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Global Women Who Took A Stand In 2019: From An Ebola Doc To 2 Beauty Queens

Gulalai Ismail, the Pakistani activist who fled the country after being threatened for taking a stand against sexual violence perpetrated by security forces. She was photographed in Brooklyn, where she is now seeking asylum.
Gulalai Ismail, the Pakistani activist who fled the country after being threatened for taking a stand against sexual violence perpetrated by security forces. She was photographed in Brooklyn, where she is now seeking asylum.

On Jan. 1, 2019, more than 3 million women in India joined hands to form a 385-mile-long human wall of protest calling for equal rights for women.

They are among the many extraordinary women we have written about in Goats and Soda this year — women on the front lines of political and social change, women who sometimes quite literally put their life on the line to take a stand and to do their job.

Here are some of the women we've interviewed and written about in 2019.

A Pakistani Activist Whose Life Was Threatened

Gulalai Ismail fled Pakistan in May after facing death threats for protesting the Pakistani government's extrajudicial killings and sexual violence. When she spoke with NPR in September, after resurfacing in New York City, she was resolute. "I was glad I am seen as a threat to all these institutions of oppression," she says. "Why not? The system should feel threatened by a woman." Ismail is a friend of Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai, who attended the girls' empowerment organization Ismail founded, Aware Girls.

Read the full story here.

An Ebola Doctor Under Fire In Congo

Dr. Marie-Roseline Bélizaire is a field coordinator for health workers who are part of the anti-Ebola effort in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She is an epidemiologist with the World Health Organization.
Lindsay Mackenzie / WHO
Dr. Marie-Roseline Bélizaire is a field coordinator for health workers who are part of the anti-Ebola effort in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She is an epidemiologist with the World Health Organization.

Dr. Marie-Roseline Bélizaire is a field coordinator for the World Health Organization's Ebola response teams in Congo. This year alone, WHO reports that 11 Ebola responders have been killed and more than 80 injured. "As doctors we have committed ourselves to saving lives," Bélizaire says. "This is what we do. We cannot leave people to die."

Read the full story here.

Confronting Maternal Mortality In Photographs

"This is part of Dr. Edna Ismail's team doing outreach in a remote village in Somaliland," Lynsey Addario says. "They do a similar thing like in Afghanistan, where they make an announcement for any pregnant and lactating women to come for a prenatal check. That's essentially the only way women can get care unless they walk or are able to get transport to the nearest hospital or clinic."
/ Lynsey Addario
"This is part of Dr. Edna Ismail's team doing outreach in a remote village in Somaliland," Lynsey Addario says. "They do a similar thing like in Afghanistan, where they make an announcement for any pregnant and lactating women to come for a prenatal check. That's essentially the only way women can get care unless they walk or are able to get transport to the nearest hospital or clinic."

Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Lynsey Addario is known for her coverage of war (and has been kidnapped twice while on assignment). But that is far from her only topic. Addario has spent the past decade documenting a subject that many photographers and editors shy away from: maternal mortality. "Most people just don't realize what a big deal this is," she says. Her images were featured in this year's Visa Pour L'image festival in Perpignan, France.

Read the full story here.

Beauty Queen's Rape Allegation Against Former Gambia President Sparks #MeToo Movement

Fatou "Toufah" Jallow says she was raped by former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh. She now lives in Canada but returned home to testify before the nation's Truth Commission.
/ 2019 Human Rights Watch
Fatou "Toufah" Jallow says she was raped by former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh. She now lives in Canada but returned home to testify before the nation's Truth Commission.

Fatou Jallow won a beauty pageant sponsored by the Gambian president when she was 18 – and says she was raped by President Yahya Jammeh. This year she testified before Gambia's Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission about her experience. "I call it a revolution," says pro-democracy activist Madi Jobarteh. "It was totally brave on her part and explosive for all of us."

Read the full story here.

Miss Universe 2019 Is Young, Gifted And An Outspoken Believer In 'Black Girl Magic'

Zozibini Tunzi of South Africa takes her first walk as Miss Universe after winning the 2019 Miss Universe pageant.
Elijah Nouvelage / Reuters
Zozibini Tunzi of South Africa takes her first walk as Miss Universe after winning the 2019 Miss Universe pageant.

Zozibini Tunzi of South Africa, who took the Miss Universe crown, took a stand on "natural" beauty, gender equality and climate change. Addressing the world's beauty standards, she said, "I want children to look at me and see my face, and I want them to see their faces reflected in mine."

Read the full story here.

Teen Girl Activists Take On Skeptical Boys, Annoying Buzzwords

Activists from Girl Up. Top row from left: Valeria Colunga, Eugenie Park, Angelica Almonte, Emily Lin. Bottom row from left: Lauren Woodhouse, Winter Ashley, Zulia Martinez, Paola Moreno-Roman.
/ Olivia Falcigno/NPR
Activists from Girl Up. Top row from left: Valeria Colunga, Eugenie Park, Angelica Almonte, Emily Lin. Bottom row from left: Lauren Woodhouse, Winter Ashley, Zulia Martinez, Paola Moreno-Roman.

NPR interviewed 10 participants in the Girl Up 2019 Leadership Summit about challenges — and obstacles. Ayesha, a gender equality activist from Sierra Leone, says community members are threatened by female empowerment. "If that's making your girls bad," she says, "please, can I make your girls bad?"

Read the full story here.

6 Young Women Went To The U.N. With A Bill Of Rights For Girls

A lighter moment on a serious day: the presentation of a Global Girls' Bill of Rights at the U.N. Left to right: Six of the young women who helped draft the document: Faith Nwando, 17; Djellza Pulatani, 17; Olivia Lombardo, 16; Angelica Morales, 21; Kanchan Amatya, 22; and Vishakha Agrawal, 20.
/ Yana Paskova for NPR
A lighter moment on a serious day: the presentation of a Global Girls' Bill of Rights at the U.N. Left to right: Six of the young women who helped draft the document: Faith Nwando, 17; Djellza Pulatani, 17; Olivia Lombardo, 16; Angelica Morales, 21; Kanchan Amatya, 22; and Vishakha Agrawal, 20.

To those who might ask why a Global Girls' Bill of rights is needed, one of the framers has an answer. "Many girls in my country don't even know what their rights are," says 22-year-old Kanchan Amatya of Nepal. So "they are without resources" or recourse when they face discrimination.

Read the full story here.

Millions Of Women In India Join Hands In A 385-Mile Wall Of Protest

Millions of women joined hands along a highway in Kerala to form a "women's wall" on New Year's Day. For participants, the goal is gender equality.
/ AFP/Getty Images
Millions of women joined hands along a highway in Kerala to form a "women's wall" on New Year's Day. For participants, the goal is gender equality.

Conflict over whether or not women of menstruating age should be allowed to enter a sacred Hindu temple inspired a record-breaking protest on New Year's Day 2019. Between 3.5 million and 5 million women joined hands in what is believed to be the largest public gathering in the country in support of gender equality.

Read the full story here.

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