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World women to recognize this year

This has been an eventful year, with good and bad. But like every year, nothing occurs in vain. We should not wake up January 1 and ignore the lessons we still knew on December 31. I encourage you to remember what the women of the world taught us: specifically, Aung San Suu Kyi, the members of Pussy Riot, and Malala Yousafzai. These heroines offer the world inspiration for improvement. Their stories of valiance provide examples of women with power, something that benefits us all.

First on the list is Aung San Suu Kyi, an advocate for democracy and peace in Myanmar, also known as Burma. This is not the first year she has caught the world’s attention. In 1989, the government arrested her under martial law. Since then, she has gone in and out of house arrest with varying travel restrictions, serving as a symbol of serenity against military rule.

The country made progress towards democracy and released some political prisoners, including Suu Kyi. This past April, for the first time in history, members of the National League for Democracy participated in national elections with few obstacles. Suu Kyi, chairperson of the NLD, rightfully won a seat in the Parliament.

Attaining democracy in Myanmar still has a long way to go, but Suu Kyi knows this. BBC News and The New York Times quote her acknowledging other countries that experienced the same transition and what Myanmar can learn from them. During the time she spent under house arrest, she read and studied a variety of subjects, utilizing her solitude to better herself and eventually her country. Her journey has been long and challenging, but her smile and kind eyes are evidence of her unwavering pursuit for justice.

Next are the daring punk rockers of the Russian band Pussy Riot. The group consists of several members, but I want to focus on Maria Alyokhina, Yekaterina Samutsevich, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova. Pussy Riot has used their musical talents to host unauthorized concerts all over Russia to promote LGBT rights and feminism.

This past February, in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior, five members boldly showcased their disapproval of the relationship between Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church with their performance, “Punk Prayer-Mother of God, Chase Putin Away!” The women were arrested for hooliganism and assigned to separate labor camps, and Samutsevich was eventually released.

Pussy Riot did what they felt was necessary to artistically portray their distaste for their government’s actions. People may disagree with their style, music, and even their band name, but Pussy Riot deserves respect. Their current struggle symbolizes the pursuit for freedom of speech that many of us take for granted.

The last woman I want to recognize is Malala Yousafzai. This 15-year-old Pakistani woman epitomizes everything about the world that I love. At a young age, Yousafzai took on the dangerous responsibility of becoming a tireless female voice against the Taliban. She became a women’s education activist around three years ago, at the tender age of 12.

This past October, her admirers all over the world held their collective breath when a member of the Pakistani Taliban shot her in the head. I trust that everyone joins me in realizing the absurdity of a grown man shooting a young woman in the head just for wanting to learn. Malala is still in recovery but doing significantly better. Find a picture of Yousafzai and examine her smile. That is a smile of warmth and comfort. Most importantly, Yousafzai’s smile represents the assurance that liberty is worth fighting for at any age.

These types of heroines were crucial in helping me transition from an awkward, small girl with low self-esteem to the woman I am today. They demonstrate tenacity, courage, and strength, all while maintaining their femininity. Aung San Suu Kyi, Pussy Riot, and Malala Yousafzai show the world that authority is not just for the masculine – that estrogen drives bravery as much as testosterone, and that the smallest of the small can spark fear in the face of evil.

Not only do the “Women of 2012” support the sisters of the world by providing examples of females with confidence, but they also encourage the brothers to find power within their own femininity. In less than a month, I am going to ring in the New Year saluting these role models. I look forward to 2013 and wish everyone happy holidays.

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