10 MAJOR GAINS FOR GENDER JUSTICE IN 2019

Feminist movements have the power to disrupt the status quo and radically alter the course of history. Despite new challenges and the rollback of rights for trans- and cis-gender women, girls, and historically marginalized people, we saw that when activists rise to the moment, they can achieve deep, lasting change—change that keeps us hopeful for 2020.

Join Global Fund for Women in celebrating significant gains made this year for women’s human rights and gender justice, including legal wins, powerful displays of solidarity, and cultural shifts all made possible by the innovation, organizing, and persistence of social justice movements.

1. WE TOOK TO THE STREETS

Hong Kong. Algeria. Sudan. Ecuador. Lebanon. Chile. Brazil. South Africa. Haiti. Nicaragua. Millions of people around the globe mobilized for change and against human rights abuses—and in many cases, feminists and women’s human rights defenders were on the frontlines of these protests, demanding that gender justice be part of the agenda. In Algeria, women demanded equal rights and protested against political corruption, ultimately leading to the president’s resignation. In Ecuador, indigenous women led the way in calling for the revocation of an austerity package that drastically drove up prices on basic needs such as food and transportation. And in Sudan, a protest against corruption was made up of an estimated 70% women; their powerful uprising ultimately led to Omar al-Bashir’s removal after a 30-year dictatorship, and organizing is still ongoing to push for a better future for Sudan. While there is still political unrest in many of these countries, these mass mobilizations have kick-started revolutions that will change history.

Grantee partners getting it done

In Lebanon, grantee partner Collective for Research on Training and Development—Action (CRTD.A) has been actively leading the charge for including gender justice demands in the protests, including changes to citizenship and personal status laws. Global Fund for Women also provided funding to groups in Brazil and Bolivia who are responding to the devastating fires in the Amazon and protesting the government’s response, as well as a gathering of Sudanese activists to strategize together in the wake of the protests.

2. #METOO ON THE INTERNATIONAL POLICY STAGE

The International Labor Organization—the United Nations (UN) agency that sets global labor standards and develops policies to promote decent work—voted to adopt the first legally binding treaty to address gender-based violence at work. Convention 190 on Ending Violence and Harassment in the World of Work covers workers in the formal and informal sectors, and for the first time offers protection for those without official formal labor contracts. Women’s rights organizations helped lobby for this convention, and now they are leveraging it to advance national laws to protect workers, while women union leaders and labor rights advocates are urging governments to ratify the Convention and ensure that these landmark protections are put into practice in 2020.


(Bangladesh): Garment workers in Bangladesh who are part of grantee parter Naripokkho’s initiative to raise awareness about worker’s rights and end sexual harassment in factories.

Grantee partners getting it done

Red Flag Women’s Movement in Sri Lanka is using the Convention to advance laws to protect domestic workers, while groups such as BLAAST and Naripokkho in Bangladesh are working with garment workers to advocate for safer work environments.

3. WOMEN IN KENYA AND MEXICO FIGHT AND WIN IN LANDMARK BATTLES FOR REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS

After years of advocacy, women in Kenya and Oaxaca, Mexico made history this year with landmark rulings for legal abortion. In Kenya, the country’s High Court ruled that rape victims have the right to legal abortion. (Previously, abortion was allowed under the Constitution only when a woman’s health or life was in danger.) The landmark ruling was in response to a petition filed by a mother whose daughter became pregnant after she was raped in 2014 at age 15 and later died as a result of unsafe abortion. While all women should be able to access abortions without restrictions, expanding the law to include rape is a step in the right direction, and thousands of lives could be saved by the order; almost half a million abortions were performed in Kenya in 2012 (the most recent data available).

In the southern state of Oaxaca in Mexico, legislators decriminalized abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy following advocacy efforts by women’s groups and female politicians—a huge achievement for the majority-Catholic country. It’s the second state in Mexico (after Mexico City) to legalize abortion; elsewhere in the country, abortion is only legal in cases of rape and, in some parts of the country, when a woman’s health is in danger. Now, activists are hopeful that the wave for reproductive rights will continue throughout Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America.

