Recently I had the privilege of attending a dinner hosted by American Women for International Understanding, a non-profit, celebrating the International Women of Courage of 2013. Every year the State Department highlights women activists from around the world who have bravely fought for their rights under the threat of violence and death.
Being in the same room as these women was humbling. Their names are not well-known, but they have blazed trails in their countries by being the first female members of their nations’ counter narcotics teams, by writing and blogging about human rights abuses, and by standing up to sexual abuse.
At the close of Women’s History Month, I’d like to share with you the stories of two of these women so you can also be inspired by the amazing work they are doing tirelessly across the globe.
Fartuun Adan worked for years as a peace activist with her husband during the Somali civil war. After her husband was assassinated by warlords, Adan was abandoned by her late husband’s family and had to flee to Canada as a refugee with her three daughters.
Despite these obstacles, Adan did not give up on her work. She went back to Somalia in 2007 at the height of the war to continue her activism, and established Somalia’s first sexual violence hotline and rape crisis center. The center has served more than 400 sexual and gender-based violence survivors.
Dr. Josephine Odumakin
Dr. Odumakin campaigns for democracy in Nigeria, leading protests for good governance and rule of law. She has worked on over 2,000 cases of violence against women, and her activism has led the government to arrest and detain her over 17 times.
As an activist myself, I am in awe of the impact these women have made despite the difficult circumstances they find themselves in. They refused to stay silent about the injustices they have suffered even though they knew speaking up would be dangerous. Their tenacious beliefs in their causes and determination to do what’s right, regardless of the consequences, inspires me to keep on working every day to ensure women’s rights.
In a world where men’s accomplishments are more likely to be reported in newspaper headlines, it’s important for us to know and support the female activists who risk their lives to establish gender equality and democracy in their countries. Their stories often go unreported by the media and their names will most likely not end up in the history books, but we can honor their courage by sharing their stories.
You can read more about the International Women of Courage awardees here.
Happy Women’s History Month! Who is your biggest female role model? Tell us in the comments!