Women Who Broke the Rules and Changed Their World



“This is a book that should be included in the most influential books of our time and is an antidote for dealing with the stresses of the current world we live in. It is highly ambitious in seeking to portray a breadth of experience across so many cultures and lives being lived across the world – so much so that it reflects the spirit of the author in setting out on and achieving such a task. Hearing from the women themselves in their own words makes you feel privileged to enter their worlds and really digest their inspirational messages in such an authentic way. This is a book you will never forget and will want to come back to time and again.” – Amazon Review 

Dr. Sam Collins has always challenged authority. When she was just six years old, her mom took her to buy a pair of rain boots and suggested the very practical blue color…Sam chose the bright red ones. They were her rebel-boots, and she became brave and powerful whenever she wore them.

For every woman who has been told she’s too difficult, too soft, or too afraid to break the rules. Rebellious offers 16 powerful, autobiographical stories by women who refused to be told what to do, who broke the rules, and aspired to fulfill their personal roles to make a difference for themselves, their communities, and the world.

While the stories of the women of Rebellious vary widely by circumstance, from setting up a school for girls in Pakistan, to escaping from a Kuwaiti trafficking scheme, to sailing solo around the globe, to climbing Mount Kilimanjaro with their kids, all of these change-making women have one thing in common: they rebelled and found the keys to success.

Every story shows how bringing the quality of rebellion to everything you do can make the world a better, safer place. Not only for yourself or other women and girls, but for everyone everywhere on the planet.

Chapter 1: The Promise – Dr. Sam Collins, Founder of Aspire, USA 

The book begins with a bang, literally. On a trip to Africa to celebrate her adopted daughter’s birthday, Sam finds herself in the midst of a civil uprising in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Hiding on the floor of a minivan as it hurtles through war-torn streets, she realizes she may never again see her husband and children in America, let alone bring her daughter home. Sam survives the trip, but the three year struggle to get Grace extracted from the DRC is a layer-cake of a challenge that Sam isn’t sure she can handle. 

How far would you go to make your dreams a reality? Rebellion requires the resilience to proceed even when things look their worst. As this story reveals, we all have it in us to get on with it and keep going. 

Chapter 2: Girls Are Like Goats – Sister Zeph, Teacher, Women’s Activist and Philanthropist, Pakistan

In the middle of the night one Christmas Eve, extremists climbed onto the roof of Sister Zeph’s family home and fired guns into the air, demanding she abandon her school for girls, or they would kill everyone in the house, including her sister’s new baby. As a woman in rural Pakistan, where girls are often compared to goats, Zeph was no stranger to such abuse. As a child, her own uncle once carried her to the same roof and threatened to drop her over the side. The reason: her mother was giving birth to a fourth daughter, bringing shame to the family name. At thirteen, Zeph decided she would start a school for girls in that very village, giving free education and skills training to hundreds of girls since, despite continued threats of violence. 

When nearly every part of the culture in which you live is abusive and repressive towards women, rebellion can take an astounding amount of courage. This story reveals how purpose and courage are inextricably connected, and offers a deep lesson on how to tap into that well of fearlessness in yourself. 

Chapter 3: Halimah – Zareen Roohi Ahmed, Founder and CEO of Gift Wellness, UK

Following a frantic two-day search, Zareen’s daughter is found to have fallen victim of a murder-suicide by a boy she hardly knew, whom she just wanted to help. Zareen begins to meet her grief with action, holding tight to her daughter’s dreams for changing the world, she undertakes a five-year project to build a school in her parent’s village in Pakistan that serves over 850 girls from orphaned and needy backgrounds. Sitting in an airport following the opening of the school, Zareen happened to read an article about Syrian refugee camps, and the thousands of women without access to sanitary pads and products. She knew what she would do next. 

Sometimes rebellion means taking a stand against ourselves and our own fears that we will die inside a little at a time. This story shows that we can never circumvent grief but we can channel it to offer tremendous good to others.

Chapter 4: Free To Be Fearless – Lilly Lewis, Women’s Justice Advocate, UK

Sentenced to prison for eight years for playing a role in a money laundering and property scam, Lilly had already made up her mind that things were going to be different. Given up for adoption as an infant because of her skin color, Lilly had tried to fill the void with drugs, alcohol, money, and a string of abusive relationships—a cocktail of codependency that nearly killed her. Destitute and penniless, having lost her children to court custody, and failing her final attempt at suicide, something clicked. 

Even in the midst of the most difficult of outer circumstances, whether prisons of the mind or prisons made of stone, freedom is something we can all achieve within. Rebellion seeks freedom not for itself alone, but for everyone placed in its path.  

