Thinking about how far our society has to go when it comes to women’s rights can be frustrating. Realities like domestic violence and the wage gap can be upsetting to think about. However, it’s important to remember that there is a lot progress happening for women’s rights that we can get excited about. Here are some things that changed for the better for women in 2018:
The Right To Drive
In Saudi Arabia, law recently changed regarding women and driving. Before, women were allowed to own cars but were not permitted to drive them. Women began advocating for the right to drive and they were strongly opposed. For example, many women who had protested for driving rights were detained or put in jail. According to The New York Times, these women were accused of undermining “the security and stability of the kingdom.” In spite of this, the driving ban for women was ended and women in Saudi Arabia now have the right to drive.
Another victory for women’s rights this year was Ethiopia’s election of its first female president. Sahle-Work Zewde was appointed just one month before Meaza Ashenafi became the supreme court’s first female judge. At this historical moment, Ethiopia has become the third African country with a cabinet that is equally split between women and men.
Like Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia, Iceland is undergoing changes promoting women’s rights as well. In January, Iceland became the first country where it is not legal to pay men higher wages than women in the same position. Now, government agencies and companies that employ more than 25 staff members must have government certificates showing that they pay men and women equally. Those that don’t have certificates can be fined.
Perhaps one of the most significant gains the women’s rights movement made in 2018 was the how popular feminism became. One of the biggest criticisms of feminism had been that the movement could not maintain the general public’s attention and interest. Another criticism is that the movement divides men and women. Others argue that feminism is not relevant in the 21st century because women have already gained their rights. No matter what the argument is, the result is suspicion about any activities with the “feminist” label.
Luckily, feminist activists have created a wide range of strategies to make the movement accessible to everyone, including men. One of the biggest successes in making feminist causes visible and relevant was the #MeToo Movement. #MeToo gained visibility in late 2017 and really took off in 2018. The movement uses tools such as social media to share stories about sexual harassment and assault. The #MeToo Movement worked to generate authentic conversations about sexual harassment and sexual violence in the workplace. It is also provided women with public forums through which to develop strategies for resistance.
As 2019 begins, it’s time to start thinking about how we can advance the cause of women’s rights around the world. There are many ways to get involved in the amazing progress that women are making. Are you ready to join the fight to create a future where women and girls all over the world can live fully and freely?
Advance women’s rights in your community by giving girls the tools they need to achieve their education and career goals, empowering them to break cycles of poverty, violence, and abuse.
Jocelyn Crawley is a radical feminist who found feminism in her late 20s. She has published several works on a wide range of feminist topics, including rape culture, gender identity, feminist literature, and misogynist music lyrics. Her favorite feminist books are Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. In addition to volunteering with awesome organizations such as LiveYourDream.org, she enjoys doing yoga and sipping coffee while having great conversations with friends. Her objective for 2019 is working at the local level with other radical feminists to develop strategies for resistance to rape.