The Wednesday Five: Women for Change

In this week’s Wednesday Five, women around the world who are using their life and their work in service to others, to shed light on communities that are struggling, and to elevate the stories of women and girls.



Call Me Heena by Photographer Shahria Sharmin

20151021-sharmin-mw23-1820-014© Shahria Sharmin

Growing up in Bangladesh, photographer Shahria Sharmin was influenced by predominant prejudices and stereotypes about hijras—people designated male or intersex at birth who adopt a feminine gender identity. Often mislabeled as hermaphrodites, eunuchs, or transsexuals in literature, hijras can be considered to fall under the umbrella term transgender, but many prefer the term third gender. Sharmin uses her portraits in her series, Call Me Heena, to show the beauty in hijra lives, despite the challenges and discrimination they face. While hijras continue to face discrimination once in India, some have found greater social acceptance than in Bangladesh. At the same time, many Hijras in Bangladesh and other South Asian countries have stood up for their rights and gained at least limited legal recognition for a third gender.

Sharmin’s portraits are currently on view at the Open Society Foundation in New York City as part of their Moving Walls exhibition.

Source: Open Society Foundation (Creative Commons License)



Julie Mehretu on Helping to Make the Powerful Ethiopian Film Difret

When the Ethiopian-born artist Julie Mehretu learned of the film Difret ( “courage” in Amharic) that was going to depict the true story of a young Ethiopian girl who was subjected to the practice of marriage-by-abduction, how did she respond? She sold a major piece from her own collection to make sure the film was financed. In an interview with Vogue, Mehretu, talks about why she was drawn to the project:

“To start with, Difret is a story of Ethiopia, where I’m from, but much more so, it sets an example of how even the most deep-rooted cultural traditions can be transformed from within. It’s essentially a story of homegrown Ethiopian heroism by two women who challenge the longstanding practice of forced child marriage. It’s an important story and an example, a model in a sense, of bravery and the will to effect change.”

Difret premieres on October 23.



The Absence of Women

As part of Elle’s #MoreWomen campaign, the British version of the magazine produced a pretty innovative social media project— a video that highlights the lack of women in positions of power in politics, media, and other areas by photoshopping men out of iconic images to show just how striking the men to women ratio is. The message: There are too many instances where women are represented by a single woman. In business, music, art and media, women rarely outnumber men.



Lupita Nyong’o Takes Broadway

First she conquered the Oscar’s with her first role ever in Twelve Years A Slave and now Lupita Nyong’o is heading for the Tony’s with her first Broadway production. The play, Eclipsed, is a drama about the relationships among a group of women who are detained and raped by a Liberian rebel officer. During a short run at The Public Theater in New York City, the production was extended twice and sold out. The play, written by Danai Gurira, will be groundbreaking once it gets to Broadway as the number of plays written by women on Broadway are rare.



Women of Impact


This is THE List of the Week: 50 women who have made the biggest difference in the world over the last year. Read the bios and the groundbreaking work of these known and not-so-known changemakers at Women in the World.



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  • roz warren October 23, 2015 at 12:45 pm

    LOVE LOVE LOVE that incredibly clever taking-the-dudes-out-of-the-picture video. I’m totally sharing and Tweeting that. Hurrah for the Wednesday Five!