Maha Almuneef – Breaking stereotypes, reaching goals

Cross-posted from UN Women

Maha Almuneef

Maha Almuneef, a 53-year-old mother of three living in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, is a Board-certified physician with a vision: ending violence against women. Maha, undeterred by the traditional image of a woman’s place in society, earned her medical degree and established the National Family Safety Program (NFSP), the first specialized institution to address the issue of domestic violence in the country.

As Executive Director of NFSP, she focuses her attention on prevention programmes and training of professionals, such as police or lawyers, in improving support for survivors of violence. The NFSP also provides counselling and referral services, and manages the Saudi Child Helpline dedicated to delivering counselling for children, who have been subjected to abuse, and their caregivers. Advocating for the recently-adopted “Protection from Abuse” law that criminalizes domestic violence was Maha’s passion project. She received a prestigious award from President Barack Obama this year, making her a strong role model for the women of her country.  Read More »

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A brave crusader, opening many doors

Cross-posted from UN Women

Georgina Beyer

A true force of nature: this is how she is popularly known. Braving criticism and challenging discrimination and stereotypes, Georgina Beyer paved a new path when she became the world’s first openly transsexual mayor in 1995, as well as the first openly transsexual Member of Parliament (MP) in 2000. A long-standing human rights advocate, her legacy includes a long and powerful list of legislative reform.

Step by step, she worked with various marginalized and vulnerable groups, starting with indigenous groups that contributed to drafting one of the first bills for equitable natural resource management. She then played a key role in the passage of the Prostitution Law Reform in 2003, guaranteeing protection for minors and health services for all sex workers. Another agenda of hers, considered a first of its kind,  was to get lawmakers on-board to sign into force a statement making gender identity protection explicit under New Zealand’s human rights bill, as well as advocating for the Civil Union bill, which was passed towards the end of her time as an MP in 2007.  Read More »

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Liv Arnesen – Trekking across the globe for environmental change

Cross-posted from UN Women

Liv Arnesen

On her first trip to the South Pole, she started at Hercules Inlet at the southern end of the Weddell Sea, and arrived in the South Pole in just 50 days, a journey of 1,200 km. She says it is perseverance, patience and stubbornness that made the hazardous, yet dream, trek a reality.

A self-described typical teacher and mother of three in Norway, Liv Arnesen resides in a country well-known for its progressive systems. Norway ranks number one on UNDP’s Human Development Index, which measures health, education and income, as well as holds the top spot for its progress towards Gender Equality. However, a glass ceiling for women still exists, and Liv has been shattering this ceiling for more than 20 years.

She has incorporated environmentalism and education into her latest adventures, and has gathered a team of six women from six different continents to begin an expedition along India’s Ganges River. A woman with a mission, she is using this experience to increase awareness about the Earth’s decreasing supply of fresh water. The expedition group’s goal is to reach 50 million youth with their educational curriculum on the importance of water conservation. Featured in more than 50 international news media outlets, Liv and her expedition partner, Ann Bancroft, have established Bancroft Arnesen Explore, an organization dedicated to motivating people, especially women and girls, to reach for their own dreams. She shares some of these with us.   Read More »

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What we talk about when we talk about abortion

The other night I finally had the chance to catch Obvious Child, the new film starring Jenny Slate. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a movie in the theater but I wanted to make sure I saw this one on the big screen–not for aesthetic reasons but for political ones. I want my money to register as part of its box office take.

Obvious Child is the story of Donna, a young, struggling stand-up comedian who after getting dumped by her boyfriend has a bit of a meltdown that results in a drunken hot mess of a stand-up set followed by a drunken hot mess of a hook-up with a guy who happens to be at the club that night (but, perhaps thankfully, didn’t catch her shitstorm set).

What happens next is both routine (routine, that is,  if you’re a 20 or 30-something female) and surprising. A few weeks later she finds out she’s pregnant. Donna is shocked, horrified even, but even as she leans on her best friend for support, she’s also remarkably calm about what will happen next: She’ll get an abortion.  Read More »

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Dear Cosmo: Stalking is creepy

Originally posted to

Note: A few days ago I wrote into Cosmo.  The intent was not to receive a response any more thorough than the expected generic, “We promise we read this, though we can’t respond to every email in our inbox.”  (I did in fact receive that response.  It was nice.)  The intent was to reach someone at Cosmo who might, *as their future self*, be pulled back to the moment they read the letter and *as their future self* choose a title for an article or a “Tweet We Love” that has just a tad more integrity.  And, incase the email fails in every which way of those intentions…maybe it will do some service here.

Dear Cosmo,

I have the guts to write this largely due to the turn your magazine seems to have taken in the last few years. As referenced on page 22 of your July 2014 issue you have transformed into an increasingly empowering magazine, courageously publishing real stories for strong, creative, beautiful young women. It’s awesome. I feel like you encourage us (I’m a young woman) to speak up and to lead progress for women, so that is what I am doing.

On this same page (22) your first “Tweets We Love” claims, ”It seems like Cosmo has been stalking me. Every article is directly related to my life this exact moment. #Creepy”

Stalking is creepy. For many of the women (and men) who go through it (your readers) hearing language like this used so nonchalantly minimizes the trauma they have and may continue to experience. Stalking is bad enough in itself but it is also often tied to a larger cycle of abuse that can lead to violent or sexual abuse, manipulation, control, etc. Of course, it is often unintentional, but when we use language like “Facebook stalk” or “Cosmo is stalking me” we normalize and become desensitized to stalking – a traumatic, creepy thing that no person should believe is meant to be their or anyone’s norm.  Read More »

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