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My Story

We asked our online community of grassroots women leaders from 190 countries to submit their true stories about a time they took a stand on an issue they care about. This story is a selection of a few of the most powerful pieces.

Read all the inspiring submissions, and stay tuned for an announcement about next year's My Story contest.

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My Story: Standing Up

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© Monique Jacques

We've all faced situations that beg us to take a stand, to take a risk for a long range reward. World Pulse asked grassroots women leaders to write about their "Standing Up" moments. What emerged is a testament to the rising leadership of women across the world.

"Yes, I should stand up—for me and for the women!"

Mahe Jabeen | India

Rabia

We Stood Up at the Right Moment

It was a freezing April morning in 2009, and it felt as if even the snow beneath our feet was trying to stop us. My sister and I had left our mother behind, shaking with worry. We, however, were calm as we walked to the protest site, risking our lives and our honor.

It was almost 9 am when we arrived at Khatam-un-Nabiyeen, the religious university in Kabul that was led by Sheikh Asif Mohsini, the controversial politician who created the law we were taking a stand against.

The law decreed a number of things—it said that women should fulfill their husbands’ sexual desires whenever their husbands wanted and that if a man rapes a girl he can compensate for his crime by giving money to the girl’s family.

Holding posters, we blocked the road as we started to move slowly toward Parliament. Suddenly from the other gate of the university a crowd of men and women came out to oppose us. This surprised and deeply pained me. It was painful enough that this law was created against women, but it was even worse to see that many of those who agreed with the law were women themselves.

The opponents started throwing stones at us. My sister was hit in the forehead, which hurt her so badly that we had to hide it from our father for many days. Seeing those wild men, I didn’t know what would happen to us if government forces didn’t come in time.

We did eventually get to Parliament, and our actions resulted in the repealing of the law. We stood up and got what we wanted. Today I am proud of myself and my friends for what we did for our mothers, sisters, daughters, and ourselves.

Rabia Salihi | Afghanistan


Mahe

Feminine Festive Times

“Have you heard the ad on the radio?” my friend asked me. “A male voice advocating for the use of sanitary napkins! How drastically the psyches of Indian men have changed over the years! It is because of your efforts to spearhead a movement for the use of sanitary napkins across our country!”

Her praise took me back to the memories of an incident. I was returning from a UN Women conference in New York. On the plane I realized I was about to get my period. I was embarrassed but stood up to ask the air hostess for a sanitary pad. The men next to me asked me to sit back down. When I did, he asked me why I was standing. Eventually, I told him. He lectured me, telling me that women shouldn’t be allowed inside when they are menstruating. Instead, they should spend those three days in the backyard and in the woods near the villages.

I was appalled at his ignorance and told him that he was born in the very blood he loathes. “Are you shameless?” he said. “You are discussing such nasty things with unknown men?” I was moved with uncontrollable resentment. I stood up. Yes, I should stand up—for me and for the women. He jeered at me and changed his seat.

That incident prompted me to spearhead a movement across Indian society. I traveled all over the country, from village to village, to raise awareness of the difficulties women face while menstruating. When the village girls could not attend schools during those three days, I urged the government to provide free sanitary napkins to rural schoolgirls. I saw a change in the government’s outlook and the public’s perception.

To my delight, after many years, the radio ad cheered me up. Yes, my menstruation tells the world that I am a woman and I am a part of nature. I feel proud of being a woman.

Mahe Jabeen | India

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Comments

nusrat1977's picture

I am proud of you!

Rabia, I am so proud of you. I feel, such a law in any country is highly humiliating and insulting to every woman. I am so glad that you both sisters risked your lives on a freezing morning for all of us and you were successful. May God bless you immensely for that.
Regards
Nusrat

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved. ..........Hellen Keller

Huma's picture

For Rabia and Mahe Jabeen

Rabia what you did was so courageous and so brave! I'm really proud of you! You helped change the course of history, you're amazing!

Mahe Jabeen, wow. I cannot believe the audacity of that man. I am glad you stood up to him, and stood up for the rest of us. Such hatred against a natural phenomena that ALL women have to face is ridiculous. If anything they should be appreciative of the pain we have to go through! Congratulations on your achievements.

Girls will one day rule the world.
Cheers,
Huma

Huma's picture

For Chibairo and Nipo

Chibairo, you made me laugh with your courage and bravery! Standing up to verbal abuse is just as hard as standing up to physical abuse, and you are a hero! I'm glad you're safe from the policeman, and I'm glad you had help! It just goes to show you that there are only a few rotten people in the world, the rest are advocates for equality ! Well done!

Nipo, I'm so glad you helped that woman with the veil. We have to help each other, regardless of whether we're dripping in sweat or even if there isn't any space to stand. I'm so glad you did that, it gives me peace of mind to know that she was helped by someone, and YOU'RE the one who helped her, I thank you and I salute you!

Girls will one day rule the world.
Cheers,
Huma

Nipo's picture

Thank you HUMA!

I am honored by your salute and the courage to help others wouldn't be there if there were many others women like me supported me. Like you I also believe we have help each other. Your respect and comment is like courage for standing for ourselves.

Thanks a lot.

Nipa

Nipo

All of you are so inspirational.... I'm just a student at school having trouble studying for my courses. Reading your stories inspired me so much. You have faced such difficult situations and have survived. You truly inspire me. I'm glad all of you are well and that you're doing all you can to change the world you live in.
Girls will one day rule the world.
Cheers,
Huma

nilima's picture

WOW

Inspiring stories, leadership doesn't mean that you have to lead all alone, contributing from a grassroots level even with the small voice brings the change.

Thank you world pulse, this is the beautiful topic to hear the stories.

Kevii_kur's picture

Womens rights

In this article, a young woman, Rabia Salihi, and her sister had went to the Khatam-un-Nabiyeen, a religious university that was led by Sheikh Asif Mohsini, a politician ruler that had come up with a law that most women were against, to protest against this new rule. The law stated that women had to desire all of their husbands wants and if they were violated by another man he could just pay the family money and not be punished for the crime. I find this very unfair because women don't have the opportunity to speak up and refuse, basically they are forced upon this rule. Rabia found this rule very unfair also, which is why she stood up for the protest. Both her sister and herself faced harsh treatment and violence, but in the end it was all worth it because they were able to convince the Parliament to repeal the law.
Events like this happen very often, women are always discriminized and their rights are always violated. Rabia and her sister not only saved the women and young girls around them, but also the women of future generations, they showed that it is possible for women to have their voice heard and all the struggle is worth it. Also, other people should be informed about this harsh treatment so situations like this can be prevented. People need to stop underestimating women and their skills, they're more capable of things than they seem to be. I am a very big supporter of Rabia and her sister for their protest and their fight for the protection of womens' rights, they have saved many people without realizing and action like this should be followed to continue the protection of women's rights.

zarha.saifey's picture

Afrikan Goddess

Dear friend,

To me stereotypes are just like genocide. In e both cases, we are killing individuals' existence. Unfortunately, media has had a big role in creating stereotypes and false images. My country, Afghanistan, is one of the victims of stereotypes too. I had been far from my country for my entire life and I was scared to visit my hometown because what I had seen from media was just a war torn country full of ruins. However, going back to my country after almost 20 years, I found it destroyed but full of happiness and hope. That is why I started taking picture from different parts of Afghanistan and posting them on Facebook so to surprise my friends.
Even though Africa or Afghanistan or any other poor country may have of slum areas and "unpleasant" sights, I'm sure, there is beauty hidden there.
I'm happy that you are proud of who you are.

Love!
Zahra from Afghanistan

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