Women whose Life Stories Embody the 10 JustActions
From Manju Devi, the first woman to increase her income by working as a railway porter in the Indian city of Jaipur, to Gisela Mota, who was murdered on New Year’s Day after giving her maiden speech as Mayor of the Mexican town of Temixco pledging to clamp down on government corruption.
Representing women of all ages from all walks of life – students, CEOs, activists, and political leaders – and representing 10 countries, these women all share a common vision of a more just, prosperous, and peaceful world and the extraordinary courage it takes to fight for that vision. Eight of the women continue the struggle for a better world while two have already lost their lives doing so.
Read their stories, and share and promote their work widely, but most importantly, know their names. Because it is only when women like Manju Devi (JustActions #1), Leoba Devana (JustActions #2), Farkhunda Malikaza (JustActions #3), Monica Musonda (JustActions #4), Fatoumata Sanogo (JustActions #5), Balkissa Chaibou (JustActions #6), Nada Ahmed (JustActions #7), Grace Chirenje (JustActions #8), Nancy Tomee (JustActions #9), and Gisela Mota (JustActions #10) are running governments, companies, UN agencies, and all of the institutions that shape our world that our collective future will be brighter.
The #KnowHerName campaign was inspired by the words of Bibi Hajera, the mother of Farkhunda Malikaza who was brutally murdered by a mob in Kabul, when she proclaimed her daughter’s innocence and vowed that “as long as Farkhunda’s name is alive, she is alive.”
The #KnowHerName campaign aims not only to keep these 10 women’s names “alive” but to share the names and stories of other remarkable women who take big risks to make the lives of others better.
You can follow their stories on the #KnowHerName Campaign on Instagram and show your support by (1) memorizing the names and stories of the #KnowHerName Campaign women and girls, (2) sharing their stories with your family, friends, and colleagues at home, school, and work, (3) finding the women and girls on social media and telling them how much you value their leadership, (4) sharing the #KnowHerName picture profiles widely with your social media networks, (5) advocating for policies that make it easier for these women and girls to continue their important work, (6) supporting a woman or girl in your own life who is taking risks to right an injustice, and (7) adding her story to the #KnowHerName campaign by sending it to JustActions.
1. MANJU DEVI, India: Increase Women’s Incomes
Married at 10, widowed at 30, mother to three young children, and one woman among 180 men working as a licensed porter earning $8 a day carrying the bags of travelers at the Jaipur railway station. “Neither I nor my five sisters got the opportunity to go to school,” said Manju. “We were all married early. But I want my two daughters to study as much as they want. I will not get them married until they want to do so. I don’t listen when some people say I am going against tradition.” Read her story here.
2. LEOBA DAVANA, Papua New Guinea: Women Control Fertility
Married at 16, mother to two young children, and four months into a five year sentence for terminating a pregnancy in Papua New Guinea. Traumatized and injured by two difficult births and fearing for her life, Leoba, with her husband’s support, sought to induce an abortion at 16 weeks. The first woman to be jailed for an abortion in a country where contraceptive access is severely limited, death in childbirth is high, and unsafe abortion common. Read her story here.
3. FARKHUNDA MALIKZADA, Afghanistan: Prevent Early Death
Single at 27, a student of religion with ambitions to be a judge, Farkhunda was murdered by a mob of men in Kabul after she challenged the behavior of the custodian at a local shrine who was selling amulets to women. Farkhunda is reported to have said to the custodian, “You are abusing the women. You are charging them money for something that is not Islamic, that is not religious.” The custodian responded by falsely accusing her of burning the Koran and summoned a large crowd of men to kill Farkhunda, many of whom recorded the murder on their cell phones. Her tragic and early death not only robbed her of her life, but robbed Afghanistan of an educated woman – so desperately needed to secure the future of the nation. Read her story here.
4. MONICA MUSONDA, Zambia: Eliminate Malnutrition
Founder and CEO of JavaFoods producing affordable and nutritious foods made from local products to reduce the child malnutrition that is holding back the country. Corporate lawyer turned entrepreneur, an Archbishop Desmond Tutu Leadership Fellow and a 2013 World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, Monica is part of a new generation of African leaders who understand that the nutrition crisis will only be solved when local leaders are able to build businesses that can change local food habits. Read her story here.
5. FATOUMATA SANOGO, Mali: Eradicate Illiteracy
Mother of three and one of the highest performing community health workers at Muso, a program operating in Bamako that has reduced child deaths tenfold in less than five years, Fatoumata uses her new wages to finance her daughter’s education. “There was a time when our family was having particular financial difficulties and our children had to stop school”, she said. “I decided to do whatever it takes to keep my children in school. I am now paying for all of my oldest daughter’s high school fees with my community health worker earnings – $300 a year.” Fatoumata’s daughter enrolled in college. Read about Muso here.
6. NADA AHMED, Egypt: Establish New Work Norms
Inspired by the promise of the revolution, Nada dreamed of an independent life where she could pursue her goal to direct children’s theater. Nada resisted extreme family and social pressure to marry and escaped an abusive relationship with a boyfriend to fulfill her dreams, staging a play that she wrote and directed about the importance of democracy. As the hopes of the revolution crumbled, Nada struggled to maintain her new found independence but knew there was no going back. Watch her story here.
7. BALKISSA CHAIBOU, Niger: Delay Family Formation
One of five daughters, her dreams of becoming a doctor clashed with a marriage proposal from her cousin when she was 12. Wanting desperately to stay in school, Balkissa refused to marry and successfully took her uncle to court to stop the marriage, facing strong opposition. She is now at medical school taking every opportunity to educate her peers about the dangers of early pregnancy and the importance of delaying marriage and childbirth. Read her story here.
8. GRACE CHIRENJE, Zimbabwe: Reverse Inequality
University graduate, mother of two and leader of the Zimbabwe Young Women’s Network for Peace Building and the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe, Grace articulates the hopes and dreams of millions of young women when she says, “I want a Zimbabwe where I’m free to say what I want. A Zimbabwe that guarantees safety before and after expressing yourself. A Zimbabwe where we share resources equally and equitably. A Zimbabwe where I can decide what I want to do with my life and do it with all the passion, energy and strength that I possibly can. A Zimbabwe where equality defines the environment and we respect each other. A Zimbabwe that’s free and fair, and where women are viewed as equal strategic partners. A Zimbabwe where you and I are proud to be Zimbabwean.” Read her story here.
9. NANCY TOMEE, Kenya: Diffuse Innovation
The only girl to publicly question the practice of female genital mutilation among her Pokot community in western Kenya, Nancy refused to be cut and ran away twice before she was rescued by a local group, Abandon the Knife, who persuaded her parents to allow her to undergo an alternative rite of passage. Now 21 years old, Nancy is working with the UN to mobilize young people in her Pokot community to publically declare their intention to abandon the practice of female genital cutting. Read her story here.
10. GISELA MOTA, Mexico: 50% Female Leadership
The 33 year old newly elected Mayor of Temixco was murdered in her home the day after making her maiden speech announcing her intention to crack down on government corruption. The daughter of a political activist, Gisela started attending political rallies at the age of 12, deciding to pursue a career in politics after studying law. She championed gender equality and environmental issues refusing security protection, claiming it was a waste of limited public resources. When warned by her mother that the mayoral race could cost her her life, she responded, “Mama, if I don’t run who will?” Read her story here.
Updated June 2021.