Aleksandra Michajlovna Kollontaj : Mother Russia

The worker-mother must learn not to differentiate between yours and mine; she must learn that there are only our children, the children of Russia’s communist workers

Aleksandra Michajlovna Kollontaj was born in St. Petersburg in 1872 and died in Moscow in 1952.

She was a Russian revolutionary who after the Revolution of October 1917, when the Bolshevik party came to rule the country, served as minister. She was the first woman in the history oh humanity to be appointed to this position.

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In such a role she worked and succeeded in granting women the right to vote, in establishing kindergartens and systems for ensuring assistance during the maternity period. Kollontaj was one of the founder of the Zenotdel, an agency designed to promote the participation of women in public life. Thanks to her work Russian women gained the right to vote and to be elected the right to divorce and to abort.

Kollontaj was also married for a short period of time during her youth and was a mother. She was throughout her entire life author of books and pamphlets that promoted communism and equality between men and women.

Cleopatra: the last pharaoh

“The queen of queens”

Cleopatra was born in 69 BC at Alexandria of Egypt. Her father was pharaoh Photolomy XII. She lived in a period of time that saw the creation and expansion of the Roman Empire. Her history was told century after century by historians and in our days by Hollywood. The most known version of the story of her life is the one of Plutarch. He speaks of a beautiful and dangerous (for Rome) queen who put the Roman Empire to her knees by seducing, first one of the most powerful man of history, Julius Caesar, and then one of his strongest lieutenant Marc Antony.

Now we have to remember that the story of Cleopatra has been written by her roman contemporaries, that were also her enemies, while everything written from the Egyptians during her reign has been lost. In fact Cleopatra’s Alexandria is at the moment under the Mediterrenian seas. On the other hand the Arab historians who lived after her death, instead, paint a very different portrait from the Roman one.

They tell of a wise queen who liked to read and foster cultural and artistic progress. In the Arab stories one cannot find any mention to her physical appearance. In absence of any direct Egyptian source ( we don’t even have a certain portrait or a statue of her) is difficult to separate the fiction from the reality that ‘s why Cleopatra is probably become a legend.

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The facts are: she belonged to a Greek lineage of pharaohs who came to rule Egypt after the conquest of the country of Alexander the Great in the IV century BC. These Greek pharaohs adopted Egyptian costumes and in particular the cult of life after death and the cult of the pharaoh representing the divinity on Earth. But not all of the Greek Pharaohs adopted for example the Egyptian language and during their reigns revolts busted the region. Cleopatra tried to stay closer to the population by adopting their language, fighting the corruption, protect the commercial exchanges with the Arabs on the caravan route, that went from the Nile to the Red Sea, and, as said above, by fostering the Arts. For example she rebuilt the Alexandria Library that was the biggest in the world before a fire destroyed it and she was the first to exploit a porphyry quarry to embellish her palace. The same stone was to be used in the following years by the Romans for their statues.

She became queen at the age of 18. At the time Rome was conquering country after country. At the age of 21 she started a relationship with the Roman chief Julius Caesar.

Giulio-CesareWe don’t know if her choice was based on love or ambition. The point is that she had a child from Caesar to whom she gave a roman name Caesarion. Julius Caesar didn’t recognize the child but brought him and Cleopatra to Rome reserving them the highest honors. The reason why Caesar didn’t recognize Caesarion is unknown but we can imagine that Rome was a dangerous place for the baby as many were against the union between Cleopatra and Caesar fearing the end of the Republic and the beginning of a monarchy. Actually Caesar was killed in 44 B.C. and Cleopatra fled to Egypt. She continued to see her son as the heir of Egypt and Rome together as testified by the inscriptions on the Dendera temple that she has it built to show Caesarion as the future governor of the reign.dendara10

In the meanwhile the Roman Empire was split in two parts. The West under Octavian the nephew of Caesar who declared himself the true heir of the dead chief. The East was under Marc Antony lieutenant of Caesar who supported the son of Cleopatra as heir of his former general.

M_AntoniusCleopatra entered in an alliance with Marc Antony, and also in a relationship from which were born 3 children. The couple finally was defeated next to Actium in Greece by Octavian, and they both preferred to commit suicide than to be brought to Rome as slaves.

Marc Antony decided to die in a roman way, with a sword. Cleopatra chose to die by a bite from a cobra, a sacred animal in Egypt, protector of the country and its pharaohs.

Cleopatra was a proud woman and an ambitious mother who lived and died for preserving the traditions and independence of her country through her son.

Malala Yousafzai: Out Loud

All I want is education and I am afraid of none
Malala is a young girl of 16 years old but she is already an inspirational figure known the world over.
She comes from the valley of Swat, Pakistan. Her father was her greatest source of inspiration and the staunchest supporter.
At 11 years old Malala wrote a diary for the BBC describing the daily troubles she would encounter while going to school. In 2012 she was shot point blank in the face for being a supporter of girls education. So far she has won numerous awards for her endeavors, a Nobel Peace Prize included. She is in charge of the Malala Fund a non profit organization which advocates a greater access to education for girls in Pakistan and all over the world.

