Every woman I know is amazing…

Lina AbiRafeh
14 min readMay 3, 2024


It’s hard to find things to celebrate these days — at least for me. With a genocide underway in Palestine and the continued deterioration of women’s rights in the US, the world seems pretty bleak. If I sat down to list all the stuff that’s going wrong, we’d be here for years.

When so-called “women’s month” rolled around in March, I struggled. Should I spend the month sprouting the same stats we’ve heard over and over? Yes, we’ve got generations to wait until we’re equal. No, the pay gap is not getting smaller. Yes, women continue to be abused, raped, murdered with relative impunity. No, we’re not safe here — wherever “here” is. Should I go on?!

But when I looked around the small space I occupy, I saw that I was surrounded by extraordinary women, women who fill my life and maintain my sanity and light fires under my ass to keep going every single day. Why not celebrate them? They might not be celebrities or well known names, but after a month spent honoring the extraordinary women in my life, I certainly felt a lot better.

I posted a woman a day on my LinkedIn as well as Instagram stories. But they’re amazing, and so I’m summarizing some of their stuff here in hopes that you too might find some inspiration in their words and ways, just like I did.

Rym Badran teaches me that we have to start small by showing “solidarity and compassion to everyone around us.” We can’t underestimate the power we hold, she says, in bringing “attention to issues that matter to us the most.” And at the same time, we can’t lose ourselves in the cause. Rym says that “taking care of ourselves is what will enable us to continue our fight for a better world.”

Shaunagh Connaire laments about the state of human rights abuses in Palestine, believing that “the collective voices of reason will eventually prevail.” Her optimism reminds us to hold onto the hope that “peace is around the corner for all innocent Palestinians and Israelis.” Shaunagh shows us all how to use our platform for good, reminding us that “silence is simply not acceptable.”

Cathy Andela reminds us that the “leadership of women — especially women of color — is often undervalued in the corporatized, masculinist culture.” She reminds us of the rich perspective of being both insider and outsider and how she — and we all — can “adhere to the values and principles that strive to make human rights, women rights, gender equality a universal priority.”

Priya Dhanani teaches us that making our own decisions, for our own bodies, is an act of resistance. Priya shares that “we cannot overlook small forms of resistance.” They can matter even more than the grand gestures when it comes to collectively contributing to creating meaningful change. We need to ask ourselves: “How do we show up and hold ourselves accountable when no one’s watching?”

Priya — and just about every woman who shared her story with me — believes that young feminists have become our teachers. “I’m listening to them,” she says. “Are you?”

Mina Barling reminds me that “we must throw everything we’ve got behind the world we all deserve.” So many are doing just that, right now. And “for those navigating oppression and injustice,” Mina says, “look back on your younger self with compassion and kindness and to your future self with courage and accountability.” She teaches me to “stay independent of mind and communal of heart.”

We need these words more than ever. Mina shows us that our anger is justified, but so too is our joy. “Speak!” she says — loudly. “Even when it’s just you.” And our voices will create space for others.

Joumana Haddad believes in staying true to herself, saying that she never stopped fighting for her “freedom and dignity, despite all the fears, the doubts, the constraints and the intimidations.” She teaches us that if we all had the courage to do the same, change will come. If we dared to stand up, she says, “this world would become a lesser hell.”

Rebecca O’Keeffe recognizes that “challenges for women — and other vulnerable groups — are many and now, more than ever, we need feminist responses for pathways to peace.” She believes in channeling “hope, love, kindness, community and curiosity in order to combat oppression and occupation — in all its forms.” Because, she concludes, “resistance requires all of us.”

Yasmina Benslimane ignites the women of Africa and the SWANA region. “Your mere existence is already revolutionary, a bold defiance. The fire inside of you is meant to bring light to this world filled with turmoil.” She concludes with this powerful message: “I believe that you are the way to peace…And you are not just the future, you are the now.”

Sarah Little reminds us all to be better humans. “Empathy is an art form,” she says. And “Help me understand!” is the entryway to empathy. Sarah believes that “everyone has a story,” and learning each other’s stories helps us understand each other — and the world — better. “Be as brave as possible as often as possible,” she says. “Love is the most powerful force on earth, and the only solution.”