Grantee partners getting it done

Global Fund for Women grantee partners Trust for Indigenous Culture and Health (TICAH) and Kisumu Medical and Education Trust were part of the movement calling for this legislative win in Kenya, and continue to provide  expanded access to quality maternal and adolescent sexual and reproductive health services, including post-abortion care, to underserved and rural communities. In Mexico, grantee partners Consorcio Oaxaca helped advocate for the change in abortion law to the public as well as members of congress, and were part of a coalition of women’s organizations who helped get the law passed.

4. TEEN GIRLS TAKE ON CLIMATE CHANGE

“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words…How dare you!” The righteous anger shown by 16-year-old Greta Thunberg in her speech at the UN Climate Action Summit in September was unforgettable. And Greta is far from alone in her conviction—in fact, millions of people participated in climate marches in 2019, a huge number of them teen girls. Greta was perhaps the most visible, but other young women have been equally outspoken and passionate in advocating for climate justice. Some teen leaders who are changing the face of climate activism include 11-year-old Mari Copeny, who is demanding that the water pollution in Flint, Michigan be resolved; Xiye Bastida, a 17-year-old in the U.S. who brings her Otomi indigenous belief in protecting the earth to her organizing; and13-year-old Autumn Peltier of Wiikwemkoong First Nation in Canada, who advocates for clean water.

5. LOVE IS LOVE IN TAIWAN

In May, after years of efforts by LGBTQI+ rights supporters, Taiwan became the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage. This win was hard fought: members of parliament in Taiwan began introducing same-sex marriage bills in 2003 but were repeatedly rejected, and changes to the law bounced between the legislature, courts, and voters through 2018. Now, with marriage rights in place in Taiwan, activists are hopeful that the decision will have a ripple effect in Asia and influence other countries to take on similar legislation. In fact, the LGBT community in neighboring Hong Kong is already calling on its government to follow Taiwan’s lead.


Grantee partner Loom in Nepal works with underserved groups, including LGBTQI people.

Grantee partners getting it done

Global Fund for Women supports groups advocating for LBTQI rights in Asia, including LOOM in Nepal, which works on the economic empowerment of underserved groups, including queer and trans people, and Point of View in India, which uses art and media to change social attitudes toward marginalized groups, including LBTQI people.

6. TRANS ATHLETES MAKE STRIDES FOR INCLUSION

Discrimination against trans people can extend from the doctor’s office to the workplace to the bathroom, and they are often without legal protections. But in 2019 we saw a wave of trans athletes around the world winning and shaking up sports. From New Zealand’s Laurel Hubbard, an Olympic-hopeful in weight-lifting, to college runner CeCé Telfer, champion in the 400 meter run, trans women athletes are more visible than ever before. They are also instigating important conversations about inclusion, not just for trans people but for intersex women like Caster Semenya. While legal protections and social change are still in the making, these athletes are demonstrating the simple fact that trans people have the right participate—and often times win—in all aspects of society, including in sports.

7. GROWING EFFORTS TO END HATE CRIMES AGAINST WOMEN

In September #WeAreIsraa spread across social media and inspired protests in Palestine after 21-year-old Israa Ghrayeb was murdered by her brother in a so-called “honor killing.” The public outrage for Israa’s murder is one example of increased demand for accountability for femicide in countries where violence against women and girls is normalized and often goes unpunished. Around the world, women’s movements and advocates are demanding an end to impunity for gender-based violence. In fact, this year in South Africa and Bolivia femicide was declared a national emergency; in countries including Turkey and Israel activists took to the streets and made public art to raise awareness about gender-based violence; and in Latin America, major multi-million dollar initiatives were implemented to fight femicide, which has been called a “silent genocide” in the region.


Women-led groups in Palestine are working to end impunity for the murders of women. Groups include grantee partner Shashat, which works with local communities to raise awareness by screening films created by young women from the area. (Pictured: an audience member at a screening hosted by Shashat)

Grantee partners getting it done

Global Fund for Women is funding 10 groups in Palestine as part of an anti-impunity for violence against women initiative. The groups are providing legal support, rights trainings, and are working on changing policies, including defeating a law that allows family members to waive murder charges in a femicide when the murderer is also a family member. We also are supporting groups in Latin America such as Colectivo Ni Una Menos in Argentina, who is doing innovative work to build movements against femicide, and groups in Africa such as Femmes et Droits Humains in Mali, who are advocating for laws against gender-based violence.

