Madeleine Dabernig from Bristol University Amnesty International Society closes TWSS Human Rights Week with this list of ten noteworthy women championing human rights.
1. Malala Yousafzai
Malala is a twenty-year-old Pakistani who was shot by the Taliban for advocating the right of girls to be educated. At seventeen she became the youngest ever Nobel Prize laureate, and also founded the Malala Fund, a non-profit organisation, which works towards providing valuable and safe secondary education for girls in developing countries.
2. Munroe Bergdorf
Munroe is a British model, social activist and transgender woman who gained worldwide attention when she spoke out about systematic racism and was then fired by L’Oreal for holding views contrary to their own. She is now a model for Illamasqua beauty brand: a recognition of the validity of her point about white supremacy and white privilege in Western societies.
3. Chelsea Manning
Chelsea was sentenced to serve an unwarranted thirty-five-year sentence for courageously exposing classified information, which included possible war crimes committed by the US military. As a trans woman, Chelsea was denied appropriate treatment related to her gender identity during her commuted sentence. Sacrificing her own human rights to challenge other potential human rights violations in the form of military wrongdoing, resulted in an international move forward for transgender rights and government transparency, changing the face of whistleblowing.
4. Suzanna Chavez
Suzanna was a Mexican poet and women’s rights activist who relentlessly fought to end the plight of women in Juárez during the decade of violence from 1993, which involved the unsolved killings of hundreds of women. Coining the slogan ‘Not One More Death’, Suzanna was a fearless beacon of women’s strength in one of the most violent cities in the world, unfortunately becoming a martyr of the cause she fought so hard for.
5. Ahed Tamimi
Ahed is a forceful example of a teenager whose childhood has been robbed and consumed by the brutal struggle for the rights of Palestinians under Israeli occupation in the West Bank. Ahed frequently confronts Israeli soldiers and challenges the control which limits the autonomy of her people, and viral images and videos of Ahed have put an international spotlight on the human rights abuses in Palestine. She is a symbol of resistance: a child hero with unwavering courage in the face oppression.
6. Tarana Burke
Senior Director of Girls for Gender Equity, Tarana is an African American civil rights activist who strives to help young women of colour by creating opportunities for them to live self-determined lives. Encouraging woman to share their experiences of rape and sexual assault, Burke teaches women not to blame themselves for sexual violence. She founded the phrase ‘Me too’ as part of her activism, which led to the post-Weinstein hashtag #MeToo being used more than twelve million times, demonstrating the pervasiveness of sexual abuse and assault in society.
7. Shackelia Jackson
Ever since her brother was unlawfully killed by the Jamaican police, Shackelia has fought to bring the officers responsible to justice. Since 2000, the Jamaican authorities have killed almost three thousand people, meaning 8% of the murders committed across Jamaica have been at the hands of law enforcement officials. Her incredible optimism in the struggle for justice is an inspiration for families facing a similar situation in Jamaica and elsewhere.
8. Danica Roem
Journalist and politician, Roem, was the first openly transgender person to be elected to the Virginia General Assembly in 2017, allowing the millions of transgender people in the USA to have some representation in government. Roem exposed the nation’s prejudices over gender identity whilst leading a relentless campaign which failed to give in to intimidation.
9. Manasi Pradhan
As a child, Pradhan walked the 15km a day across difficult terrain to attend high school despite women’s education is a major taboo in most rural areas of Banapur. Pradhan went on to set up the OYSS Women initiative in 1987 actively working for women empowerment and the Honour for Women National Campaign, dedicating her life to ending violence against women in India. The Four-Point Charter of Demand led to several state governments in India making amendments to tackle violence against women, such as providing self-defence training for women as part of the educational curriculum.
10. Patrisse Khan-Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi (founders of Black Lives Matter)
In response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer, George Zimmerman, Patrisse, Alicia and Opal co-founded Black Lives Matter to affirm the humanity and dignity of all Black lives and to combat implicit bias and anti-black racism. Now an international and inclusive movement, BLM went on to support the brave community of Ferguson and St. Louis in 2014 after the murder of Mike Brown – a clear indication of how widespread the brutalisation of Black communities by law enforcement is.
Illustration by Nia Jones.