Woman Warrior #6: Frida Kahlo
Frida Kahlo is one of the greatest figures of Mexican art of the 20th century. Author of several hundred paintings, including many self-portraits, she is famous for her realistic paintings, which are a reflection of her passions and her suffering, but also of Mexico. Frida Kahlo had a brief life. She was born in Mexico in 1907 and died there in 1954. An extraordinary life, which illuminated her country, her job, her condition and her femininity. Life begins well for Frida but life turns badly at 10 years old when she contracted polio. Her right foot didn’t grow more. Another disaster hit her six years later, in 1925. A bus accident where Frida survived but got severely injured, with 11 fractures. Being severely disabled didn’t stop her from dominating her broken body. She started painting herself, with a mustache, by provocation, by nonconformity, by feminism.
In 1928, having almost recovered all her mobility, Frida Khalo enrolled in the Communist Party. That same year, she met the famous painter Diego Rivera and showed him some of her paintings. It’s the beginning of a tumultuous love story. In 1929, they married and settled the following year in San Francisco, where Frida met many artists. Unfortunately, she suffered two miscarriages in 1930 and 1932. She painted « Henry Ford Hospital » during her convalescence and wished to return to Mexico. In 1938, Frida Khalo met André Breton in Mexico City. Thanks to him, that same year, she was able to exhibit her works in New York. She sold many paintings. In 1953, the first exhibition of her work is organized in Mexico City. During the summer, she had to amputate her right leg. She died in 1954 at age 47 and left many important works. Frida believed that even though she was damaged, she was beautiful. Her “destroyed” body didn’t stop her from anything. At that time, there was even more machismo, but it didn’t stop her from being a feminist, from being devoted to art. Corseted, operated several times, amputated, she painted while lying on her back. On her last painting, she wrote “Viva la Vida”.
Woman Warrior #5: Anna Eleanor Roosevelt
Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was born in New York on October 11, 1884. She passed away on November 7, 1962, at the age of 78. Eleanor was the wife of the American Democratic President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and held the title of First Lady of the United States from March 4, 1933 to April 12, 1945. Much more than a hostess of the White House, Eleanor Roosevelt was the first wife of a president to hold a true political role. She was the first president of the U.S. Presidential Commission on the Status of Women and chairs the commission drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Eleanor Roosevelt was part of the American elite and embodied White Anglo-Saxon Protestant’s values. The Roosevelts are among the richest and most influential families on the East Coast. Her uncle was a former U.S. president: Theodore Roosevelt. Eleanor Roosevelt leaves her role as a submissive wife to fully interfere in politics. Progressive and feminist, she advocates for the « American Civil Rights Movement » and contributes to the creation of the « Women Airforce Service Pilots ». Internationally, Eleanor Roosevelt developed unique qualities for diplomacy.
Woman Warrior #4: Lamia Bazir
Lamia Bazir is a change maker and an advocate for women and youth. Right after completing her education at Sciences Po Paris and Columbia University in New York, Lamia returned to her home country Morocco where she worked for the Head of Government Office for more than 3 years on Education and Youth Employability. In parallel, she founded « Empowering Women in the Atlas » and launched several initiatives to break the isolation and poverty of rural women and girls and promote their leadership in the Atlas Mountains. Her latest actions include a program that enabled 100 rural women from the Middle Atlas to access university for the first time and get training, coaching, equipment, and seed-funds for their micro-enterprises. She also launched a school program for 200 children and an exchange program that enabled youth from the Middle Atlas Mountains to get a passport and leave their region for the first time, for a training on solar energy in Norway.
Lamia also cumulated a rich international experience while she was a student. She was a representative at the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations in New York and conducted political analysis for the Arab League, consultancy with Transparency International, and field research in Niger. Her advocacy and achievements got her respect and recognition in Morocco and beyond. In 2015, she won the United Nations and MBC Award for Volunteering. In 2016, she is the youngest to be selected among of the 60 women leaders of the kingdom of Morocco, by the National Magazine Challenge.
Lamia Bazir is a real inspiration for Moroccan and international youth. Her achievements are beyond incredible, we definitely need more Moroccan women as implicated as her. Thank you for inspiring us and thank you for everything you have been doing for our country. You represent Morocco and Africa in the best light possible. You are without any doubt a woman warrior!
Woman Warrior #3: Malala Yousafzai
Malala Yousafzai is a young human rights activist. Malala was born in Mingora, Pakistan on July 12, 1997. She is a symbol of resistance in her country of origin, especially in the Swat Vally (northwest of Pakistan), an area caught between the Taliban and the Pakistani army. She is the daughter of Ziauddin Yousafzai, who is known for his positions against the Taliban. Malala Yousafzai appears at the age of 11 on the website of the British channel BBC. She testifies on the Taliban’s violence towards the girls who dare to go to school. In May 2009 she became a spokesperson, with worldwide recognition. Her school was even renamed in her honor once the Pakistani army took control of the region. Malala also received, at the end of 2011, the Pakistan Peace Prize.