Chapter 5: Job of a Lifetime – Carmen Ward, Founder BECOMINGCARMEN, USA

Carmen’s mother died from heroin abuse when she was just five years old, and she became the target of a relative’s abuse. Through foster care, selling drugs, broken relationships, and a revolving door of unhealthy habits, she turned her life around. Passed over for her dream job, Carmen is propelled to reimagine true community healing and reconciliation in the era of Black Lives Matter.

True rebels are often afraid but, driven by love and purpose, have a reservoir of faith. Somehow, they always know they will make it through. Although it’s not always obvious they are going to make it, the state of growth is constant.

Chapter 6: Kadama – Awah Francisca Mbuli, Founder and CEO of Survivors Network, Cameroon

Contracted under false pretenses and now 3,000 miles away from home, Fransisca asked her Kuwaiti employer when she might be paid after two months of work. When the lady of the house tells her no money is owed yet, and compares Fransisca to an appliance, she realizes she is a victim of human trafficking. Her journey to freedom will mean gaining trust with the people who trapped her, then risking it all one hot day in the desert.

We are all born free, but there are those who would control others to gain some advantage, usually trying to avoid paying fairly for labor. Often, these people present themselves as pillars of the community, trustworthy helpers. The road to rebellion means developing intuition, throwing off cultural conditioning, and exercising our innate resilience. 

Chapter 7: Shooting Stars – Destiny Ayo Vaughan, Student, Ireland

The only thing Destiny ever wanted was to have a normal childhood. She stayed up nights, sometimes all night, ready to make her desperate plea to any shooting star, her seemingly last and only hope for a better life. In the morning, she longingly peered through windows in the house across the street, where another girl, about her own age, was loved and cared for. When the abuse Destiny and her siblings endure on a daily basis is discovered by teaching staff at school, her journey to freedom and forgiveness truly begins.

Sometimes we aren’t looking for rebellion at all, we just want to have a normal life. There, the voice of rebellion finds us, gives us something to say, and the courage to say it to the world. Seeing the suffering they endured has often been passed from generation to generation, it ends with the rebels capable of radical forgiveness.

Chapter 8: Ray of Sunshine – Pip Hare, Professional Ocean Racer, UK

The Portuguese Man O’ War’s sting is rarely deadly to humans, but it packs an extremely painful punch that would prevent most people from finishing a 28,000 mile sailboat journey—especially solo. Pip would become the first British skipper, and the eighth woman ever, to finish the Vendée Globe Yacht Race in 2021. While the race is one of the few international top-level sporting events where men and women compete on equal terms, Pip’s vessel and funding put her at a disadvantage she would have to make up for in self-confidence.

Rebellion may ask us to step out on our own, without knowing in advance how support will arrive. The composure needed to proceed is often tremendous, and Pip’s story reveals how even the smallest packages contain massive self-confidence.

Chapter 9: Step by Step – Nasreen Sheikh, The Empowerment Collective, Nepal

Nasreen was a 10-year-old sweatshop laborer, living and working in a 100 square-foot room with six other people. When the sweatshop inexplicably closed, she made her way to the streets of Kathmandu. She could read nothing more than a face of kindness when a gentle American monk crossed her path. Even gripped with terror by his pet, a small dog, Nasreen grabbed the man by his arm and begged him to help her get an education. 

We must often rebel against the setbacks life has presented to us in order to get into the good of this support, which seems to lift those most willing to serve others. There is something about rebellion that reminds you that you don’t have to go it alone. Help and support are waiting for you no matter your age or status in the world. 

Chapter 10: Crossing The Bridge – Ibtissam Al-Farah, PhD. – Founder and Director, Lavender International Consultancy, Yemen

As the first woman in her family to get a college degree, and God forbid, drive a car, Ibtissam was a natural born rebel. When a car-bomb explodes her career path, she is forced to flee Yemen. In England, she is falsely accused of violating terms of her refugee status. Will her encounter with a gruff, tattooed female immigration officer from Sheffield, with an obvious distaste for the Muslim community, mean imprisonment, deportation, or even worse?

When life flips the script, we often just call it “trouble” and don’t understand how it could have befallen us; we blame others, we blame the system, we imagine it’s a punishment. Through experience, the rebellious trouble is only there to challenge our assumptions and help us grow.

Chapter 11: Spandex Gate – Jen Coken, CEO, Embrace the Ridiculousness of Life!, USA

One morning at the start of a well-earned staycation, Jen’s busy business life, filled with meetings and marketing, takes a hard stop. She discovers a lump in her breast. At the worst point in the Covid pandemic, and facing threats to her life and livelihood on multiple fronts, Jen is challenged to find ways to keep her health and her humor.

