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It's easy to be 'progressive' when you live in a western democracy like the US. Sure, there's the threat of police brutality which could result in a punch to the face or a spray of pepper, but incidents such as those are largely the exception to the rule. Does anybody actually fear that their life is on the line when they speak out in any way, or take part in a protest? Not so much.

Now, imagine that you live in a regressive/repressive state where virtually nobody speaks out, and if you do it's almost a certainty that your protests will be met with murder at the hands of your own family, gang rape or acid being thrown in your face. At best, banishment from your family and village.

And you're a 14-year-old girl in a misogynistic society. How brave would you be then? Personally, I don't know if I have what it takes. Join me below to talk about two fearless, progressive young women who have dared to take the risks necessary to stand up for what they believe.

Malala Yousafzai was released from a British hospital just a few hours ago.

From the Swat Valley in Pakistan, Malala began blogging about the repression of the Taliban at the age of 12, particularly focused on the limited ability for young girls to receive an education. In the face of increased threats due media attention, she remained outspoken.

Malala was shot in the head while riding on a school bus on October 9, 2012 in an apparent reprisal by the Taliban. As noted above, Malala was released from Birmingham Hospital earlier today, but she still has a long road ahead of her:

Malala is due to be to be readmitted in late January or early February to undergo cranial reconstructive surgery as part of her long-term recovery
There is a petition to nominate Malala for the Nobel Peace Prize, which you can sign on to here.

While many of you are familiar with Malala's situation, there is another young woman who deserves attention for her amazing bravery. She chooses to go by one name: Debangana.

At the age of 14, Debangana was drugged and raped, then sold to a brothel.

"Drivers, old men, poor men and some rich boys, they all exploited me for a year," said the teen, who was rescued along with 10 other girls by the police and a voluntary organisation during a series of raids in the capital's red light district.

But her struggle was far from over. When she arrived home, she found no one supported her decision to register a police case.

"In a city, a girl still has the freedom to decide, but in a village she cannot make a decision against the wishes of a village head. A woman has to obey her father, brothers, village men," she said.
 

In a society where silence is encouraged, she has refused to remain silent in the face of extreme coercion:
Her family's home has been destroyed and their rice field torched after she refused to withdraw the case.
The court system has tried to make her feel like the guilty party, yet she continues.
"They once asked me how many times did I sleep with men? I replied: 'I never slept with them, they raped me'.

"A lawyer then asked how much money did I make at the brothel? I said, the men just threw a few coins at my face, so they could hurt me more."

Asked if she believes she will ever get justice, she replied: "At least I'm trying."

As our progressive heroes fade into history, young women like these will be the heroes of our children and grandchildren. Their courage surpasses anything I've seen elsewhere.
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