The day is almost here! March 8th is International Women’s Day (IWD) 2017. I hope this special day will be full of actions that help move the world toward being gender equal. On IWD, which dates back to 1908, let’s celebrate the accomplishments of women around the globe. Here are five of the many women championing for equal rights for women:
As a women’s rights activist from Saudi Arabia, Manal al-Sharif inspired a campaign for women’s right to drive. She went against the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia and was imprisoned for nine days after filming herself driving a vehicle and then posting it to YouTube.
Her 2011 Women2Drive campaign put pressure on the government to change the law, particularly when social media picked up the story of this woman who questioned why women did not have the same rights as men. She continues to speak out about female oppression in her country.
In the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua, Alma Gomez campaigns against feminicide. She co-wrote a chapter of the Terrorizing Women: Feminicide in the Americas book, as well as penning several articles on the killing of women who were involved in human rights causes.
Gomez talks about institutional sexism, meaning that females are discriminated against in society and men are given better opportunities. She works with equality campaign organizations in Chihuahua and around the world.
American author and feminist activist Naomi Wolf is perhaps best known for her book The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women that published in 1991. This book was a bestseller, and Wolf became a founding figure in third-wave feminism. Her suggestion that the pressure on women to look young, slim, and beautiful was the latest way men are exerting power over women was revolutionary and generated important discussions.
Wolf’s book vigorously focused on women who seemed to have it all but were physically and emotionally pained by trying to look like celebrities. She continues to share her views on social media and news sites about gender inequalities.
In addition to being the former Austrian Prime Minister (2010-2013), Julia Gillard is a prominent advocate for bettering education systems for girls around the world. She explains that if educational structures are not improved, girls will be left behind.
She is currently a patron of Camfed, the Campaign for Female Education. Camfed fights poverty and inequality by providing supports for girls to attend primary schools and stand up for their rights. Gillard has spoken extensively about universal education and improving education for girls in developing countries.
In 2012, 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by the Taliban in Northwest Pakistan after she wrote a BBC Diary defending girls’ rights and speaking out against the Taliban’s ban on girls from school there. Today she is at the forefront of the women’s change movement and the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
She reminds us that we are never too young to advocate for change and not to be scared away from a mission. She founded the Malala Fund with her father, co-wrote I am Malala, and, on her 18th birthday, she opened a school for Syrian refugee girls.
Celebrating and Empowering Women
Making changes, no matter how big or small, are possible, as these five amazing women illustrate for us. No matter what part of the world you live in, I encourage you to organize and participate in activities that encourage gender equality on Women’s International Day 2017 and beyond. By celebrating the accomplishments of females, we are helping move toward an environment in which women and girls are equal to males.