8. A LEGAL WIN FOR ENDING CHILD MARRIAGE IN TANZANIA

Tanzania has one of the highest rates of child, early, and forced marriage in the world, with two out of every five girls married before their 18th birthday. But in October, after a years-long battle by advocates, Tanzania’s top court ruled once and for all that marriage under the age of 18 is unconstitutional, defeating an appeal by the government that would have prevented raising the legal marriage age for girls from 14 to 18. (The government was not contesting raising the legal age for boys.) The process to change the law began in 2016, when girls’ rights advocate Rebeca Gyumi brought a legal petition against the marriage act. The case ultimately brought not only new legal protection, but a new public awareness that is also critical, alongside laws, to ending child marriage. “The amount of awareness and public discussion, the fact that we were talking about it amplified the issue of child marriage—–for me that was very positive,” says Rebeca, who also received the Human Rights Prize from the UN for her work. “I see how community members are starting to understand girls’ rights; that is really crucial. To… end child marriage [for good], we need local participation so that our interventions are sustainable.”


Rebeca Gyumi, far left, of Msichana Initiative, a group that was key to lobbying to change marriage laws to protect girls in Tanzania.

Grantee partners getting it done

Rebeca Gyumi is Executive Director of the Msichana Initiative, a Global Fund for Women grantee partner. The group advocates for girls’ right to a quality education and advocates for changes in laws, including the change in legal marriage age, that hinder girls’ ability to enjoy their full rights.

9. RIGHTS FOR DOMESTIC WORKERS IN MEXICO

A new law in Mexico means that millions of domestic workers will have legal protection, guaranteeing basic rights for a group that has historically been discriminated against and stigmatized. There are more than two million domestic workers in Mexico—many of them women of indigenous descent who migrate from rural areas for work. The new legislation, which passed in May, grants domestic workers labor rights such as limited work hours and paid time off. “This is an act of justice,” said Senator Martha Lucía Micher, one of the lawmakers who sponsored the bill, in the New York Times. “We are talking about the people who make it possible for other families to go out and work while these workers stay home taking care of their loved ones, of their houses.”


Semillas, a long-time grantee partner and sister fund in Mexico, was key to helping domestic worker protections get passed this year

Grantee partners getting it done

Semillas, one of Global Fund for Women’s long-time grantee partners, advocated for the passing of the law as well as raising public awareness around the issue of domestic workers’ rights.

10. SOLIDARITY IN ACTION IN IRAQ

The Organization of Women’s Freedom (OWFI) in Iraq has been working since 2003 to aid survivors of gender-based violence, offering shelter to women and girls escaping domestic violence or, in more recent years, women and girls brought home after being trafficked by ISIS. But this year OWFI received attention for their show of solidarity with a new population they didn’t initially set out to serve: gay men. Since coming into power, ISIS has made the targeting and murder of gay people part of their extremist agenda. Recognizing that gay people and women are both denied human rights under ISIS’s rule, OWFI stepped in to assist gay men in escaping from ISIS. OWFI is also compiling evidence of attacks and asking that ISIS leaders be charged with crimes against humanity for their persecution of gay people, which, if successful, could change international law. All this is happening amidst current grassroots protests against political corruption, unemployment, and lack of basic government services that are putting the country in further upheaval, further demonstrating that when governments neglect their citizens, civil society has a critical role to play.

Grantee partners getting it done

OWFI has been a Global Fund for Women grantee partner since 2006. They prioritize their work according to the needs of women in Iraq, including currently focusing on women’s human rights inside detainment centers and prisons, anti-trafficking work, and sheltering women survivors from sectarian clashes.

JOIN US

Courageous women and girls around the world are demanding power and resources to realize their rights. Join them and raise your voice in the fight for gender equality.