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SHEROES
2 Jan 2016 . 5 min read

Inspiration from 2015 – here’s to the courageous ones!


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Many a time, we lack courage to take a stand. Yet, in 2015, we saw people standing up to poachers, demanding voting rights,  speaking out against terror, rejecting drunken grooms, and even choosing to answer inane questions on behalf of their co-stars! Their actions inspired us!

Nigerian schoolgirls risk their lives to return to school

Months after terrorist group Boko Haram shocked the world by kidnapping more than 200 school girls in Nigeria, a small group of schoolgirls, about 57, who had narrowly escaped, decided to risk their lives by returning to school. The Boko Haram had warned they would shoot anyone trying to escape, yet, the girls went ahead and went back to school, with the hope of one day becoming doctors and engineers and helping make a difference to the lives of their people. The person who urged them to take the step is 27-year-old Godiya (she does not use her surname to escape recognition by the Boko Haram), the daughter of a policeman.

Brides decide in UP

Closer home in India, 2015 also happened to be the year when two women from rural India who put their foot down, refusing to be drawn into potentially damaging marriages. Neha from Mahoba district in Uttar Pradesh left the shaadi mandap when she found the groom drunk and quarrelling with the guests. Another girl from Maritar village in Ballia, Uttar Pradesh, called off her marriage after she realised that the groom was illiterate. The bride’s family said they had been led to believe the groom had passed his class X boards.

Caitlin happens

Bruce Jenner, 66, a former athlete (Bruce was gold winning decathlon champion in the 1976 Montreal Olympics) and TV personality came out as a transgender woman in April. In June, Jenner debuted her new name and image, choosing to call herself Caitlyn. Jenner's emerging gender identity was revealed in a Vanity Fair interview. The cover, photographed by Annie Leibovitz, was the magazine's first to feature an openly transgender woman. Using her Twitter handle, @Caitlyn_Jenner, she tweeted: "I'm so happy after such a long struggle to be living my true self. Welcome to the world Caitlyn. Can't wait for you to get to know her/me."

The high-flyer from Afghanistan

23-year-old Niloofar Rahmani who became Afghanistan's first female pilot to serve in the air force since the fall of the Taliban has been honoured with the U.S Secretary of State's International Women of Courage Award. Niloofar defied death threats from the terror group and even members of her own extended family to become the first female fixed-wing Air Force aviator in Afghanistan's history. When her achievements were publicised, Niloofar's family received threats had to move several times because of death threats. Despite all the trouble, Niloofar says she eventually aims to become a flight instructor to inspire other women to join the cadre of female AAF pilots.  'You can't just see yourself as a woman, but as a human and believe in yourself,' Niloofar told a channel. 'It was not easy finishing flight school, it was very hard, but someone had to accept the risk so that other women can do what they dream.

More women pick up arms against ISIS

In 2015, Syrian Christian women in north-east Syria also started fighting the Isis. They are following in the footsteps of Syria’s other main female force battling the jihadists – the women of the YPJ, the female counterpart to the Kurdish People’s Protection Units. Babylonia has no regrets about leaving behind her two children and her job as a hairdresser to join a Christian female militia battling against Islamic state in Syria. The 36-year-old believes she is making the future safe for her children. “I miss Limar and Gabriella and worry that they must be hungry, thirsty and cold. But I try to tell them I’m fighting to protect their future,” she told a news agency.

Saudi women vote, run in elections for the first time

For the first time in Saudi Arabia’s history, women were able to vote and run for office in municipal elections held in December 12. The credit for giving Saudi women voting rights goes to, among others, the Baladi (My Country) campaign run by Saudi women Fozia Alhani and Hatoon al-Fassi. The Baladi campaign organised training sessions to educate participants on campaigning methods for office and helped them create their own platforms and agendas. Haifa al-Hababi, who teaches architecture at Prince Sultan University in the Saudi capital Riyadh and was candidate in the elections, said: “I work with a lot of Saudi female students. I’d like to run to give them more opportunities. By running, I’m setting myself as a role model and example for these girls’ fathers that they can do anything they want in the future.” Then, she added: "If women can manage their houses then they can manage their neighborhoods and by extension, communities after that."

By Debjani Ray

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