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Badass women: 7 April 2017

We're celebrating Maryam Zainol, Cassandra Hsiao, Gina Rodriguez, two-year-old Sophie Benner, and astronaut Peggy Whitson this week

By Verinia Khoo | Published: 7 Apr 2017

Badass Women 7Apr17
Photo: Maryam Zainol/Facebook

Maryam Zainol
Former R.AGE journalist Maryam Zainol is one of the key people who campaigned for the Sexual Offences against Children bill to Members of Parliament that was passed earlier this week. But she wasn't with her team in Parliament that day; months of research and communicating with sex predators and paedophiles had taken a toll on her wellbeing, so she resigned.

"Maryam had to endure what most people should never have to," R.AGE editor, Ian Yee wrote on The Star. "She went face to face with sex predators, listened to them brag about sexually abusing children – in graphic detail – and pretended that everything was okay."

"She listened as fathers, husbands, and even a media practitioner, revealed how they would groom children," he added. "We had to listen the recordings over and over as we edited the documentary series [Predator in my Phone]. We had to keep a record of all the obscene communications. And we had to continue getting messages from these predators, even when we don't initiate any contact."

But Maryam, along with the R.AGE team and those fighting against sexual predators, has already successfully set the foundation for Malaysia to carry on protecting children from these heinous crimes.

Cassandra Hsiao
Seventeen-year-old Cassandra Hsiao, who migrated from Malaysia to California when she was five, has been accepted into all eight Ivy League schools. Besides being a writer and journalist, Cassandra also once rapped in front of Lin Manuel-Miranda at a Moana press conference.

"I'm still processing it," she said of her Ivy League achievement. "It's not something you expect when you open these college messages on your portal. I saw a yes and a yes, a congratulations after a congratulations. It's totally surreal. It's still sinking in. I had a moment to myself yesterday where I was just sobbing. I celebrated with my parents. This is quite the honour, to have these fantastic institutions accept me. It's really something." Congrats, Cassandra!

Gina Rodriguez
Three days ago, (4 April) was Equal Pay Day in America and like its name suggests, the day was created to highlight the gap between men and women's wages and the continuous fight for gender equalty. Many took to social media to voice their support for the cause and one particularly loud voice was from Jane the Virgin star, Gina Rodriguez. She worked with nutrition bar company, Luna Bar to raise awareness about the cause.

In an interview, Gina talked about how coming from a low-income family, she was always just grateful to have a job and never questioned the gender and pay gap.

"I realised it's not about money. It's about creating space and opportunity. It's about moving toward change," she said. "I feel extremely [lucky], but at the same time, I'm deserving of equality when it comes to how hard I work. I believe that equality stands on merit, not on gender." We totally hear you, Gina!

Photo: hereisgina/Instagram

Sophia Benner
Sometimes kids say the darndest things and other times, they're incredibly profound – 2-year-old Sophia definitely fell into the latter category. On a recent trip with her mother, Brandi, to a Target in South Carolina, little Sophia got to pick out a present as a reward for completing her potty training. She ended up choosing a doctor doll that just so happened to be of colour; Sophia is white.

"She kept going back to the doctor doll, because in her mind, she is already a doctor," her mum said to CNN. "She loves giving checkups, and if you come in the house, she'll tell you that's the first thing you need."

When it was time to pay for her doll, the cashier asked Sophia if she'd rather have a doll that looked like her. Then Sophia gave her mic-drop answer: "She does (look like me)! She's a doctor; I'm a doctor. She is a pretty girl; I'm a pretty girl. See her pretty hair? See her stethoscope?" Someone nominate this kid for president, please.

Photo: leilani324/Instagram

Peggy Whitson
US astronaut Peggy Whitson will be making history this week, on 9 April, when she becomes the first woman to command the International Space Station (ISS) twice; her first time commanding it was in 2008. She also holds the record for most spacewalks ever done by a female.

Peggy launched to the ISS back in November 2016 with Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy and Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency. Their stay onboard is meant to only last until June but she asked for an extended period of three months to remain in space.

"This is great news," she said. "I love being up here. Living and working aboard the space station is where I feel like I make the greatest contribution, so I am constantly trying to squeeze every drop out of my time here. Having three more months to squeeze is just what I would wish for."

You can even follow Peggy's adventure on the space station here.

Photo: NASA

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