The women who made news this year are not the usual list of celebrities and models, the sexiest and richest or scandalous, but more than anything else, they are the women who survived, fought through and are living in spite of wars and conflicts.
Malala Yousafzai, the girl who was shot by the Taliban for going to school and survived two years ago, won the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize at age 17. She became the youngest person to ever win the award. Some received the news of her win with hope for the reconstruction of Pakistan's education system, that, despite the continuous threat of Islamic militants are in complete rupture mainly due to corruption and almost non-existence enforcement from its government while others worry that she would end up a 'manufactured icon', a puppet for invisible hands to infiltrate their agendas into the people's minds. Unfortunately if the latter case is true, Malala would be the one with most to lose.
While the latest US-led strikes in the middle east, this time is to battle the group dubbed by western media as 'the most sophisticated, well-funded militant group', ISIS, in Syria and Iraq, also produced an unlikely 'icon' for women in the likes of Mariam al-Mansouri, UAE's only female fighter jet pilot. Irony is perhaps the best word to describe what took place after she was discovered by the world, when western media networks like Fox news took on Mariam's gender as the butt of jokes, completely downplaying and veiling her contributions to the military. The comments made by Eric Bolling were horridly laced with misogyny and sexism despite the popular contention that such vices are inherent in the society which Mariam comes from -- Arab Muslim.
Earlier this year, during the latest Palestine-Israel conflict that erupted during Ramadhan, saw the plight of the Palestinian womenfolk highlighted by the media. The women, who manouvered domestic economy by producing homemade products, operating kitchens and providing heat in the midst of rubbles before and after every deadly rocket strikes by Israel. Close to 70% of Gaza's male population are unemployed. The supply of sufficient goods and services rely mostly on the tunnels, heavily regulated by their rich owners and highly risky for the men tasked to smuggle the goods and services. But it was the women who plough through the hardship, by raising and feeding victims of the war, especially traumatized children, who deserve admiration.
In another case that highlights the plight of females caught in the destructive cycle of religious extremism are the schoolgirls in Nigeria, kidnapped by Islamic militants Boko Haram has yet to return home. Even more saddening, was the recent development that some of them are being forced to be on the front line with the military while the rest had to stay as 'wives' or 'comfort women' for the militants. Their abduction had sparked a viral movement "Bring Back Our Girls" in other countries, even NATO had sent their troops to rescue the girls, the leader of Boko Haram had recently died in an attack launched by US. But the girls are still with the militants. Perhaps scared and scarred for the rest of their lives. Imagining their condition send shivers to my spine.
I'm sure that the stories I've listed above represent only a fraction of the experiences of women in modern times, especially those caught in conflict and wars. There are destruction and grievances in this world but I am also sure that there are women living as normal beings who do not have their access to basic rights restricted by others. I'm living such a life and every time I read the news about the plight of other women in the darker side of the world, I can't help but feel very grateful for my destiny. Regardless, it is not enough to just feel gratitude to god, He had promised that the world will always be enough as a sustenance for all of us and grabbing, robbing, killing are not needed for people to enjoy the world. Then what are the responsibilities of those who are living in the more peaceful side of the world, who doesn't have to risk their lives going to school or abducted to become child soldiers?