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.

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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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Aung San Suu Kyi: icon of freedom

120918_aung_san_suu_kyi_croppedA prisoner of conscience is one too many

Barack Obama,  Aung San Suu Kyi

In 1989 Aung San Suu Kyi, after having worked at the United Nations for 3 years, got married and had 2 children, was put under house arrest in Burma, where she would have remained for 15 years. That because she fought the military regime in her native country. Aung San Suu Kyi was given the choice to leave the country, but decided to stay whatsoever. By doing so she lost any opportunity to see her children growing or her husband who died in 1995 from cancer.images

Aung San Suu Kyi admitted that she was in a much easier position compared to other political prisoners “because from the very beginning I was under the protection of my father’s name”.

Indeed, her father negotiate the independence of Burma in 1947.

Nevertheless the detention was a hard one for her. she felt cut out from the world. Until she received the Nobel price which restored in her a sense of reality and brought her back to life by recognizing the plight of Burma people outside the national boundaries.Aung_San_Suu_Kyi_(Time)

Aung San Suu Kyi adopted a non violent stance as a form of political protest stating the necessity to fight against any policy or practice that erodes human dignity and democracy.

She thinks that the rule of law  must guarantee human rights. Only by safeguarding these two a government can create a free society where the people can realize its full potential.

Her relise from house arrest was followed by an amnesty for one tenth of political prisoners inimages-1 Burma and the legalization of trade unionism.

Aung San Suu Kyi joined the National League for Democracy which she helped found back in 1988, and finally entered parliament with the aim to eliminate sectarian violence between buddisth and the muslim minority of Rohingya in the North of Burma beside reforming the Constitution and making  of Burma a democratic country.