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Dec 03, 2021
In a week in which women’s rights in America are once again front and center of the national conversation, we’re taking a look at the women dedicating their lives to breaking down barriers and upholding rights not just in the U.S., but around the globe.
From Kyrgyzstan to South Korea to Chile, new, important players are taking a stand against bride kidnapping, racism and a host of ingrained and outdated societal norms.
So read on to meet the next Greta Thunbergs, Malala Yousafzais and AOCs — the future feminist icons you need to know!
— Based on reporting by Kate Bartlett
1 - Allie Redhorse Young
This horse-riding, barrier-breaking Native American activist is showing how a new generation of millennial and Gen Z women are tackling neglected social justice issues in the U.S. The activist and writer not only took to the vast expanses of the Navajo Nation to get out the vote during last year’s presidential election with her “Ride to the Polls” campaign, but when the community became one of the hardest hit by COVID-19, she set up Protect the Sacred, an organization aimed at educating Dine people about the virus. This year Redhorse Young helped with the vaccine rollout in the reservation — a huge success compared to much of the rest of America, with some 70% of the Nation now inoculated. It’s no wonder she was recently invited to meet Vice President Kamala Harris to talk about voter restrictions. Could Young one day be the first-ever female Navajo Nation president or the next Deb Haaland?
2 - Isra Hirsi
You probably haven’t heard of her, but you’ll certainly know her famous mom, firebrand Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. Passionate about social justice, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, but the 18-year-old is becoming a force to be reckoned with in her own right. Hirsi is one of the co-founders of the U.S. Youth Climate Strike movement, motivated by the notion that climate change “is the fight of my generation.” While focused on the environment, the teen — who grew up in the Minneapolis Somali community — is also a Black Lives Matter activist. Omar’s eldest child is a regular on TikTok, where she rails against capitalism and injustice, sometimes getting her mother to cameo in her videos. Hirsi says her mother piqued her interest in politics by taking her to a protest while in first grade. The ‘Squad’ group of progressive congresswomen that includes Omar has made inroads within the Democrat Party in recent years, but could Hirsi be its future?
3 - Asia Brown
Texan valedictorian Paxton Smith’s speech slamming the state’s new abortion laws went viral last May. But there’s another pro-choice activist you might not know of. Before Texas’ legislation passed, Mississippi had been the most restrictive state in the country, and it currently only has one abortion clinic in operation. Even that lone outpost is the regular target of anti-abortion activists. But Asia Brown is someone who’s not taking that sitting down. The 20-year-old is the sole Black volunteer patient escort at the Jackson Women’s Health Organization and is keenly aware of how the state’s racist past is still present in its abortion laws, which predominantly affect poor Black women who cannot travel out of state to get a termination. The women’s studies student, who returned to Jackson from university in Atlanta due to the pandemic, hopes to continue volunteering back in Georgia and has also started a grassroots campaign with her sister to distribute free sanitary products to women in need.
Women of the World
1 - South Africa: Zulaikha Patel
This 19-year-old half Black, half Indian Pretoria resident made national headlines in South Africa when at only 13 she organized major protests against her high school’s racist policy of banning Black female students from wearing their hair in natural styles such as afros. Hair and body positivity are issues close to Patel’s heart and earlier this year she released an illustrated children’s book called My Coily Crowny Hair, that she hopes will show young African girls that natural is beautiful too. What’s more, the teen boasts a very famous celebrity admirer: Angelina Jolie. “I think you are a very strong and interesting woman,” the Tomb Raider star told Patel in a recent interview with the activist organized by Amnesty International and the Mail and Guardian newspaper. The Rainbow Nation has never had a female president. Could Patel change that?
2 - Kyrgyzstan: Altyn Kapalova
She’s fighting against Ala Kachuu or “take and run,” her Central Asian country’s age-old practice of bride kidnapping. Kapalova wears many hats: She’s a university researcher, activist, an artist, and a children’s writer. “A happy marriage begins by crying,” goes one Kyrgyz proverb, and that’s certainly the case for the thousands of women who are kidnapped each year, raped and forced to marry against their will. After the brutal murder of one such bride, Kapalova organized the Feminnale, the country’s first feminist art exhibition at a museum in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan’s capital. The event proved so controversial it drew protests and she received threats, but the mother of three remains undeterred. “Our world has been patriarchal for centuries,” she explains. “These norms alienate us from the reality that everyone is equal and has the same rights.”