Anayansi Lopez draws on her own powerful experience as a survivor and an activist. She reminds us that women’s voices are getting louder, and they are our hope. Anayansi sees them “rising, finding their anger, their power and their voice.” And even more encouraging is the next generation, “young girls growing up with confidence.” This gives her hope. And courage. And there, she says, is the fuel to “keep fighting for a world where we can exist without fear, taking up space, basking in the light.”

This is just what the world needs. Anayansi reminds us that “a better world for women means a better world for everyone.” Amen.

Rula Abirafeh — my super-sister — teaches me about motherhood. “Loving children,” she says, is the same everywhere. “It’s a protective, hopeful, fierce, all-encompassing love. You don’t even need to be a mother to feel it.” She reminds us that it goes beyond culture and race and whatever divides us. “A Palestinian mother loves her child as an American mother as a Kenyan mother as an Israeli mother.” Rula does not accept a world where race dictates the value of a child’s life. “One child’s death is one too many. One grieving mother is all of us grieving.”

Tope Adepoyibi shares that she is “filled with gratitude to have lived a life surrounded by amazing women who are changing the world.” Tope reminds us to never stop “shouting from the rooftops” about the extraordinary women she knows, continuing to “be inspired by, furious on behalf of or incredulous about the achievements of the women I’m proud to know, and those I don’t.” Their stories, your stories, our stories, “continue to be the fuel that keeps my light burning bright.”

Cherine Kurdi teaches me that compassion without self-compassion is incomplete. She advocates for our right “to rest, slow down, to catch our breath, declutter, set loving boundaries, to work through our guilt or feelings of not being good enough.” She often reminds me to respect my pace, listen to my body and mind, and rest and reflect in order to recharge. “Centering ourselves,” Cherine says, will enable us to “carry on pursuing with enthusiasm.”

Devanna de la Puente commits to her feminism as “ a way of living.” She is “inspired every day by the strength, wisdom and courage of women peacemakers in the frontline of every conflict seeking a peaceful way out.” She reminds us all to support women advocating for peace. “We owe it to them,” Devanna says. This cause is collective, “not just for one of us, but for all of us.” And she reminds us that “this shouldn’t be a fight, it should be the norm.” After all, it’s 2024, and “we are tired of fighting.”

Tania Haberland speaks as a poet who believes in the value of stories. “The stories we tell about ourselves or are told about us, become our lives,” she says. And at the moment, she is “acutely sensitive to the narratives currently fueling the genocide in Palestine.” Tania shares that she has experienced violence personally, and worked with survivors of abuse professionally. She centers the combination of “soft technologies of creative expression and wellbeing practices” through our bodies, hands, and voices.

Katie Rougvie shares that “in a world resistant to change, where feminist advocacy feels like a cycle of doing and undoing, where the fear of continuous setbacks can be paralyzing, standing at the juncture of fatigue and determination, the essence of our mission as feminists becomes crystal clear, even where it feels impossible.” Even then. Katie reminds me that “within our differences lie opportunities for collaboration yet to be discovered.” The true strength of feminism, she says, is found in “constructing bridges over divides, making empathy not just a tool but the foundation of our advocacy, even where bridging gaps seems an insurmountable task.”

Dina Scippa shocks us all with this sobering statistic: “A girl’s confidence peaks at age 9.” Peaks! Dina is on a mission, she says, “not only to get reconnected with my own inner teenage girl but for all women to do the same. That part of ourselves that didn’t have the space to safely express her feelings and emotions — but now can. And can do it unapologetically.” She reminds me of the power of belonging — without the need to prove anything. We all deserve to be accepted, to feel safe, to be confident enough to use our voice.

Malayah Harper reminds me that we “cannot call for human rights to be upheld if the party you are speaking about does not see the persecuted as human.” And so Malayah advocates for the “many channels to justice,” particular for those who lack it. This, she says, is found in the little things, in reaching out and actively caring for “other women who helped us understand along the way and who are in the middle of the struggle.” As feminists, we are not alone. She teaches us all to pay it forward — for the better of us all.

