When I met Layla at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, I was initially struck by her confident humility. After my interview with her, I was convinced that committed women not only have the capacity to change the world, but that the world is longing for the difference that only women can make. Layla is an activist who is making an impact in the movement to eradicate violence against women.
Layla didn’t understand the call that was on her life when she and her college friends openly opposed Saddam Hussein and his oppressive regime in Iraq. Just days after graduating college and only 23 years old, Layla was arrested, tortured, convicted of anti-government activity, and sentenced to life in prison. She served a ten-year sentence until the fall of Kuwait, and then fled to Canada.
After the fall of Saddam’s regime, Layla returned to her family in Iraq, and now she travels the world advocating for the end of violence against women. It is a cause to which she is committed and believes is her purpose. When I asked if she holds bitterness about those lost ten years, she offered the following.
- “I found a pinhole in the concrete wall of my cell. I looked at that hole everyday and envisioned a different world–places, people, and situations–on the other side. At first, I thought I was entertaining myself, however, I quickly realized that I was envisioning my future.
- Now, when I see girls graduating from college at the age I was when I was arrested, I sometimes cry at the freedom with which they speak their voice, something I did not have. I know that I am called to open more doors for girls and women to have a voice, and I am committed to ending violence against women worldwide.”
What are you called to do in 2014?
Have a Happy and Prosperous New Year!!!