By Marcy Driehaus
As Americans, we often take the freedom we have for granted. Sometimes it’s humbling to take few a steps back and acknowledge how impactful and liberating our beautifully democratic system is. During these moments of gratitude, let us not forget those around the world who are desperately fighting for the freedom we just happened to be born into. One woman, though not born with the same freedom as us Americans, is taking things into her own hands. Her name is Tawakkol Karman, and she is a force to be reckoned with.
Liberal Islamist Tawakkol Karman, also known as the “mother of the revolution”, has never been one to comply with injustice. As a member of the Islah party (a political organization focused solely on carrying out reforms aimed to benefit all aspects of life), Karman has always strived to make a difference especially in terms of women’s rights and press freedom. Her boldness shines through every choice she makes, including her move to sport a floral head scarf rather than the traditional niqab (full-face veil), thus making it clear that she alone is in charge of her own body and her own life.
In 2005, Karman founded the WJWC (Women Journalists Without Chains), an organization dedicated to promoting civil and democratic rights through freedom of expression. The WJWC’s efforts towards “utilizing different media outlets to promote education, culture, thought and comprehensive community development by focusing on firstly women’s issues” sets a good standard for news and media outlets everywhere. This positive movement towards more equal and inclusive news outlets has made waves of change in the terms of journalism. It provides aspiring journalists with the lessons they need in order to make the world a more peaceful and harmonious place through their creative expression. Karman’s strides towards equality didn’t, however, end with the formation and execution of the WJWC. Her journey had only just begun.
Disturbed by excessive violations against human rights in Yemen under the power of former President Saleh, Karman organized numerous rallies that called for the president’s resignation. Though these protests have resulted in a few arrests, Karman hasn’t let that hold her back. With the support of her fellow advocates and her overall drive to determination to succeed, Karman’s heroic qualities shine through.
In October of 2011, Karman was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize along with two other women for their “non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work”. At age 32, Karman was both the youngest person to ever receive this award and the first female Arab recipient. As if she couldn’t get any more honorable, two years after being awarded this prize, Karman made the decision to donate the money that came with it to the Aid Fund for Families of Martyrs and Wounded in the Peaceful Revolution. This act served as a way to further her mission towards a more amicable world.
Through her efforts towards a more equal world, Karman has managed to pry open the minds of many and allow them to see things in a different manner. As she emphasized in a speech at the University of Michigan, “We need the nation of equal citizenship. We need a nation that fights corruption, a nation, a state where law rules, a nation where those who abuse their authority are questioned.” Statements such as these ignite fires of hope that blaze within all who are longing for change. Let us all follow her example and band together in a pursuit towards equal citizenship and a brighter tomorrow.