Today is Women’s Equality Day, a day celebrated every August 26 to commemorate the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, that granted women the right to vote. Across the world, women may not always be in a position to feel empowered and take a stand for their beliefs. However, through history, some women have fought for equal rights with men, such as gaining property rights, the right to vote, the right to work for equal pay, reproductive rights, and even the right to love freely. Here’s a timeline of some of the most iconic women and the change they initiated, inspiring millions around the world in the process!
1. Frida Kahlo – 1907
Openly bisexual, the artist used her work to portray taboo topics like abortion, miscarriage, breastfeeding and birth amongst other things, enabling conversation on these topics. Sporting a unibrow and a moustache, she unsubscribed to patriarchal society’s image of a woman, and celebrated characteristics that were deemed ‘unfeminine’.
2. Doria Shafik – 1951
The educator, journalist and reformer campaigned for women’s rights in Egypt. In 1951, she along with 1,500 other women Interrupted a session of the Egyptian parliament and demonstrated in Cairo demanding political rights, equal pay and reforms to personal status laws. These efforts were instrumental in paving the way for women’s right to vote in 1956.
3. Rigoberta Menchú -1960
In recognition of her work for social justice and ethnocultural reconciliation based on respect for the rights of indigenous peoples, Rigoberta became the first indigenous person to win a Nobel Peace Prize. She co-founded the Nobel Women’s Initiative to build peace, justice and equality and became a UN Ambassador for the world’s indigenous people.
4. Simone De Beauvoir – 1970
The French philosopher and writer helped launch the French Women’s Liberation Movement by signing the Manifesto of the 343, which argued for abortion rights. Her most influential work ‘The Second Sex’ helped begin a conversation around modern feminism.
5. Billie Jean King – 1973
Not just a star on the tennis court but also a social change activist off the court, she campaigned for equal prize money for men and women at the U.S. Open and threatened to boycott them if no action was taken. The U.S. Open eventually became the first major tournament to offer equal prize money to both sexes.
6. Dr Vandana Shiva – 1982
Also known as the “Eco Warrior Goddess”, the environmentalist and social activist founded the Research Foundation for Science, Technology, and Natural Resource Policy (RFSTN), an organization devoted to developing sustainable methods of agriculture. She founded Navdanya which entrusts women to maintain the livelihoods of their communities through the means of biodiversity, food and water.
7. Malala Yousafzai – 2013
The youngest person to be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize, Malala defied the Taliban, stood her ground, and fought for something that she deeply believed in. She established the Malala Fund, a charity dedicated to giving girls everywhere equal education opportunities, and inspiring millions of women around the world.
8. Loveness Mudzuru and Ruvimbo Tsopodzi – 2016
Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Court outlawed child marriage after these two former child brides took the government to court in a landmark case to challenge the practice which is rife in the country. The court ruled that no one in Zimbabwe may enter into any marriage, including customary law unions, before the age of 18.
9. Menaka Guruswamy and Arundhati Katju – 2018
On September 6, 2018, The Supreme Court of India struck down Section 377 of the IPC, which rendered sexual activities “against the order of nature” punishable by law. This landmark judgment was the outcome of a long-term campaign orchestrated by public-interest litigators, Arundhati Katju and Menaka Guruswamy. This was a giant step for LGBTQ+ rights in India.
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