Dhaka, Bangladesh
What women want: a vivid portrait of female lives around the world

What women want: a vivid portrait of female lives around the world

(To be continued) Amber Heard Actor and domestic violence activist What matters to me has changed a lot over the years. For a long time, it was about finding and defining myself. But as I have grown older, I have found it is less about what I am now and more about what I will leave behind. It's about the impact I make. I have also come to respect the pain and hardships I've endured. When I look back on the most difficult periods of my life, I realise that they were some of the most definitive in making me who I am today. I can say that, having narrowly survived the very depths of my own capacity to feel pain, there is some intrinsic worth to the experience; not to the pain itself, but to the surviving of it. Gabourey Sidibe Actor and star of the film Precious When I think of the things that have shaped me, the first would be my parents' marriage. My mother is American and my father was Senegalese. They got married so he could get a green card. They eventually fell for each other and had children. But I didn't get to see a real, loving relationship as a child, so I don't know what that looks like from the inside. I went to school in New York where most of my classmates were Puerto Rican or Dominican - only 4% of us were black. Being one of the 4% who also happens to be round and who also happens to be dark, had a real effect on me; sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. What shaped me more than anything, though, was becoming an actor. I'd thought I'd grow up to be a therapist and had started studying psychology. I loved discovering the inner workings of the human psyche. My whole life I'd watched my mom, who is a singer, pursue her art, and I thought it was too hard for me to do. Today, my happiness and my comfort - being able to love myself and see I am deserving of love - really matter to me. It's an issue a lot of women battle with, and I think women of colour battle with it more. Because there is this school of thought that, as a black woman, you're supposed to be strong, a survivor, superhuman - that you have to put everyone ahead of yourself and that there's no room for selfishness. I like the thought of the strength of a black woman, but I also want to be able to think of myself. June Steenkamp Anti-abuse campaigner and mother of Reeva Steenkamp I want to save women from losing their daughters, and I want to save women from losing their lives. Reeva was such an exceptional, loving person. She gave so much love to Barry [Reeva's father] and me, and we gave it back. We adored her. When Anene Booysen, 17, was gang raped, disembowelled and murdered in 2013, Reeva called me and said: "Mummy, I have to do something about this." She started her work against the abuse of women and, less than two weeks later, she herself was murdered [by Oscar Pistorius]. The day she died she was supposed to talk to schoolgirls in Johannesburg about violence against women. Whatever she was going through in her relationship she hid from me. I believe that's because she didn't want me to worry. After it happened, I missed Reeva so much and my grief became destructive but, during the trial, I went into another space in my head. I felt vulnerable in that courtroom but, after everything that had happened, I wanted to be strong - the things I had to listen to were terrible. Eventually, I freed myself from the anger inside me - and I forgave. You have to forgive, but that doesn't mean her murderer needn't pay for what he did. I came to the realisation I needed to get myself together and try to help other women affected by violence. That's how the foundation was born. It's named after Reeva, to continue the work she started. We want to raise awareness of physical abuse, provide resources to victims and educate women on their self worth. But we also want to educate men - while they are still boys - to respect the women in their lives. Ashley Judd Actor and feminist activist My mother was pregnant with me at the time of the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr and Bobby Kennedy - those events imprinted on her and, therefore, on me. More than anything, though, what has formed the core of both my pain and my resilience is experiencing sexual abuse in early childhood. That experience of extensive patriarchal wounding shaped my neural anatomy. I have spent a good deal of my life either unconsciously affected, or bewildered by my inability to let go of the pain. I'd been using yoga, meditation and prayer as modalities to cope with the abuse, but the power to confront what happened came through my sister. She had been seeking help for an eating disorder and, when I showed up to a family week, her treatment team took one look at me and recommended a 12-step programme. I thought they were wrong to suggest it, but I was willing to do anything to change, and I'm glad I did. Through professional help, I've become a general badass. It can be abusive to highlight a problem without also underscoring a solution, so I am very thankful that today, when I talk about being a survivor of adolescent and adult rape, and of all kinds of gender wounding, I do so from a position of empowerment. If I could change one thing in the world today, it would be to change the prevailing global culture of sexual exploitation and sexual entitlement.

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