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19 times women led the way in 2019

Here are 19 times women led the way in 2019. We hope they will lift you up and motivate you to continue to fight for gender equality in 2020, they sure have for us!

1. Thousands of women in India walked 10,000km across 24 states to raise awareness about rape and sexual violence 

The two-month march organized by the Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan (National Campaign for Dignity) drew sexual assault survivors, activists, lawyers and police officers from across the country to shine a spotlight on the culture of victim shaming and blaming and highlight obstacles to justice.

2. Addressing Roadblocks to Justice  for survivors across Eurasia 

Released in January 2019, Roadblocks to Justice: How the Law is Failing Survivors of Sexual Violence in Eurasia, was the first report of it’s kind in the region. It reviewed the laws on sexual violence in the 15 countries of the former Soviet Union and analyzes gaps in the law. 

Equality Now is urging governments across the region to change laws, policies and practices to address sexual violence and provide access to justice for survivors (including bride kidnapping and child marriage). This year we also joined forces with UN Women and the Council of Europe to improve the response to sexual violence crimes in Georgia.

3. Women kept Hollywood on its toes

In 2017 the #MeToo movement shook the entertainment industry and saw the launch of Times Up at the Golden Globes in 2018. Throughout 2019 stars continued to demand the industry shows up for gender equality.

At the Oscars this year with a night of firsts, including Hannah Bechler winning Best Production Design for creating the nation of Wakanda in Black Panther, women to own more long deserved space in Hollywood. And Olivia Coleman gave the best acceptance speech ever.

4. Women were at the forefront of movements for political change across the world

From Sudan to Chile, we saw women take the lead and demand change in their countries by standing up against oppressive governments and systems. In what became a viral video, a young Sudanese woman dubbed ‘Nubian princess’ led chants demanding political reform in Sudan. In Lebanon, women protesters acted as physical buffers between law enforcement and protesters at demonstrations, taking advantage of cultural taboos that forbid hitting women in public. 

5. Equality Now, our partners and survivors took a stand against sexual violence in Latin America

This year Equality Now, along with survivors and our partners, urged the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to recognize and address the issues of sexual violence against adolescents in Bolivia and the problem of forced pregnancy in Argentina. We attended two IACHR hearings as well as the Walk to End Sexual Violence in Boliva, all of which were powerful opportunities for survivors’ voices to be heard. At the IACHR hearing on Bolivia, one survivor struggled through tears to share her story with Commissioners, and her words were so powerful that they garnered a standing ovation from the crowd and from the Commissioners, along with a commitment to do something about it.

6. The United States is closer than ever to having an Equal Rights Amendment added to the U.S. Constitution! 

In May of this year the U.S. Congress held a hearing on the Equal Rights Amendment for the first time in 36 years. Building on that momentum, the House Judiciary Committee took the critical first step toward eliminating the ratification deadline on the Equal Rights Amendment and approved H.J. Res 79 which will now go to the House floor for a full vote. To top it off, in November, Virginia voters elected a slew of state assembly candidates who support ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, all of whom have promised to bring the ERA vote to the floor in January 2020, which would make Virginia the 38th and final state necessary for ratification.

Take action today to support the ERA.

7. Women Deliver(ed) 2019

World leaders, influencers, activists, advocates, academics, and journalists, gathered in Vancouver at Women Deliver 2019 and committed to creating a more gender equal world by 2030. Attendees were blown away when 18 year old Natasha Wang Mwansa took the stage alongside Presidents including Justin Trudeau, Sahle-Work Zewde and Uhuru Kenyatta.

All 8,000 attendees, us included, left WD2019 galvanised and ready to redouble our efforts to achieve gender equality. #deliverforgood

8. Women across the world are standing up for their right to participate in sports equally to men

2019 was a year of incredible achievement in women’s sports, the Women’s World Cup was watched by a record one billion viewers for the first time, Simone Biles became the gymnast with most World gold medals, and Jasmin Paris became the first woman to win a gruelling 268 mile race (whilst breastfeeding). 

It was also the year that Iran let women watch football in stadiums. This change came after Sahar Khodayari, an Iranian female football fan, who dressed as a man to enter a stadium died in September this year. She set herself on fire outside a courtroom when she learned she may face six months in prison. 

9. A word after a word after a word is power

Margaret Atwood released The Testaments, her sequel to the acclaimed novel, The Handmaid’s Tale and she split the Booker Prize win with the renowned author, Bernardine Evaristo, the first black woman to ever receive the Booker prize.

We were honoured to partner with Margaret Atwood for the launch of The Testaments. 

10. The Tanzania High Court of Appeals upheld a landmark ruling against child marriage

In October 2019, the Tanzania Court of Appeal upheld the landmark 2016 ruling, that a lower minimum age of marriage for girls is unconstitutional. Currently the minimum age of marriage is 14 for girls and 18 for boys. 

