually you’ll get there.
“Dream big, start mall, but most of all, start.” (Simon Sinek)
Determination, focus and zeal.
If you are determined, nothing can stand in your way, and if you portray these three qualities in everything that you do people will always be eager to help. There will be bad days, there will be tough times, but each time you fall never tire of standing up.
“Sometimes you have to get knocked down lower than you have ever been, to stand up taller than you ever were.”
Keep the right company.
It’s not about how many people you keep around you, it’s about what kind of people.
“Surround yourself with people who have dreams, desire and ambition; they’ll help you push for and realize your own”
Learn to let go.
Be it a relationship, friendship, job or business venture that could be tearing you down, hurting you or holding you back, let it go. Not everything is meant to be, it’s a harsh reality that we all have to face at some point in life.
“One of the happiest moments in life is when you find the courage to let go of what you cannot change.”
There’s no formula or straight path in life. You may not get what you want when you want it but eventually you do, as long as you don’t stop trying. I may not have it all figured out yet, but I will someday, and so will you!
I have a whole stack of books which motivated me to dedicate my life to my biggest passion – fighting to end gender-based violence. Here are my top 3 recommendations:
1. Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwideby Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
Be taken on an odyssey through Africa and Asia, meeting some extraordinary women along the way, in this fascinating book by two Pulitzer prize-winning authors. They portray the lives of different women – survivors of forced prostitution, gang rape, acid attacks – and educate us about the abuse faced by many women around the world.
From the Cambodian teenager sold into sex slavery, to the Ethiopian woman who suffered devastating injuries in childbirth, the reader is shown not just these horrendous experiences, but also a glimmer of hope. The Cambodian girl eventually escapes from the brothel and, with the assistance of an aid group, builds a thriving retail business that supports her family. The Ethiopian woman has her injuries repaired and in time becomes a surgeon. The main message of this book is that the key to economic progress lies in freeing women’s potential. After all, “women hold up half the sky”!
2. From Outrage to Courage by Anne Firth Murray
This book is a bible in the world of women’s rights. In fact, it’s such a detailed study of women’s health in poor countries, that it became the blueprint for a course in international women’s health at Stanford University – which the author now teaches. The book features shocking but true stories about unequal access to nutrition and health care, demographic imbalances and the culture of son-preference, early childbirth and maternal death, all types of gender-based violence, the effects of war and refugee status on women, and the feminization of ageing.
What makes this book unique is that it does not simply state grim statistics. At the end of each chapter, the reader is introduced to positive stories of change grouped into countries, and short summaries of the work of NGOs. Anne Murray has travelled to majority of the places she is writing about, and knows her stuff – I once emailed her a question regarding a specific problem in Sri Lanka, and she replied to me with a list of people who could help!
Anne Firth Murray understands each and every problem down to the grassroots level, and has systematically organised this information into an invaluable textbook of the most urgent female health problems, which women face from birth till death.
3. Share: The Cookbook that Celebrates Our Common Humanity by Women for Women International
This feels like travelling the globe and popping into your head into different people’s kitchens – with a powerful story behind each recipe. Produced by Women for Women International, with recipes donated by many celebrities (such as Annie Lennox and Paul McCartney), the book also gives information on women’s lives in many war-affected countries, such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Afghanistan, Rwanda, Kosovo.
It is such a gentle but powerful tool to bring the story of a sister from another part of our planet close to our hearts. “Like so many good things, this book began at a kitchen table” say the editors, and by reading we feel ourselves sharing a table with many women, and it is an empowering connection.
It doesn’t matter what kind of book makes your heart beat faster and encourages you to stand up for women, the important thing is that you do stand up.
My hope is that female oppression will be something our daughters only ever read about, and never actually experience.