About This 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.
My Story: Standing Up
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.
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
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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