We Have More Heroines

March 31, 2011 § 2 Comments

We often hear about the need for more heroines in public life. But in reality – they already exist, but have too easily been hidden by history.

This article by Camille Sarret in Le Monde Diplomatique (£) is a tour de force of stories about women who we really ought to have heard of – some current, some from the past.

  • Malalai Joya – the youngest female MP between 2005 and 2007 and a human rights leader in Afghanistan. In the moment of the video below, Malalay knew that she would never again be safe. She was only 25. She writes, “they will kill me but they will never kill my voice, because it will be the voice of all Afghan women.” There’s a wonderful interview with her here, and part 2 is here.
  • Huda Sharawi – founded the Egyptian Feminist Union in 1923 and became a leading nationalist. In 1929 she caused a scandal by getting off the train in Cairo without a veil. Only months later, large numbers of Egyptian women went unveiled on a demonstration against the British colonial power. She led Egyptian women pickets at the opening of the Egyptian Parliament in January 1924 and submitted a list of nationalist and feminist demands. She remained active throughout her life, working on peace, disarmament and womens rights until her death in 1947.

  • Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay – a member of the aristocracy in Indian society in the first half of the 20th century and one of the leading feminist anti-colonial voices in India. She stood alongside Gandhi and Nehru in the national struggle for independence, and was the person who convinced Gandhi to allow women to join the famous salt marsh. She was the first Indian women to be arrested after entering the Bombay Stock Exchange to sell contraband packets of salt. She later became an advocate for the importance of handicrafts and cooperative grassroots movements for the empowerment of women in modern Indian society.


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