DENVER/LONDON — At the end of a calendar year it’s natural to step back and reflect on the past 12 months. What went well? What didn’t go well? What were the biggest stories? Today marks not only the end of a year but the end of a decade. And at she-files.com, we found ourselves asking what were the biggest stories for women and girls from the 2010s. After some back and forth, here are the ones we felt were urgent and relevant to highlight. What were the biggest stories for you?
The Nirbhaya Movement (2012)
On the night of December 16, 2012, Jyoti Singh, a 23-year-old medical student in Dehli, India was brutally gang-raped and left to die on the side of the road. The brutality of the crime shocked India, and the world, and drew national and international attention to the problem of sexual assault. The public’s outrage led to a change in laws regarding sexual violence against women, an act in 2013 dubbed the Nirbhaya Act, which redefined rape, other acts of violence against women, and sexual harassment. In December 2019, the brutal rape and murder of another young woman, a veterinarian in Hyderabad, brought a resurgence of outrage and anger at lack of progress.
Malala Yousafzai Receives Nobel Peace Prize (2014)
In 2014, Pakistani girls’ education activist Malala Yousafzai received the Nobel Peace Prize for her work as an advocate of girls’ rights. She had survived a 2012 assassination attempt made by the Taliban in Pakistan, her home country, because of her progressive opinions about a girl’s right to education. Ms. Yousafzai returned to Pakistan for the first time since the shooting on a surprise trip, still working for a girl’s right to education and still facing the threat of violence, in 2018.
Czarny Poniedziałek: Polish Women’s Strike (2016)
On Monday, October 3, 2016, women (and men) across Poland donned black clothing and waved black flags at organized demonstrations, boycotting work and school to protest a proposed abortion ban. The Czarny Poniedzialek (Black Monday) strike was successful, and the ban was defeated. In January 2017, she-files.com talked to Black Monday strike organizer Marta Lempart as the world prepared for a global Women’s March. As abortion laws in Poland remain some of the most strict in the EU, a group of international pro-choice activists recently kicked off a campaign to provide information and money to Polish women to travel abroad to terminate a pregnancy.
Russia Decriminalizes Domestic Violence (2017)
In February 2017, Russia passed a law that partially decriminalized domestic violence. Despite huge protests, it passed in the legislature with only three votes against it. In its wake, fewer women have reported abuse, which supporters say is a sign the law is working, and opponents believe is a sign that without a law criminalizing abuse women are less inclined to report it. The BBC recently shared stories of Russian women fighting back.
Women’s March Washington D.C. and Beyond (2017)
On January 21, 2017 hundreds of thousands of women (and men) gathered in Washington D.C. to protest the inauguration of President Trump who had been criticized for, among many things, misogynistic comments and a conservative stance on reproductive rights. According to the Washington Post, it was the largest single-day demonstration in U.S. history. Women around the globe, on every continent, showed support and solidarity with approximately 261 sister marches. She-files.com’s co-founder Ginanne Brownell Mitic joined the London Women’s March and we chose that same day to launch our webzine.
A Social Media Revolution: #MeToo, #TimesUp, #KuToo and More (2017 – 2019)
Started as a social media protest against the sexual harassment of women (aimed initially at Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein), #MeToo is a hashtag that women (and men) around the world grabbed hold of and took to digital platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram with stories of their own sexual harassment. In part due to investigative work by journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, Weinstein currently faces criminal charges for sexual assault and rape. Along with the inevitable backlash that most movements face, #MeToo was followed by other women’s rights hashtags like #TimesUp, #KuTu in Japan, and more.
Saudi Arabia Lifts Driving Ban for Women (2018)
In June, 2018, Saudi Arabia historically lifted its driving ban on women who prior to the ban being lifted had to rely on male relatives or expensive drivers to go anywhere. Lifting the ban has been life-changing for many women, giving them the freedom to leave home, drive to work or the store (the list goes on) on their own, for the first time.
Chilean Anti-rape Anthem Becomes Global Anthem (2019)
November 2019 saw the debut of “Un Violador en Tu Camino – A Rapist in Your Path,” a song written by a feminist theater group in Chile. Demonstrators marching around the globe protesting violence against women began using the song as an anthem during protests, and it soon went viral.
Female Genital Mutilation in Africa Declines (2000-2019)
The 2010s saw declines in the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) across Africa and significant monetary pledges from the United Kingdom and European Union to help end the practice. Even though the decade saw decline, according to the World Health Organization nearly 3,000,000 girls worldwide are currently at risk.
Header Image: London Women’s March (2017) by Ginanne Brownell Mitic.