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International Women’s Day: profiles of women fighting corruption

Today is International Women’s Day. To celebrate the occasion, Transparency International is highlighting women corruption fighters around the world whose courage, resilience, intellect and passion help them battle tirelessly to promote transparency and integrity in their communities. These are three of their stories.

Pink and powerful: Gulabi gang

Armed with pink saris and a lathi, or stick, for self defence, these women activists are corruption fighters – literally. Translated ‘Pink Gang’, the Gulabi Gang was formed by Sampat Pal Devi in Uttar Pradesh in Northern India to stop domestic violence against women. The scope of their work has expanded into an anti-corruption agenda with an unconventional approach.

From hijacking a food tractor to ensure rationed grains for the poor were delivered and not sold illegally, to holding meetings with local citizens to demand much-needed roads, Sampat and the Gulabi Gang show no signs of slowing down their fight against corruption and domestic violence.

Check out Al Jazeera's Witness documentary on the Gulabi Gang

Young and empowered

Evronia Azer image

Evronia Azer, 25, is a founding member of the Egyptian group No Military Trials for Civilians whose mandate is to demand transparency in military trials for arrested citizens. In Egypt, many people faced a military tribunal after being arrested in the transition phase between the ousting of former President Hosni Mubarak and the election of Mohamed Morsi. Defendants face a court closed to the public and often have no access to counsel of their own choosing. Evronia coordinates the Hotline for the No Mil Trials group with other volunteers to see what help they can provide to detainees’ families and cases.

Like most committed anti-corruption activists, she also has a full-time job to make ends meet. Evronia is a software engineer by day, yet manages to keep the hotline going. Evronia’s steely determination is evident when she says:

On the personal level, it is sometimes really hard to handle the trauma of families who have their sons sentenced to long years in prison without a fair trial, but we will continue fighting until we end military trials for civilians in Egypt.

Fighting for the right to know

In 2004 Heather Brooke set about requesting details of the expenses of UK Members of Parliament (MPs) – something she did in her former years as a journalist in the United States. What she wasn’t expecting was the years spent battling the country’s political heavyweights due to her pursuit of data that should already be accessible under the Freedom of Information Act. Feeling the heat, the House of Commons voted in favour of a bill that would exempt fellow MPs from the act. The amendment was never passed, but Heather’s attempts to access MPs’ expenses – ranging from travel costs to salaries of MPs’ paid staff – were further rebutted.

For two more years Heather launched appeals until the public was finally given access to MPs’ expenses in 2009, an outcome which revealed a gross abuse of public funds for private gain. A national scandal ensued and major shifts in how citizens have access to information took shape. Heather Brooke never set out to revolutionise the UK parliament. But when six MPs resigned and four MPs as well as two Lords were incarcerated for fraud, it is clear that she has.

Learn more about Heather Brooke’s story on TED

Corruption and women

Corruption hurts everyone – but women and the poor bear the biggest brunt of this global problem. From sexual extortion to human trafficking, corruption allows the current marginalisation and harmful effects on women to continue. Tailored approaches to curb corruption risks are therefore needed to curtail the significantly damaging impact on women.

True Stories

Venezuela: Mothers, wives and sisters wait hours to see their loved ones behind bars. But if you looked closely at one Venezuelan state prison, corrupt activities were taking place just outside the prison walls. To jump the line, guards charged visitors US$5. Relocating a loved one to a safer cell with three daily meals would cost 40,000 Bolivars (US$6,360) as a down payment (with 500 Bolivar, or US$80 weekly payments). Our chapter Transparencia Venezuela documented the allegations and took action with the help of the victims. Read more

Zimbabwe: Imagine you are going through an invasive medical procedure without any anaesthetics – and if you scream, you are forced to pay a bribe. This is what happened to women in Zimbabwe. Women were charged US$5 for every scream while giving birth. However once our Zimbabwean chapter heard of the egregious offences, they worked together with the victims to produce justice. Read more


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