All too often women's stories are told for them. Or more often their stories aren’t told at all, especially where women live in poverty and oppression.
But every day, we see women stand up in the face of that adversity. And in a stunning act of heroism, they tell their stories in the hopes of making it better for those around them.
They don’t wait for change, they make it. By speaking up, by sharing their experiences, by writing petitions, they are literally changing the world.
These women’s stories have been part of the fabric of Change.org from the beginning. It was Ndumie Funda’s petition to end corrective rape in South Africa that showed us the real power and potential of online petitions, after all. And it is women like her that continue to inspire us every day.
So we thought we would share some inspiration with you all by putting together a list of women who were brave enough to speak out.
This list is nowhere near exhaustive. We’re in awe of all our petition starters who are brave enough to speak out. But here are a few that we wanted to share today, on a day that celebrates the achievements of women around the world.
13 Women Who Inspired Us with Their Stories
1. Masooma Ranalvi and 16 other women are speaking out to end female genital mutilation in India
“At the age of seven, I was subjected to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Mumbai, in a most unhygienic and clandestine manner. The shock and trauma of that day are still with me.
Like me, there are thousands of my Dawoodi Bohra sisters who have been subjected to genital cutting as children and even today thousands of Bohra girls are being subjected to this practice, since it has been ordained by the clergy of our community.
Most of us are too scared to speak out publicly. We fear ostracization, social boycott and exclusion of our families from the rest of the community by our religious clergy if we object to the continuation of this practice.”
2. Amanda Nguyen is telling her story and pushing for a Sexual Assault Survivors Bill of Rights in the United States
“On a brisk October afternoon, I left for an appointment at a rape crisis center. Fifteen minutes later, I faced a challenge more daunting than the rape that brought me there: America's unequal justice system for rape survivors.
I struggled to have my basic rights recognized by the criminal justice system. Through my fight, I learned that survivor rights are not equal across the US. Over forty states have backlogs in untested kits. Some states do not cover the full medical expenses of a kit, leaving survivors to pay their own way towards justice.
My fight is not mine alone. Instead, it is a crisis for 25 million survivors across America, and I've come together with citizens, advocates, and legislators to do something about it.”
3. Tessa Hill And Lia Valente, both 13 years old, made consent a topic in Ontario’s health education curriculum
“As young people going to school in Ontario we often see how much sexism and harassment takes place. We hear stories from our friends about cat-calling and slut shaming in the hallways and in the classroom. We also notice the lack of awareness about safe sex and consent.
There are different sources in our society that make and perpetuate rape and sexual violence, but one of them is our lack of sex education. Our society is scared to teach teens and young people about safe sex, and most importantly, consent. Young people will have sex, despite teaching abstinence in the classroom, so the most important thing is to educate us and other young people about consent.
When young people don't learn about the importance of consent in a sexual relationship, it can lead to unhealthy relationships and ultimately perpetuates rape culture.”
“Crimes against women are a part of our everyday lives. But the brutal murder of Ozgecan was a last straw. My conscience, my heart, could not handle hearing that one more suspect had been let off in court just because he wore a nice suit. I realized I need to turn all these feelings into action knowing there are people who feel the same.”
5. Laura Coryton is pressuring the UK government to stop taxing sanitary products. She is joined by women running similar campaigns all over the world
"Periods are no luxury. You can ‘opt-in’ to extravagance. You cannot choose to menstruate. Despite this, a whole heap of disadvantages have been created for those who do. Not using sanitary products can lead to health risks, jeopardise maintaining a normal, professional or personal life, and result in public ridicule. Equally, by using sanitary products, our Government capitalises on misogynist discourse and period shame that has caused us to fear our own menstrual cycles. It’s a double-edged sword that cuts women on both sides.”
