Modern Day Heroines

By: erica lehnertin Feminizzle

Unlike most news channels, we really dig CNN. Partly because of their claim on silver fox Anderson Cooper, but mostly because since 2007 every person not busy being Anderson has been tracking down do-gooders worldwide and recognizing their contributions to awesomely important issues. "CNN Heroes: Everyday People Changing the World" is an annual celebration of the power we all possess to cause true change. It also kind of makes you feel a tad selfish for spending your weekend binge-watching Breaking Bad and/or reading "articles" about pugs in sweaters.

CNN annually chooses one amazing human as their MOST amazing human, also known as Hero of the Year. You do you CNN, but we only had eyes for two wonder women in the running, Kakenya Ntaiya and Laura Statchel, whom we have deemed  Heroines of Our Feminist Heart.

Kakenya Ntaiya was born into the Maasai culture of Kenya with a passion for education. After she experienced female genital cutting at age 14--a cultural rite of passage for women that is closely followed by marriage and childbearing--Kakenya forced her father to promise her that she could finish school, otherwise she would run away. (WOW 14 YEAR OLD KAKENYA YOU ARE AWESOME).

Kakenya was (obviously) an incredible student and received a scholarship to attend college in the United States. She earned her undergraduate degree, a job with the United Nations, and a doctorate in education. You go, girl. She eventually returned to Kenya and opened a school focused on  encouraging girls to see beyond gendered cultural expectations, and follow their dreams of personal empowerment. All students in her school are protected by contract, making their early marriage or FGC illegal. How powerful is that?

Our other lady hero Laura Stachel is an American obstetrician dedicated to maternal and neonatal health in developing countries. Her mission began while visiting Nigeria, one of the top ten most dangerous countries to give birth in the world. She was deeply troubled by the constantly compromised birthing conditions, usually due to a lack of stable electricity. Being the badass bitch she is, she vowed to do something about it. 

Stachel utilized her husband's knowledge of solar power and developed the "solar suitcase" which houses a solar-powered light, fetal heart rate monitor, and cell phone charging unit. The original plan was to develop full-scale solar-powered birthing stations, and the suitcase was meant for demonstration. When Stachel demonstrated with the suitcase in Nigeria, surgical physicians asked her to leave the demo tool behind, telling her it could save lives immediately. Thus, the solar suitcase was born.

Stachel started a non-profit in 2009 called "We Care Solar" and has  traveled to countries in Asia, Africa, and Central America to spread the life-saving technology. "We Care Solar” provides the suitcase, installation, and training--all free of charge--to hospitals and clinics in need. The hospital that received the first solar suitcase has reported a 70% decrease in the death rate of women. Yes, you read that right, a 70% decrease in the death rate of women because of a $1,500 reliable light source and heart rate monitor. Soak that in for a second. You have probably spent more on jeans in your lifetime.

Both women were awarded $50,000 by CNN for their amazingly important work, which they will probably pour back into their projects because they are infinitely awesome humans.

You probably want to do something meaningful right about now, and luckily, you can! Besides the small grant Ntaiya received from the Kenyan government, most of the funding for her school comes from her U.S. based nonprofit Kakenya's Dream; to contribute you can go here!To contribute to Dr. Stachel's solar suitcases click here! And don’t forget, you can nominate your own CNN hero. Just visit here! Everyone likes a little recognition now and then, especially when it's a celebration of work that is by women for women, which makes us BUST women swoon.


Images via CNN.Com and WeCareSolar.Org

Tagged in: global issues, global health, feminism, badass ladies, awards show, africa   

The opinions expressed on the BUST blog are those of the authors themselves and do not necessarily reflect the position of BUST Magazine or its staff.

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