2019 has been a year or protest, both at home in India and across several parts of the world. Even as you read, Indians across the nation including students from public universities like Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University are protesting against the newly passed Citizenship Amendment Act. West Bengal and North Eastern states such as Assam have also been on the boil.
In fact, people across the world are fighting for their right to economic, political and religious equality and the right to safety and education. And while different groups of people protested for a variety of reasons, one thing was common - the heavy prevalence and participation of women.
Be it the face of revolution in Sudan, the face of the global fight against climate change, the face of strength in the face of police brutality in Assam or the face of defiance when confronting attacks on the right to free speech and assembly- women were at the forefront.
Here are some of the women who inspired us to raise our voice against injustice this year and while doing so became part of a vast and rich heritage of global human dissent and fight for freedom.
Alaah Salaah, Sudan
All the way back in April when Sudan was immersed in a coup against it’s former dictator Omar al- Bashir who was thrown off his chair by the Sudanese security forces after weeks of protests, the strong silhouette of 22-year-old architecture student Alaah Salaah became viral as the face of “Thawra" (revolution in Sudanese). As news of the sudden events in Sudan resulting in the end of the tyrannic 30-years-long rule of al-Badshir spread across the world, images and videos of a woman dressed in white with her finger pointing upwards went viral as she led a group of protesters in their calls for “Thawra". Her image was widely shared and I inspired many young women to stand up and not just face the world but lead it.
22-year-old Alaa Salah, an architecture student in Khartoum, is a new symbol of #Sudan’s coup d’état as the woman gathered a crowd around her shouting ‘thawra!’ (Revolution) pic.twitter.com/GeGQykcw5T— RT (@RT_com) April 14, 2019
Olga Misik, Russia 17-year-old Olga Misik from Russia went viral in July after photos of her reading the Russian Constitution to riot police in Moscow emerged on social media and news. The incident took place during demonstrations against President Vladimir Putin and for free elections in Russia. Several people were injured in police retaliation. Nevertheless, images of the teen with a copy of the Russian Constitution in hand and scores of armed and alert riot police surrounding her sent a powerful international message to the media.
Russian teenager Olga Misik reading the Russian constitution while being surrounded by armed Russian riot police is one of the most powerful images of bravery against injustice and oppression I have seen.Reminds me of the Tiananmen Square Tank Man. pic.twitter.com/nO6T15SJFH
— Joy Bhattacharjya (@joybhattacharj) August 1, 2019
Lam Ka Lo, Hong Kong
When large parts of Hong Kong initially started protesting against China’s controversial extradition bill in June, images of a lone 26-year-old girl sitting calmly in a meditative pose with a battalion of riot police armed with tall shields drew world-wide attention. Protests in Hong Kong continued for the most part of 2019. While many subsequent images became symbolic of Hong Kong’s desire for greater cultural, political and e economic autonomy, the early image of Lo, who came to be routed as “Shield Girl" became one of the first to inspire protesters and dissenters in Hong Kong. Famous Chinese dissent artists such as Badiucau churning out artworks inspired by the image.
#Badiucao Cartoon 【HK Picnic】#巴丢草 漫画 【香港野餐】Massive turnout for #NoChinaExtradition protest again today！What are you waiting？Lets go picnic in Legco！Link for Free download for protest. https://t.co/J6GFggGEQZ香港市民加油！你们的无畏和勇敢会被世界记住！#反送中 pic.twitter.com/jMFyQFcxoU
— 巴丢草 Badiucao (@badiucao) June 12, 2019
A gift for Lam Lo AKA the Shield Girl from Hong Kong! I’ve watched go from my coworker in Canada to a revolutionary in Hong Kong, and it’s been super inspiring to see her making a difference in the world. If you haven’t read the article yet, I’ll link it in the comment below! pic.twitter.com/4WWpq0LEYP— ❄️🎁 Santa Paws 🎄❄️ (@daztoons) June 19, 2019
The women protesting CAA in Delhi In December as the CAA was passed, several states in India erupted in protest including West Bengal, Delhi, Assam and Tripura. While those in the North East protested against the potential increase in “outsider" population that could affect their distinct culture and way of life, other parts saw people protesting against the communal aspects of the Act. The national capital itself saw violent clashes between protesting students of Jamia Millia Islamia who were lathicharged by Delhi police on repeated occasions. The cops also used tear gas to quell the mob. Nevertheless, images and videos of women protesters have been going viral on social media. An image that initially went viral was of three women standing on a wall as they address hundreds of protesters on Friday.
So far one of the most iconic images for the #CABProtests. All three are students at Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi. Also two of them are from Kerala (✊🏾). Also interesting, the third woman of stage is a Hindu from UPhttps://t.co/8bmhgGqAv1 pic.twitter.com/suj02lvU6F
— Hari Prasad/ ഹരി/ हरि / هري (@HariPrasad91) December 14, 2019
Another photo that went viral on Sunday was of a student in one of Jamia’s hostels who stood up to police as they beat up another male protester. The video went viral and screenshots of the woman in a defiant pose were widely shared in criticism of Delhi Police. Like “Shield Girl", this woman also inspired artworks.
To be fair, women have known the art of protest, having constantly taken to the streets throughout history when it came to defending their rights. Be it the suffragette movement or women’s right to education and equal pay as well as safety, women are no strangers to protest. But 2019 saw a wide array of women come to the forefront not just for issues affecting women but the entire population.