When taking charge takes a back seat to taking care, habits of rebellion may have to adapt during a health crisis where the outcome appears to be out of your hands. But this gives rebellion newer and truer avenues to shine its light into life, helping us rewrite a new punchline.

Chapter 12: Twelve Miles – Sarah Kitakule, The Kitakule Foundation, Uganda

Sarah and her siblings grew up hearing her father’s story of how he had to walk 12 miles to get to school each day. At first resentful, Sarah realizes what an incredible gift that her father’s love of education has been to her entire family. Upon her father’s death, Sarah begins to formulate plans to build a library that will help educate the same villagers who mocked her family’s love for learning. 

There is a clear connection between rebellion, education and compassion. The desperation many people feel to become educated is often palpable. This story reveals how to tap into that compassion, and how to find the power to get from good intentions, to actions that make an impact. 

Chapter 13: Bad Mother – Karen Sherman, President of Akilah Institute, Rwanda

Karen hardly ever picks her sons up at the bus stop, she’s always on a plane to somewhere, her husband does all the housework, and somehow she always ends up being the “heavy” with their three sons. Now, she wants to uproot her family to take a COO position with a women’s center in Rwanda. Karen is no stranger to being judged. And when she leaves her youngest boy in the hands of a guide, halfway up Kilimanjaro, instead of accompanying him back to basecamp, she can almost hear the gossip spread back home. 

Rebellion sometimes means being misunderstood. Changing the world while negotiating other people’s perceptions is sometimes a not-so-perfect balancing act—and that’s okay with the people who really love you.

Chapter 14: Motherboards – Eileen Brewer, Director, Takween Accelerator, Iraq

Eileen was the only girl on the water-polo team at her California high school. When she started working in tech, she was often the only female on the team. She often volunteered for the U.S. State Department to teach girls in Rwanda about computer hardware. So when she was offered a position that required relocation to Kurdistan, she didn’t flinch… Well, maybe just a little.   

The rebels’ iconoclasm is only matched by her bravery. Doing the right thing, no matter how difficult it seems, is second nature once rebellion takes its hold. Rebels know themselves well, and love nothing more than to push beyond their comfort zones and self-limiting beliefs.

Chapter 15: Choose Life – Aletta Raju, Employment Law Specialist, South Africa 

When Aletta’s beloved mother died of cancer, she finally realized that rather than pleasing everyone else, it was time for Aletta to figure out what she really wanted from her own life. After having experienced significant loss with her father and brother also dying, Aletta’s mantra became ‘Choose Life’.

A pilgrimage led her to Machu Picchu in search of adventure and ultimately the rebellion of finding self love and acceptance.

Chapter 16: Amazing Grace – Dr. Sam Collins, Founder Aspire, USA

A birthday party gone sideways, saggy boobs, and a phantom blood clot… Sam finds herself in a mysterious fight for her health that gives way to an inner battle over her sense of personal freedom, her identity as a CEO, wife and mother, and her own pursuit of happiness.

The only permission the rebel needs is their own. But it doesn’t always yield without a fight. Whether it is finding your voice, finding your passion, or simply finding a little bit of freedom to be happy, the struggle to be your own authority is usually a crucial lesson on the path of the rebellious.  

Dr. Sam Collins, CEO and Founder Aspire

Dr. Sam Collins is a leading global voice on women’s leadership and change for workplaces, organizational culture and community impact. Sam has been named one of the ‘Top 200 Women to Impact Business & Industry’ by Her Majesty, The Queen, one of the ‘Top 10 Coaches’ by The Independent and ‘Leader in the Workplace’ in the Ogûnte Women’s Social Leadership Awards. She has contributed to The Financial Times, The Guardian, CNN, The Huffington Post, The Sunday Times, the BBC World Service and Psychologies Magazine. She is also the author of the Amazon bestselling book, ‘Radio Heaven – One Woman’s Journey to Grace’ and soon to be launched ‘Rebellious – Women Who Broke the Rules and Changed Their World’.

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A book about the power of doing business for social good and designing your own destiny rather than waiting for your parents, boss, partner or society to determine it for you. Part biography and part tool kit with practical, easy–to-digest ideas for any reader to follow their passion in life and business, regardless of time, financial position, or experience. It is our hope that RADIO HEAVEN will help you discover what is it you really want to do (and not do!), overcome the inevitable obstacles, and really get on with it! The clock starts now.  ORDER HERE.

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