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
Space to Stand
The bus is jam-packed at over double its capacity. People are leaning against each other and some are simply hanging onto the door handles. It is hard to figure out which legs belong to which head. It makes me think of cockroaches inside a little dirty chocolate packet left in a dustbin. The mixture of body odor, perfume, cigarette smoke, and vehicles is nauseating.
I am seated right above the engine, which is covered with thin foam to prevent female passengers from getting burned. My Kameez is wet, clinging to my sweaty back.
As we wait in a traffic jam, a lady wearing a black veil tries to get in the bus. The conductor has refused and begins to argue with her. Amidst people’s chattering, nonstop horns, music from the nearby CD shop, and the sporadic noise of construction work, the conductor’s shouting is only adding to the sound pollution.
One man curtly shouts, “Ladies are foolish and always make trouble. Now we do not even have any places to stand!” In response, a woman from my part of the crowd yells at the conductor, “Let her in!” Some of us join her with supportive words.
The lady enters like a cat. When the bus starts to move, her hands look for something to grab for balance. My hand successfully reaches hers. I manage my legs by leaning my feet against the seat to make some room for her to stand. She holds my wet shoulder. I feel that she is me and I am her. After two stops she looks at me and gets off the bus. I see her walk along the footpath—a singular girl. She joins the crowd of women walking ahead, and she becomes one of many.
Nipo | Bangladesh
Pss! Pss! I Slapped a Policeman Today
City flea market, Harare.
We shuffle through heaps of old clothes to find the cheapest. We resell these at a dollar each in Epworth, a rural settlement outside Harare. We sell to get just enough profit for the following day’s budget and remain with capital for tomorrow's order. We buy bread for children's sandwiches, veggies and tomatoes for supper, and keep coins for bus fare and pocket money.
The second hand clothes in the stacks smell so much.
'But why do the clothes smell this much?' my friend Lillian asks.
“I don’t know and I don’t care, Lillian, I just want the good ones. Somebody told me it’s a chemical that they spray to preserve the clothes.”
Suddenly we hear, “Kunyepa, mapeche enyu ndiwo anonhuwa!” In English, this means “You lie, it is your vaginas that smell!”
Before I realize that the intruder is a policeman, I slap him hard, twice. His cap falls down. As he bends to pick it up someone kicks him from behind. He bites the ground and groans. Crowd, jeers!
The policeman lies tummy down. Somebody nudges me and whispers, “Run!! There is going to be a scene.”
I hold Lillian’s hand and we run through the crowds. We jump into a taxi.
“Please take us to the main market, quick!” I throw a note, the driver takes off.
We buy cheap clothes and quickly change into them, discarding our original outfits.
We board a bus home, straight from the market. No city routes.
As I try to sit down someone nudges me and starts laughing. Another man!
‘But why are you laughing?’ I ask, feigning courage.
‘I was there. I kicked the policeman. I helped you get away?’
My heart kicks, I want to run!
‘Don’t be scared, well done. No more abuse of women in the city market. You are a strong woman!’
‘A strong vagina warrior!’ I shout back.
I look at Lillian, our eyes lock and we laugh again.
Chibairo | Zimbabwe
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