Women’s rights activists: True modern day suffragettes

Alena Johns | Nov 30, 2015

The votes have been counted and we now have the names of our top five inspirational women. Once again, we are urging you to take part, this time voting for the woman that inspires you the most. Everybody who votes will receive five limited edition Womankind postcards featuring the amazing women. So, who made our top five?

Emmeline Pankhurst

Emmeline Pankhurst was a British political activist  and leader of the British suffragette movement. Perhaps the most famous suffragette of them all, her work is recognised as a crucial element in achieving women’s suffrage in Britain.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

One of today’s most admired and controversial political figures, Ayaan Hirsi Ali is known as the woman who risks her life to advocate for women’s rights. A Somali-born American writer and activist, Hirsi Ali has highlighted substantial women’s issues around the world, such as female genital mutilation. She also voices against the most radical elements of Islam, and for this has become a target for near-fatal violence.

Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani activist who campaigns women and girls’ right to an education. In just 17 yearshas certainly made her mark in history and her courageous strides have placed her at the frontline for women’s rights in education.  Malala has not only survived being shot in the head by the Taliban, but she has written her own book, given a speech at the UN and become the youngest ever Nobel Prize winner.

Maya Angelou

A strong and inspiring woman with a varied career, Maya Angelou was an American author, poet, dancer, actress, and singer. Through her work Angelou would often tackle issues of gender and race and was a pre-eminent voice of feminism and power amongst young women, long before many of us understood the political and social impact art could have on institutions and politics.

 Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama, the 44th first Lady of the United States, has refused to be recognised as just the President’s wife. Since being thrust in to the spotlight, Obama has focussed on issues such as achieving worldwide education for girls and female work-life balance. Regularly praised for talking from the heart, Michelle Obama has inspired women of a generation.

Modern day suffragettes

The suffragette movement is iconised by Emily Davison, who threw herself under the King’s horse at Epsom Racecourse in June 1913. She died a few days later.

Using such militant tactics certainly drew attention to the suffragette movement and 100 years on, women all over the world are following in her footsteps. While such aggressive tactics are not always the route to gain attention, in modern times, radical campaigning is still very much needed and around the world, women working to champion women’s rights face serious injury, intimidation and even death. Whether it’s furthering rights where they seldom exist or simply feeding information to uninformed girls or women, the suffragettes of today are challenging danger to fight for what they believe.

A violent end

A true inspiration and tragic example of a modern day suffragette was 32 year old Nadia Vera. Sadly, Vera became the 36th women’s rights activist to be murdered in Mexico since 2010. A proud feminist and social activist, Vera was murdered in her flat in Mexico City along with four other women. Before being shot in the head, the women were reported to have been tortured and raped.

Using the means of poetry, plays and social demonstrations, the women worked together spreading the message of equal rights for women and many believed this is what got them killed. As cartel- and corruption related-violence increases in the Mexico, women’s rights activists who are willing to stand out and speak are constantly placing themselves in situations where they become targets.

Despite the danger, most of the women who speak out are more than aware of the risks.  ‘We don’t like prisons, but we’re not afraid of them’, is a comment that Hend Nafea posted on her Facebook page. Nafea, a young Egyptian and part of a group of women activists, has had to overcome sexual and physical assault by the military, imprisonment by her family, and the injustice of a corrupt court system, yet she still continues to fight for her cause. On 4 February this year, after being dragged through the streets and beaten, Nafea was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment for protesting against the regime.

Shortly after the sentence, with the assistance of an unknown organisation, Nafea was assisted to safety in Lebanon. Across the globe women’s rights organisations are working everyday in exceptionally dangerous circumstances to assist activists such as Nafea, and in most cases the individuals working for these groups are women.  They work tirelessly liaising with embassies and the United Nations ensuring that endangered activists are protected whilst remaining a crucial source of knowledge and innovation on women’s rights.

Womankind’s work with activists

Womankind currently works with 27 women’s rights organisations around the globe, each challenging discrimination and violence and improving the rights and choices of women and girls. Without a doubt, the courage demonstrated and the risks that are taken are truly commendable. For example, our partners in Afghanistan face threats and must travel in unmarked cars and just recently Durga Sob, head of FEDO in Nepal was beaten by police whilst attending a rally demanding women’s rights be recognised in the Nepali constitution. Throughout the world today, many women are still fighting for their human rights, and the importance of each and every one of these women must never be overlooked.

Without activists

The work that each activist does is crucial for change. Studies show that throughout history, women’s rights groups and movements have done huge amounts to improve women’s lives. Whether it be fighting for the right to education, a violence-free life, or saving somebody from injustice, our modern day suffragettes inspire hope and change lives in so many ways for women across the globe, mirroring the lives of the women who fought for gender rights 100 years ago and for our right to vote today. For this we could not be more grateful!

Your chance to vote for your ultimate inspirational women’s rights idol

In order to celebrate all women’s rights campaigners, from the suffragettes to modern day activists, we are giving you the chance to vote for who inspires you the most from the list above.

Nominations are now open. Please click here to vote.

The competition will run until until 12 October, when ‘Suffragette’ is released and we’ll announce the winner.


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