Introducing The Next Generation Of Leaders And Thinkers

She Did THAT: 10 Empowering Achievements by Women of Color in 2016

Alternative title: Ten things WOC did that make 2016 seem less terrible and restore our hope in the future.

1. Women in India won the right to lead households after court ruling.


Karta, a status carved by Hindu customs and texts, gives one member in a household the authority to manage property and other important affairs of the family. Under a 1956 law, only the eldest son can be granted Karta; a male nephew may be awarded it should the eldest child be a girl. In February, a daughter from north Delhi wanting to take over her family business after her father, brothers, and uncle all passed away brought the issue to the Delhi High Court—it soon amended the law to include the eldest female member of a family to become Karta. “If a male member […] by virtue of his being the first-born eldest can be a Karta, so can a female member,” said Justice Waziri of the High Court.

2. Former child brides instigated Zimbabwe to pass a landmark law to end child marriage.

This Is Africa

Loveness Mudzuru and Ruvimbo Tsopodzi, two former young brides who were 19 and 18 years old, respectively, fought in a yearlong case from 2015 for needed change in Zimbabwe’s constitution. Their efforts paved in results: on January 20, the Court declared 18 to be the minimum age of matrimony and all forms of child marriage as unconstitutional. These are incredibly important shifts, as the law used to allow girls under 16 and boys under 18 to be wed in special circumstances, most of which are rooted in tradition, beliefs or pregnancy; now, marriages on the grounds of religious rite or customs are considered illegitimate, and the court declares ‘a girl does not become an adult and therefore eligible for marriage because she has become pregnant…[she] is entitled to parental care and schooling just as any other child is entitled.”

3. First female president in Taiwan went into office after a landslide election.

Washington Times

On February, lawyer Tsai Ing-wen took 56% of the popular vote, securing her place as one of the two-dozen world leaders who are women. She was able to be elected with no family ties to politics and has won over many Taiwanese citizens by cleaning up corruption in the Democratic Progressive Party after becoming its chairperson in 2008. Ing-wen advocates marriage equality and may lead Taiwan to become the first country in Asia to legalize gay marriage.

4. Pakistani director created a movie that won an Oscar and influenced change on her country’s honor killing tradition.

Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy became the first Pakistani to attain two Oscars, after her second documentary ‘A Girl in the River’ won on February 28 this year. Her movie sheds light on honor killing, a practice in which women get killed by their relatives for breaking norms, or for the sake of ‘family honor’. Chinoy once said, “There is no honor in honor killing—it is not part of our religion or culture. It is a stain in our society.” In her speech, Chinoy revealed that her movie was screened in the government, and as a result the Prime Minister promised to change the law on honor killings.

5. A Palestinian refugee-turned-educator was awarded $1 million prize for her influential lessons on non-violence.

The Global Teacher Prize

On March 14, primary school teacher Hanan al-Hroub was given the Global Teacher Prize, an award that acknowledges individuals who contribute exceptionally to education. al-Hroub grew up in a Bethlehem refugee camp. She opened her own primary school with lessons that focus on self-respect and non-violence, and her work is set as an example across her region. “I am proud to be a Palestinian female teacher standing on this stage,” al-Hroub said in her acceptance speech. She vowed to use her prize money to create scholarships for outstanding students.

6. Teen athlete saved fellow fleeing Syrians and represented them in the Olympics.

UNHCR / Gordon Welters

“I’m thinking, what? I’m a swimmer, and I’m going to die in the water in the end?” On August, 18-year old Yusra Mardini went on a month-long journey by sea with her sister to flee Syria. 30 minutes after their seven-person boat carrying 20 embarked into the Aegean Sea, the vehicle’s motor began to fail. Yusra and the three other people on board who know how to swim jumped into the waters and pushed the boat for three hours until they reached the shores of Greece. Yusra does have a background in swimming, and she further excelled in it when she was appointed by the I.O.C. as one of the ten refugees to compete in the Olympics under ‘Team Refugee Olympic Athletes’.

7. Peruvian farmers led a battle against a mining company and stalled the creation of a proposed mine near a lake.

Common Dreams

Maxima Acuña owns a 60-acre plot of land that is located exactly where Newmont Mining Corporation planned on digging. Despite pressure and threats, Acuña refused to concede to the giant company—with legal help and support from community activists, she was able to win the favor of the courts, have her property rights acknowledged and halt the construction of a proposed mine. Acuña received a Goldman Environment prize for her efforts in resisting land steals by private firms.

8. Afghanistan’s First Lady inaugurated the first ever all-female university of the country.

Afghanistan Times

On June 16, an all women’s university named Moraa was opened in Kabul. First Lady Rula Ghani and Afghan female activists believe the university could provide access to education for girls whose families do not allow them to go to regular schools, all of which are co-ed. (In other good, related news, Afghanistan saw a rise in the number of women who attend higher education institutions, from 20% to 35% of students).

9. Indian model who survived acid attack walked down the runway at New York Fashion Week.

Huffington Post

19-year old Reshma Qureshi lost an eye and undergone serious facial burns after being attacked with sulfuric acid by three men in 2014. She went through several skin graft surgeries and contemplated suicide, but it’s evident that she’s risen above the hardships; she opened the FTL Moda show on September during N.Y.F.W, walking in front of a large audience in a white dress. Reshma also happens to be the face of a campaign that aims to ban sales of corrosive substances, which are frequently used in gender violence.

10. Women who escaped ISIS slavery created a battalion to defend and free others.


‘The Force of the Sun Ladies’ is a military unit made up of 600 escaped Yazidi female slaves. Along with 1,400 Yazidi men, these women use what they know about ISIS’ base to cooperate with the Kurdish forces, protect their people, and free the remaining 5,000 women and children that are still enslaved. “Whenever a war wages, our women end up as victims.” Captain Khatoon Khider says. “Now we are defending ourselves from the evil. We are defending all the minorities in the region. We will do whatever is asked of us.”

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