Six Brave Women Changing Our World

“Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.”

We are reaching a brink in time. It is a moment in history when the condensed accumulation of intersectional struggle shatters the illusory ideal dictating our lives.

When we examine the current state of the woman in modern society, we note two different yet similar forms of oppression, one by patriarchy and the other by late-capitalism. Both systems function as mechanisms of social control. While patriarchy practices the subordination of women, capitalism profits from it. In partnership with capitalism spring other cross-sections of discrimination where constructs such as gender, race, class, nationality and religion form grounds for supremacy and domination.

On International Women’s Day, we celebrate six brave women who are challenging those constructs and changing our world as we speak:

1. Ahed Tamimi (Palestine)

At only 17 years of age, Ahed Tamimi is recognized as a symbol of Palestinian resistance. Old images reveal that she has been confronting the illegal occupation since childhood. She was recently arrested after a video emerged of her slapping an Israeli soldier who had been trespassing on her family’s property. She has been indicted on 12 charges including an alleged assault.

A look at her family details a history of resistance and strength. Her mother, Nariman, was arrested with her and was released almost a month ago. Two relatives, Mustafa and Rushdi Tamimi, were killed, while her cousin, Mohamad, was left severely injured after being shot at point-blank with a rubber bullet by an Israeli soldier. Her other cousin, Jana Jihad, is a 12-year-old journalist who documents the events surrounding her. Known as the youngest journalist in the world, she believes it’s her “duty to record Israeli injustices throughout the occupied West Bank and beyond.”

2. Sujana Rana (Nepal-Lebanon)

Sujana Rana was a domestic worker and an active member of the Migrant Domestic Community in Lebanon. As a member of the union, she worked on advancing the rights of migrant domestic workers by fighting the Kafala system. The Kafala system is a method of bringing people from East Asian and African countries into Lebanon as domestic workers by binding them to their employer.

Under an exploitive pretense, the Kafala System strips these women of their autonomous rights and freedoms while pressuring them to work in abusive environments. Victims often have their passports confiscated, left with minimal pay and in many cases suffer mental and physical abuse. A 2017 report suggests that migrant workers in Lebanon are committing suicide at a rate of two deaths per week.

Sujana, along with Rose Limbu, worked on collecting reports and testimonies from such cases. Both activists were arrested on Dec 1, 2016. Sujana was deported to Nepal 10 days later without a trial.

3. Razan Zaitouna (Syria)

Razan Zaitouna is a lawyer and Civil Rights leader from Syria. A recipient of the International Women of Courage Award, Razan believed in the fundamental right of human liberty. During the civil uprising, she founded a  Violations Documentation Centre and created a website that monitored human rights abuses and recorded causalities. She was, therefore, targeted by culprits and groups.

On Dec 2013, Razan, along with her husband and two other colleagues, were kidnapped. She is still missing.

4. Bayan Rehan (Syria)

Bayan Rehan is a Civil Rights and Women’s Rights activist from Syria. She is currently trapped in Ghouta along with 400,000 civilians. Bayan has been able to successfully communicate the strife of living in the enclave. “I want to have a life,” she declares as she summons a plea of immediate action against the constant bombardment.

Women in Ghouta, such as Bayan, Lubna, Nivin, Sharifa, Tahani and Faten, have risen to the forefront of the struggle. They took on the responsibility of organizing survival initiatives during wartime, making them the kind of heroines we dream of.

5&6. Masih Alinejad & Vida Movahed  (Iran)

Three months ago, Vida Movahed stood on a box in the middle of the busiest street in Tehran and waved her white veil on a stick. She was protesting against the compulsory headscarf rule mandated in the Islamic Republic. The act of defiance was inspired by Masih Alinejad, an Iranian journalist, who proposed “My Stealthy Freedom” via a Facebook page. She urged women in Iran to post pictures without the veil in public spaces — a simultaneously physical and symbolic act of women’s liberation. “We are fighting for our dignity. If you can’t choose what to put on your head, they won’t let you be in charge of what is in your head, either,” said Masih.

Vida was arrested one month after sharing her image without the veil. She is one of 29 women who have been arrested for resisting religious and patriarchal dominance. They are known as the Girls of Revolution Street  #girls-enghelab-street.

From this list we deduce two observations:

1- Women are not only fighting prejudice perpetrated by patriarchal policies. In many cases, women are fighting other discriminatory tangents. Xenophobia, racism, classism, totalitarian and religious fundamentalism often accompany such exploitative practices.

2- Violence and intimidation are common responses used to deal with people who challenge the status quo. This alone is an indicator of a corrupt body, one that doesn’t wish to share sovereignty with the public, let alone women.

I don’t wish to leave out other brave women such as those in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and various areas of the world continuing to battle regressive ideologies.
I  wish to extend my admiration to them everywhere. Past, present and future.




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Joana

Joana Aziz is a Syrian Barcelona-based freelance writer. She was the Arts & Culture Editor for Time Out Magazine (Beirut) and has written for Home Magazine, Conatus New, Middle East Eye and Freethought Lebanon.

She has a BA in Communication Arts from the Lebanese American University, an MA in International Studies in Media, Power and Difference from the University of Pompeu Fabra and is currently pursuing her PhD in Communication at the same university.

Aside from having a writing career, her ambitions for the future include teaching, researching, and activism.