I was six when the Taliban took over Afghanistan and made it illegal for girls to go to school. So for the next five years, I dressed as a boy to escort my older sister — who was no longer allowed to be outside alone — to a secret school. It was the only way we both could be educated.

Each day we took a different route so that no one would suspect where we were going. We would cover our books in grocery bags so it would seem like we were just out shopping.

The school was in a house — more than 100 of us packed into one small living room. It was cozy in winter, but extremely hot in summer.

We all knew we were risking our lives: the teacher, the students, and our parents. From time to time, school would suddenly be cancelled for a week because the Taliban were suspicious.

We always wondered what they knew about us. Were we being followed? Do they know where we live?

We were scared, but still, school was where we wanted to be.

From Shabana Basij-Rasikh’s TEDxWomen talk, "Dare to educate Afghan girls." Shabana, now 22, runs a school for girls in Afghanistan. Watch her talk and read more about her work at TED.com.

A quote from iO Tillett Wright’s TEDxWomen talk, “Fifty shades of gay.” 

In 2010, iO started a project called "Self Evident Truths," for which she photographed thousands of people who consider themselves somewhere on the LBGTQ spectrum. iO hoped to show how diverse human sexual identity is, and put a new perspective on what "gay" looks like.

Above, three portraits from Self Evident Truths: Venus, Jamison, and Carrie.

You can read more about the stories behind the portraits at the TED Blog.

This past December, the team at TEDxAdelaide took part in TEDx’s global conversation about the state of women in the world today — TEDxWomen. Their event, TEDxAdelaideWomen, brought together women and men from all over Australia to talk, share, and discuss ideas for the future and solutions for today.

At the event, attendees used giant chalkboard conversation bubbles to finish the sentence, “Before I die, I want to…” — inspired by TED Fellow Candy Chang’s “Before I die” art project. See some of their answers above.

This year, TEDxWomen events around the world will join TEDWomen in San Fransisco on December 5, 2013 in celebrating the female inventors and designers, thinkers and makers, local problem-solvers and global leaders who are changing the world today. 

For more information, visit the TEDxWomen website, sign up to host a TEDxWomen livestreaming event, or find a TEDxWomen event near you to attend.

This December, TEDWomen and TEDxWomen events explore the stakes for women today

imageWhat does it mean to be a woman in 2013? This winter, more than 100 TEDxWomen events around the world will explore just that — joining TED and the Paley Center for Media in a celebration of the female inventors and designers, thinkers and makers, local problem-solvers and global leaders who are changing the world today.

In San Francisco, TED, partnered with the Paley Center for Media, will present TEDWomen 2013: Invented Here on December 5, bringing a host of speakers to California to explore topics like technology, art, solutions to poverty, approaches to peacemaking, investigations of science, education, and innovation.

In countries and cities worldwide, the conversation sparked at TEDWomen will expand, as TEDxWomen events in places like Belfast, Barcelona, and Belgrade share the TEDWomen livestream and invite local speakers to bring their own ideas to the theme, “Invented Here.” The result? A truly global conversation — from San Francisco to London to Beijing — celebrating strong, enterprising, change-making women everywhere.

Women are so often the creative powerhouses driving progress, and the active force crystallizing change in communities worldwide, and TEDWomen and TEDxWomen events are sure to provide groundbreaking ideas from such innovators. From small, local solutions to global movements, the power of women’s invention is visible in every region, in every field.

The full lineup of TEDWomen speakers is yet to be announced, but follow the TEDWomen Facebook and website for all updates.

To take part in this global conversation yourself, sign up to host a TEDxWomen livestreaming event, or find a TEDxWomen event near you to attend. 

»Be sure to follow TEDxWomen on Facebook or Twitter.»