3 - India: Nodeep Kaur
If women are still second class citizens almost everywhere, then imagine the hardship of being both female and a Dalit — a member of India’s “lowest” caste. Kaur, a factory worker from Punjab state in her early twenties, doesn’t have to. She was simply trying to assert her rights at a protest in January when she was arrested, tortured and sexually assaulted. Kaur was part of a workers union and had protested on previous occasions to get what she and others had been owed from the glass factory where she worked. She’d also separately been participating in the massive farmer’s protests that almost brought the world’s biggest democracy to its knees and have been ongoing for over a year. Kaur was later released on bail but not before she’d caught the attention of Meena Harris, the niece of U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, who tweeted her support. Unable to get work after her release, Kaur decided to become a dedicated activist in solidarity with the farm protesters, saying: “I want to create a system where a laborer’s child does not have to become a laborer.”
Fierce Feminist Collectives
1 - South Korea: Haeil
The name of this organization translates as “tsunami.” And that’s practically what the feminist group, founded only last June, is causing in the wealthy but patriarchal country. Its members are all cutting their hair short in defiance of sexist beauty ideals and fighting against crimes like “semen terrorism,” whereby men ejaculate on a woman’s belongings. And just as Susan Faludi predicted in the nineties, Haeil and other feminist groups in South Korea are now facing major backlash. Aggressive “men’s rights groups” are springing up in the country that make your average incel troll look practically sweet. One such group is The New Men’s Solidarity Movement, whose members turn up at protests to threaten Haeil demonstrators and also use doxxing to cyberbully them. “They think that . . . we are a threat to tradition,” says Haeil’s founder Kim Ju-hee.
2 - Chile: LasTesis
Not since the Los Angeles rap outfit NWA railed against police brutality in the late 80s, did a song on the issue cause such a stir. Remember the “The Rapist in Your Path” or “The Rapist is You” slogans that went viral in 2019? LasTesis are the South American performance art group responsible for the feminist chant that quickly spread around the globe, from London and Los Angeles to Kenya. Group members blindfolded themselves and performed a dance outside the supreme court building in Chile’s capital, Santiago, in protest of how women demonstrators were being treated by police. The group has since collaborated with Russia’s Pussy Riot on a follow-up song protesting police violence. Chilean law enforcement responded by suing the group for “inciting violence,” though the charges were dropped earlier this year. The collective has stated on its website that Chilean authorities “want us in the kitchen, confined to the tedium of the domestic, to the private sphere, silenced, invisible.” The new song, which goes: “And it wasn’t my fault, where I was, or how I dressed,” was widely shared on Twitter in September by Mexican women ahead of the Supreme Court’s historic abortion ruling in that country.
3 - Russia: Pussy Riot
Think these neon balaclava-clad punks are a thing of the past? Think again. The group first gained international notoriety after performing a song dissing the Russian Orthodox church and President Vladimir Putin at a Moscow cathedral in 2012. Two of the collective’s members, Maria Alyokhina and Nadya Tolokonnikova, served almost two years in prison as a result. But now they’re back and angrier than ever, with Alyokhina in court again recently for promoting protests in support of jailed Putin critic Alexei Navalny. Several of the group’s other members have been arrested this year. Meanwhile, Pussy Riot is not only focused on political problems at home, with several band members having traveled to Texas in October to take part in the Dallas Reproduction Liberation March.
Dr. Hakeem Oluseyi, acclaimed astrophysicist, gets real with his Stanford buddy Carlos on how he went from being an unlikely Ph.D. candidate at Stanford struggling with a crack addiction to having Oprah producing his life story. In this special edition of The Carlos Watson Show, Dr. Oluseyi and Carlos hit the court to talk race, addiction, faith, and how to handle life’s darkest moments. To listen to the full, unedited conversation between Carlos and #HakeemOluseyi, subscribe to the podcast version of the show here: http://podcasts.iheartradio.com/s_34Zjdh
Who are your feminist heroes? Who do you think is set to light up the future? Send your suggestions to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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