10 Most Influential Women of 2013

The women of the year helped bring the economy back from the brink, worked against tyranny, and championed equality, education and justice. Most of all, they helped open our eyes to how much remains to be done.

Malala Yousafzai

If 2012 was the year most of us first heard about the 14-year-old Pakistani girl, it was 2013 when we learned nobody could silence her, especially not the cowardly Taliban men who tried to kill her.

Malala had become a vocal advocate of the right of all girls to an education, a frightening prospect for the Taliban. In October 2012, machine-gun toting extremists walked onto a school van, asked for Malala, then shot her in the face.

Instead of intimidating her, the Taliban turned her into their own worst nightmare — a powerful girl more admired and articulate than ever.

This year we found that Malala’s impact is just beginning. As a leading candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize, her advocacy for girls inspires hope around the world. And she’s just getting started.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot

What is it about macho politicians who get so scared of brave women?

Pussy Riot wants ‘Putin-free system’

In Russia, President Vladimir Putin’s suppression of the political opposition spurred an unlikely force, the defiantly named punk rock group Pussy Riot. The female band protested Putin’s increasing authoritarianism. When five of them broke out into an anti-Putin song, “Punk Prayer,” at Moscow’s main Orthodox cathedral, two of them — Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina — were arrested and put in prison.

Why did Putin decide to free them before their sentence was finished? Because Pussy Riot has become synonymous with the harshness of the Putin regime. The group’s outspokenness raised an international outcry so strong that even the Russian president, normally impervious to global public opinion, started to feel the pressure.

Tolokonnikova sent out letters describing the brutality of prison life and went on a hunger strike. On her release from prison, Tolokonnikova fearlessly shouted, “Russia without Putin.” She and Alyokhina dismissed the release as a public relations stunt by a president trying to improve his image ahead of the upcoming Olympic games in Sochi, Russia. That’s exactly what it was.

Delhi rape victim

Fighting sexual harassment in India

As 2012 was coming to an end, a horrific gang rape occurred in the Indian capital, capturing the world’s attention over the following months and, more importantly, awakening the Indian people to the crisis of violence against women.

The Delhi rape victim, a 23-year-old physiotherapy student, was gravely injured, and she died of internal wounds in 2013. Her tragic case galvanized Indian women and men to fight the epidemic of rape in India, a battle that continues in the face of even more brutal attacks.

Angela Merkel

Merkel’s take on the euro’s future

When the European Union nearly fell into the economic abyss, there was one leader who held it together, standing up to criticism and holding firm on a controversial austerity program despite vilification and recrimination. The policy may not have been the best route to recovery, but in the chaos it was Merkel who saved the Union. Forbes named her the world’s most powerful woman, as it has for eight of the last 10 years. Germans re-elected her to a third term earlier this month.

She emerges from the crisis as the undisputed leader of the European Union, and a key player as the U.S. and Europe struggle to maintain their political and economic pre-eminence in the face of a rising China and a chaotic Middle East.

Read the entire article at CNN.com

By Frida Ghitis is a world affairs columnist for The Miami Herald and World Politics Review. A former CNN producer and correspondent, she is the author of “The End of Revolution: A Changing World in the Age of Live Television.” Follow her on Twitter@FridaGhitis.

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