Malala started her efforts in behalf of education when terrorists invaded her country. She remembers that schools were blasted, music and cinema were prohibited and women were banned from going around freely. 2 options were then available to her, she recalls. Silence and cohabitation with terrorism or speaking out and die. She chose the second and was actually shot in the face. Once recovered she found many supporters in her country and outside. So began to speak about women education everywhere. The subjects of her thoughts are women: from the little girls in Pakistan forced to labour to Indian women in a widespread danger of sexual abuse.
She now acknowledges that women are “facing issues” in every country, not only the developing ones, but also in the modern states. The first time she toured the West, was astonished at the sight of women walking alone along the streets, sitting in parliaments, or having a job they like. Nonetheless she is of the opinion that although gender equality is written in laws, it is still not complete in terms of practical life. In parliaments women are a small percentage, CEOs are mostly men sexism is more subtle and hidden and at the end women are not given the roles that they deserve.
Solution can be achieved by starting to speak about these problems. Malala in convinced that words are a powerful tool for driving change.

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Shami Chakrabarti: on Liberty

A dangerous woman” The Sun

Shami Chakrabarti is mostly known for being the director of Liberty, a British organization cross party-no party, that promotes the defense of human rights. Chakrabarti is at Liberty since 2001; ever since she has been declaring that human rights in western societies specifically in Britain are under heavy pressure; a growing hostile feeling is spreading everywhere as a consequence of mass immigration, not to mention the state of fear caused by the tragic events of 2001. Governments have tried to work around human rights and Liberty counteracted by guarding them through influencing the public debate, and raising awareness around them.
In this attempt Liberty under the guide of Chakrabarti intervened in parliamentary work and provided free legal advise and assistance. Chakrabarti made clear that human rights ( that are freedom from slavery, arbitrary imprisonment, torture, of speech, association and belief became object of the Law after WW2 in an answer to the horrors of the Holocaust. The mindset that made the Holocaust possible is still present and people can not afford to lose sight of the potential consequences. Fighting for human rights means fighting for values that apply to everybody, they are not for citizens but for human beings; more so considering that today the world is shrinking and interconnected. People have bashed the package of human rights but everyone believes in it when they need protection. It is necessary to resist political cynicism if one believes in freedom.
Chakrabarti thinks also that gender justice is a human right issue; she endorses women empowerment and thinks that women must be more confident and challenge sexism through sarcasm or formal complain.

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Condoleeza Rice, and the transformative power of politics

My mom was a teacher – I have the greatest respect for the profession – we need great teachers – not poor or mediocre ones

Condoleeza Rice

Condoleeza Rise was the first African American woman to serve as Secretary of State in the United States.

ImageBefore serving as Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice served as National Security Advisor all in the George W. Bush Administration (2000-2008).
During these years she championed the so called Transformational Diplomacy which was about building democratic governments throughout the Middle East as she considered the September 11 attacks as rooted in despair and poverty.
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She was born in segregated Alabama in 1954. She suffered many times discrimination but said more than one time that she didn’t let it limit her horizon.
Rice is convinced that the American nation is held together by the belief that it does not matter where you are coming from it matters where you are going; it does not matter the past but the future.
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She has always insisted on the empowering and transformative strength of education as a mean for men to get on on the social ladder.

Harriet Tubman, highway to freedom

mah  people mus’go free

Harriet Tubman

harriet-tubman2-library-of-congress-600Another example of perseverance, symbol of freedom and independence is Harriet Tubman. Like Sojourner Truth Tubam (1819/20-1913) was born in slavery and escaped from slavery when she was 25: “[…] the sun came like gold through the trees , and over the fields, and I felt like I was in heaven[…]”.

She didn’t leave the slaves behind though. Harriet Tubman became one of the most popular conductor of the Underground Rail Road, a secret road for the slaves to walk from the Southern states of U.S.A. to the free states of Canada: “[…] her success was wonderful […] she seemed totaly devoid of personal fear[…] images-4yet she would not suffer one of her party to whimper once about giving out and going back” because “a live runaway could do a great harm by going back[…]” and  she was bluntly convinced that: “[…] a dead Negro tell no tales[…] “. She worked so efficiently that the reward for her capture went as higimages-6h as $40,000.

Tubman met many times with John Brown and during the Civil War worked for the Union Army as a soldier a spy and a nurse.

After the Civil War she remained active by helping old and indigent black persons and fighting for human rights.

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When she died in 1913 she was awarded with military honor.thumbs_img_1231

Sojourner Truth: No chains

 It is often darkest just before dawn

Sojourner Truth

Sojourner truth was born in 1787 in slavery in New York.sojourner-truthHer real name was Isabelle Baumfree but in 1843 when she decided to commit herself to abolitionism and methodism, change it for Sojourner Truth.

as a child she was sold for $100 at an auction and later in fee life she would recall that: “[…]a slave auction is a terrible affair to its victims, and its incidents and consequences are graven on their hearts as with a pen of burning steel[…]”07-@-Sojourner

early in her life she showed vehemently her desire for freedom and independence as she escaped from slavery with her baby daughter in 1826. In 1827 Ny was proclaimed a free state but nonetheless her boy Peter was sold to a farm in Alabama. She took this case to court and won becoming one of the first black women to win over a white man in a court.sojourner_truth_pd101

Sojourner later lost her child who found a job on a ship but never made it back from his first trip.

Between the ’30s and the ’50s she spoke in front of large crowds about black people and women’s rights.

Famous is her speech “Ain’t I a woman” delivered in 1851 at a women’s convention in Ohio:”[…] if the first woman ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back and right side up again!and now they it asking to do it, the men better let them[…]”.

In the ’60s she met president Abraham Lincoln in more than one occasion and during the Civil War she helped to recruit black soldiers for the Union Army.
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Also after the Emancipation Proclamation (1865) Sojourner Truth continued to fight for universal suffrage, segregation by occupying  cars only for whites, but she also fought against the capital punishment and a reform of the prisons.

images-3She died in 1883 becoming a symbol of freedom freedom of thought and perseverance.