Sisters Mothers Daughters Wives

The hidden gems in the struggle for human rights

By Catherine Antoine

random portrait

Illustration by Brian Williamson

SHE HAS LANGUISHED UNDER HOUSE ARREST since her husband, who remains in jail, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010. Without being charged with any crime, she is barred from human company, constantly harassed, monitored by authorities, and even denied the medical care she needs as her health worsens.

photo of Libby Liu, Radio Free Asia

Libby Liu

Radio Free Asia

Such is the fate of Liu Xia, Liu Xiaobo’s wife. Liu’s husband and his struggle are internationally recognized but she also pays a high price—without any big award.

Throughout Asia and the world, women have shown courage and commitment to improving human rights. Their stories and their lives can inspire and instruct, but only if they are told. Only if they are known.

Some of these women are caught in the struggle for human dignity through their husbands, their children, their loved ones or their personal experiences. Some push forward to the front lines on their own through the strength of their convictions.

They all bear witness to the unique hardships and triumphs born by women who fight for the rights of others from within Asia’s patriarchal societies. Some choose to fight. Some do not. But all persist with undaunted courage

Imagine glass. With lead it becomes crystal. These women urge us to look closer and peer into the reflection of their world. Only when we open our eyes to their struggle can we realize it is a shared, universal struggle for justice, fairness, and compassion. Their lives are made even more beautiful by the weight of their tireless convictions. When the light of the world’s attention shines on them, these women like hidden gems brighten, dazzle, and amaze.