6. Laura Cima, feminist, environment activist, and former MP is petitioning the Italian parliament to pass bills that would allow women to pass their surnames to their children
"As a parliamentarian in the late '80s and then again in 2000, I presented bills several times for a law allowing mother's to give their surname to their children. More than thirty years of trying to make a change to this cultural and deeply patriarchal reality, and it was always without success. In all this time I have seen many, many women, sometimes abandoned by her husband or partner, with their children: the right to choose has been denied to all of them."
7. Meltem Avcil is campaigning to stop the detention of women seeking asylum in the UK
“I know what it’s like in Yarl’s Wood detention centre because I was locked up there in 2007 for 3 months when I was just 13 years old, with my mother. I joined the campaign against detaining children for immigration purposes and we won that campaign in 2010 when the government announced that it wouldn’t detain children any more in Yarl’s Wood.
However, I saw what my mother went through when she was in detention and I worry that many women like her are still being locked up. If a woman has already experienced rape, torture, imprisonment in her home country then it is really hard for her to be locked up here. Women become depressed and suicidal in detention.”
“My daughter Cristina died in Madrid Halloween Party Arena….Cristina was only 18 years. It is difficult to explain what my family and I have felt during these weeks: pain, impotence, rage ... Now all I want is to finish the trial as soon as possible and clarify responsibilities. But I also want the death of my daughter will at least that no family has to live what we're living in .
So there is something I can not understand and turns my insides: how is it possible that the company that organized the party where my daughter died will hold another party in a few weeks?”
9. Pavithra Shetty petitioned the Education Minister of Karnataka to impose strict security measure in schools in Bangalore, India
“A 6 year old little girl was raped in her school this week. 2 school staffers have been accused of this unforgivable act and yet this Bangalore school’s first response was to deny any responsibility!
As a mother of a 3 year old girl, I am shocked, scared and outraged. My little girl goes to a private school in Bangalore and I am extremely worried for her safety.
Our children spend several hours in the school every day. It is the school’s responsibility to impose security measures for the safety of children. If we trust them with our children, they should ensure they have the conditions to keep them safe.”
“Six years ago I was living in El Salvador when gangs began terrorizing my family. They killed my mother and my husband, then robbed and ransacked my house. They took everything – even the beds – and were threatening to kill me next. I had to escape.
I knew that the journey to the United States was very dangerous and I had a high chance of being raped or hurt along the way. But I would have died if I’d stayed in El Salvador. So I got a birth control injection and took my chances. A few years later, my 10 and 12 year-old daughters followed me, and somehow we all survived to make it to Boston.
But now the Obama administration is deporting families like ours back to El Salvador. And I’m afraid that we could be next.”
11. Rachel petitioned the New South Wales government in Australia to introduce domestic violence education into school curriculum
“I am 14 years old and I have been a victim of domestic violence. I didn't know that what happened in my home was different to any other family home. As a child how could I have known any better? My three brothers,mother and I just accepted the ongoing abuse (whether it be verbal, emotional or physical). I wanted help, but didn't know how to get it. If I had known any better, my family would have been safe and a lot happier than what we were. We were scared, naive, and alone.”
12. Sonia Lopezcastro is petitioning the President of Mexico to extend federal maternity leave to 6 months
“Can you imagine away from your baby, so small and helpless at 42 days old, having to return to work? Millions of women Mexico have passed and still go through this every day, by economic necessity and because of a system of unjust laws. As many will be forced to give up their jobs choosing to stay with her newborn, for the same reason: bad laws.”
13. Hanifa Nakiryowa helped to pass an Acid Attack Bill in Uganda that will protect women from violence
“After having lived for seven years with an abusive husband, I decided it was time to leave. I didn’t think I would survive another year if I stayed, so in 2011, I walked out the door and broke the crippling silence and isolation the abuse had made me feel. I felt empowered and free and finally looked forward to my future. But because I left my marriage, my husband considered me ‘disobedient’ and, therefore, worthy of punishment. One day, he called me to pick up my children at his house and suddenly acid was thrown at my face and body.
The next thing I knew, my face felt as if it were on fire. My skin was literally melting away. He thought he would break my spirit, but he only made me stronger.”
Do you have a story to tell?