The Government of Tanzania had appealed the 2016 ruling, based on the claim that the disparity in the minimum age of marriage is a compromise to accommodate customary, traditional and religious values on marriage. 

We believe the right to culture and freedom of religion can not limit the fundamental right to equality and non-discrimination. That’s why we, along with our partners Msichana Initiative, Legal Human Rights Centre and Tanzania Women Lawyers Association, continue to call on the Government of Tanzania amend the law and end child marriage.

Take action today

11. Women and girls demanded action on the climate crisis

What happens when you throw together Jane Fonda, Greta Thunberg and Autumn Peltier? An incredible group of women leading the fight to end climate change and protect our planet. 

These women held strikes, got arrested and urged leaders to pay attention to our planet and make immediate and necessary changes to protect the future. 

12. Women went to infinity and beyond with the first ever all female space walk

50 years after the world watched two men walk on the moon, we finally witnessed an all female space walk. 

While she didn’t walk on the moon, Margaret Hamilton is famous for her part in the moon landings. She led a team of software engineers who developed the onboard computer programs that powered NASA’s Apollo missions, including the 1969 moon landing.

She often brought her daughter Lauren to work on weekends, where she’d play on the flight simulator Margaret built to test in flight programs. Lauren once crashed the simulator mid flight by pressing a button, so Margaret programmed a backstop to prevent the astronauts doing it for real.

13. Women in Northern Ireland finally won the right to choose

Despite being a part of the UK, abortion was illegal in Northern Ireland in almost every instance, including when the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest, and when the fetus has a fatal abnormality that means it would not survive outside of the womb. 

Unlike the rest of the UK, the 1967 Abortion Act did not extend to Northern Ireland, meaning women had to travel to the UK mainland, and sometimes further, to have a safe and legal abortion. 

From 22 October abortion was decriminalised in Northern Ireland. Anyone who accesses an abortion service, including abortion pills, will not be prosecuted.

14. Women took to the streets to protest rape culture and victim shaming in organized song

A Chilean protest song about rape culture and victim shaming became a viral anthem for feminist around the world and performances took place in Mexico, Colombia, Spain, France, the UK and beyond.

15. Equality Now won Finland’s International Gender Equality Prize

Equality Now was awarded Finland’s International Gender Equality Prize for changing discriminatory laws around the world. The prize, which was awarded for the second time, was presented for our work in changing discriminatory laws and practices around the world. In 2017, the Government of Finland’s International Gender Equality Prize was awarded to German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Equality Now was chosen out of 300 nominees, in recognition of our significant and high-impact work on women and girls rights. Citing our collaborative advocacy work to change laws and shift gender norms locally, nationally, regionally and internationally to achieve gender equality. 

16. Communities in Kenya sped up efforts to end female genital mutilation 

In December, Kajiado County became the first County in Kenya to develop and launch a robust policy designed to end FGM at the community level. We couldn’t be prouder to be a part of this vital work. The policy is firmly grounded on the principles of gender equality, inclusivity and non-discrimination. It provides the legal framework required to fast track the eradication of FGM at County level. 

17. Girls in Sierra Leone won a historic victory in a case against their government 

In December, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court of Justice found that the government of Sierra Leone breached the right of pregnant girls to education by prohibiting pregnant school girls from accessing school. 

Equality Now along with, WAVES, Child Welfare Society, and the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA), filed the case against the Sierra Leone Government in May 2018.

In a landmark decision for the West African region and Africa in general, the Court declared the ban discriminatory and ordered the government of Sierra Leone to lift it with immediate effect. Further the court ordered the government of Sierra Leone to put in place measures including social programmes to address increased numbers of teenage pregnancies and sensitize the communities against discrimination.

18. All around the world, women spoke out against sexual violence and took their perpetrators to court

The #MeToo movement continued to inspire survivors in many different countries to come forward, resulting in several high-profile cases legal cases, including against powerful men like Jeffrey Epstein, R. Kelly and Harvey Weinstein in the U.S.,  and the “Wolf Pack” case in Spain. The power of #MeToo was also evident in Georgia, at a demonstration on International Women’s Day calling for reform of the country’s discriminatory rape laws.

As our report on rape laws in Georgia and its neighboring countries shows, there is still work to be done in order for survivors everywhere to obtain justice and be able to raise their voices without fear of reprisal, but as more and more women speak out and reclaim their power, it is clear that change is coming!

19. We found out that God is a Woman and we are all feeling Good as Hell about it!

We can’t stop blasting the power anthems from Lizzo, Ariana Grande and Cardi B this year. These and many other women have made themselves known in the music world, especially as top Rap and R&B artists. They’re living their Best Lives and we love it.