Natasha Harris-Harb celebrates her own foremothers as the women who fuel her feminist fire. Because of them, she says, she works “to dismantle the patriarchal systems that try to keep girls, women and 2SLGBTQIA+ folks oppressed.” Together, Natasha says, “we are stronger than the opposition.” She dreams of creating a world where we can all be safe on the streets, in our homes, in our lives. A world where “consent is the norm, and gender transformative education and gender equality is the reality.” What will that take? She asks us. And she answers: flexible feminist funding, meaningful intergenerational partnerships, and — above all — “we need self and collective care, we need love and joy.”

Sheila Paylan dreams “for every individual on this planet to experience the full breadth of freedom. Because,” she continues, “that’s what human rights, the very core of my beliefs, are fundamentally all about — freedom.” Sheila advocates for “breaking free from the chains that limit our potential, allowing us to live our lives to the fullest.” And then “empowering each other once we’ve achieved that freedom.” She urges us to find the courage it takes to stand up for what is right, “step by step, voice by voice, and forge a future where freedom becomes a reality for all.”

Gabriella Nassif reminds us all to “focus more on doing what we can, no matter how big or small.” The daily stuff will make a difference. “Even if that means taking a moment each day just to acknowledge what is happening and the daily actions we can take to shed light on what’s going on.” Yes, the revolution takes many forms, and Gabriella teaches us that there is so much we can do. That’s what she’s trying to focus on, she says, “the ways that I can be the most useful for this work.”

Emily Tamayo Maher nurtures us to write our stories. And “we’re not just writing a story,” she says. There’s power here because “the story writes us, too.” The act of writing our story “transforms us into who we’re meant to become.” If we don’t write our stories, who will? In this way, we bring significance into our lives. Emily reminds us that “without stories, life becomes a series of meaningless actions and events.” We are richer because of our stories.

Ivana Salvatto speaks her poetry in Spanish, sharing that our lives are a “current of love that runs through and feeds our physical body.” This current makes us move and that makes our experience in this physical body have meaning, a purpose. It might not be found right away, she reminds me, and not necessarily in great feats. It lives in the small things — the scent of a flower, the majesty of a sunrise, the beautiful labors of a spider as it weaves. “There is no perfect way or recipe to be happy,” Ivana teaches me, “because every living creature deserves respect for the mere fact of existing.” She concludes with the wish that “the walls that separate us fall, from ourselves and from others, and let us open ourselves so that life lives in us through the heart.”

Caterina Occhio shares not her dreams, but her plans. She refuses to “sit idly by while my countless women struggle to make ends meet.” Caterina believes in “the power of social entrepreneurship to change lives. By giving women the opportunity to work and create positive impacts in their communities,” she explains, “we can break the chains of economic dependence.” This is how we reclaim dignity and control over our lives. “That’s why I’m committed to turning my plans into reality,” she says.

Dr. Rachel Talton speaks of “the essence of our shared humanity.” She reminds me that it is “often found in the most challenging times.” Dr. Rachel says that “now, more than ever, the world needs to hear that it’s okay to ask for help, to lean on your faith, and on one another, and to admit vulnerability.” These are the moments — the opportunities — to provide mutual support and to foster true community. These are the moments where “we uncover our strength,” she says, “and our ancestors smile.”

Ann-Marie Wilcock urges people to follow their dreams, especially if that means working as a humanitarian or in sustainable development. “With growing humanitarian crises and extreme poverty, the climate crisis, food insecurity and displacement, more good people than ever before are needed as aid and development workers,” Ann-Marie explains. Her mission is “to help those good people — those clear-headed, practical and principled global citizens — to get their foot in the door with the United Nations, non-profits, development banks, foundations and more.” Because, she reminds us, “life is short and the fight for a fairer world is far from won.”

Katrin Prutz reminds us to appreciate beauty — in a moment, a smile, in kindness, in helping others. She reminds us to embrace difference and see the beauty this brings. She uses her work to remind people of that beauty, and that we all can celebrate and “unite for peace, equal rights, and freedom.” Katrin takes the space she occupies and the passion she has in order to help us see this beauty. She says: “I’m here simply to make the world a bit more beautiful day by day.”