In October 2012, the Taliban attempt to kill her when she was leaving school. She was injured in the head and transferred to a hospital in Birmingham, UK, where she continued her rehabilitation and fight. In 2013, she won Simone de Beauvoir prize for women’s freedom. In 2014, at the age of 17, she won the Nobel Peace Prize making her the youngest laureate in the history of this award. Today, Malala Yousafzai actively campaigns for gender equality, especially regarding girl’s education on social networks.
Woman Warrior #2: Simone de Beauvoir
Simone de Beauvoir is the essence of Feminist Theory. The author was born on January 9, 1908, more than a century ago. Until today, her impact has a huge influence on the fight for gender equality. Simone de Beauvoir is one of the leading thinkers of the 20th century. Her theses on the status of women remain at the heart of modern debates. French feminist theorist, she was closely related to another existentialist thinker, Jean-Paul Sartre. Although her writings were controversial at the time, they remain a philosophical reference on debate related to gender equality. Since her young age, she started developing excellent writing skills. After studying literature and mathematics, she held a particular interest in philosophy. She became a philosophy teacher at only 21. As for her religious beliefs, she was an atheist and strongly opposed to marriage, developing her thoughts on the freedom and autonomy of individuals, especially women. She collaborated with other outstanding intellectuals of the 20th century such as Boris Vian, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and of course Jean-Paul Sartre. Adding to this, Simone helped to found the magazine « Les Temps Modernes ».
In 1949, she published her most famous book, « The Second Sex ». The book’s sales were a success as it advanced very avant-gardiste theses for the time. Simone faced both success and condemnation. She evokes the feminine condition, the situation of domination, the taboo of abortion and so on so forth. She also argues that the relationship between men and women is a social construction. « We are not born women, we become it » is the symbol of her thinking. This book and the ideas defended by Simone de Beauvoir are the ideological roots of the feminist movement. Simone marked the fight for women in the 1970s. Until her death in 1986, she will continue to approach the great themes of society such as love, death, euthanasia. In 2008, the Simone de Beauvoir prize for women’s freedom was created in her honor. Simone de Beauvoir is undoubtedly still occupying society today. The issue of the place of women and the reappropriation of their individuality is an ongoing fight.
Woman Warrior #1: Asmaa Sidi Baba
Asmaa Sidi Baba is without any doubt a strong, brilliant and committed Moroccan woman. She holds a BA from American University, Washington D.C. and an MA in International Affairs (MENA specialisation) from Columbia University, New York. Following her successful academic career, she has worked in the UN ECOSOC Committee for a couple years before heading back to her homeland. Since then, Asmaa worked for the Moroccan National Office of Tourism in Paris, Ericsson, EMAAR, and Dakhla Festival in Morocco. Starting 2011, she joined the UNFM (Union Marocaine des Femmes du Maroc-Moroccan National Union of Moroccan Women) as an Advisor at the Executive Bureau. Today she is Vice President of Rabat Regional Office. She has been involved mainly with women’s rights. Her goal is to empower women by creating cooperatives and helping them commercialise their products. This has allowed the creation of incomes, generating revenues in the rural areas. She also has designed clothes and accessories with Moroccan inspiration. As a matter of fact, she has taken courses during a year at Parsons School of Design, in New York. Her brand Lalla Coneta has been a success in the United States of America and Dubai. Indeed, she was able to sell clothes and accessories to celebrities such as Madonna, Lenny Kravitz, and the Gypsy Kings.
Regarding her personal life, Asmaa Sidi Baba is the mother of two young women she had to raise on her own after an early divorce. Let me introduce you my hero: my mother. She often tells me that I should not refer to her as my role model because she wants me to do better (hard to believe, right?). However, what she does not know is that when I refer to her as my idol, it is thanks to her numerous assets. I see a mother but I also see a warrior. She is a brave and strong woman, always keeping a positive state of mind despite all difficulties she has been facing. Mother, you are and will always be my role model. Thank you for teaching me so much. Not only you have a brilliant career, you also have a huge heart and incredible qualities. If I am the woman I am today, it is thanks to you. I owe you everything. Thank you for giving me everything I always needed. I could never thank you enough. I feel so grateful to have you as a mother, I could not ask for better. My main goal in life is to make you proud and I will brave all challenges to achieve it.
I love you more than anything.