Myriam Sfeir shares that this year has come with great losses — to us all and to her personally. The region continues to lose through wars that rage on, and Lebanon has recently lost a pioneer — Julinda Abu Nasr. How do we cope with these losses? We ask ourselves. Myriam reminds us that we have to celebrate the “important role women pioneers have played in paving the way for us to enjoy more rights.” None of this should be overlooked or taken for granted. She honors those we have lost and appreciates what they gave us. Rest In Power.

Maria Hadjitheodosiou bears witness to the “continued suffering of women and girls around the world,” using this as a “daily reminder to women in diplomacy that we need to lead the way, with courage and determination.” She reminds us of our critical role in “promoting peace and security, as well as achieving sustainable development and democracy.” And Maria too pays tribute “to the many brave women who came before us and paved the way so we can continue their efforts until we ensure that women and girls everywhere can flourish and realize their full potential.”

Nida Qamar shares her passion and advocacy for social justice and human rights, built from her deep “committed to combating human trafficking and supporting marginalized communities, especially the profound impact it has on women and children.” As a mother of three children, she understands the fears and the risks acutely. Nida reminds us that immediate action is necessary, and it will come “through collaborative efforts, leveraging technology, and strengthening systems to prevent trafficking.” Above all, we must support and invest in the frontline workers who make it all happen.

Mendy Marsh advocates for a “radical idea” for women’s month and beyond. “Forget grand gestures to dismantle the patriarchy,” she says. “Why not start with the basics? Actually listen to women in meetings, value their ideas at home, and engage genuinely in conversations.” If we only did this, imagine how far we’d be! “Making sure that women’s voices are heard might just be our most powerful move yet.” These small shifts “could trigger a massive wave of respect and empowerment for women.” Mendy shows us that “this chain reaction can start today through small actions.”

Carole Maalouf uses her art to create warmth and to show humanity. She applies” a similar approach of finding and enjoying beauty to my life in general.” Taking pictures is her way of giving back to society and to creating a lasting memory, a treasure. Making this beauty immortal is the gift she shares with the world.

And, finally, my favorite.

I feel enormous love and gratitude for all the women here — and for the many others whose stories I was not able to share this time. Your words and your work live in my heart.

At the same time, I bring a bias. I leave the last words for my 10-year old niece, Salma Sawabini. She’s the youngest in our collection of extraordinary women, and she’s obviously my most treasured one. If ever I need a reminder of why I do this work, it is her.

I asked her what she wanted to say to the world, and she started with this: “Women haven’t been treated right,” she said. And “that’s not right.” Salma teaches us that “every single day women should be celebrated and treated the same way as men — not just celebrated for a month.” Yes!

She believes we all must “celebrate the women around the world who have helped us, adding that “me and you have helped this world too.” That’s right!

Salma calls on all of us to step up. “Women should rule the world in the future,” she firmly states, “because they rule, because they’re awesome and amazing.” I couldn’t agree more.

And she ends with this, to illustrate her point: “There’s a book in tech class called Girls Think of Everything. That’s a good book.”

And that’s a good way to live.

Ultimately, it’s not about who I did — or did not — celebrate here. There are a million women in our lives who deserve this, and I’m going to take this on every year, and every chance I get. We have to celebrate each other, honor and recognize our voices and views and struggles and successes.

I recently created a Feminist Activist Firestarter — it’s a calendar that guides us all in what’s going on, who’s out there doing the work, and how we can get involved. It’s a cool resource — sign up to get it here. Scroll down, hit subscribe, BAM. Easy.

Just like the list of tragedies that (seemingly) keeps getting longer, this list of extraordinary women gets longer still. And one day, it will overwhelm the tragedies.

There’s room, there’s room, there’s room — for more! For all of us who stand up, do what we say, fix what doesn’t work.

With women like this, I have hope.



Lina AbiRafeh

Global women's rights activist, author, speaker, aid worker with 3 decades of global experience - and lots to say! More on my website: www.LinaAbiRafeh.com