It can be said without any doubt that 2019 was the year of women. There were numerous women-led campaigns and movements across the world, which carved new revolutionary pathways and led to historic judgements. Women across Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Latin America came out in large numbers, to protest governmental laws, social practices, patriarchal norms and environmental issues.
Here are the top twelve instances of women-led campaigns that brought about a sea of changes in global institutions, with their panache, grit, compassion, and determination:
1) Greta Thunberg speaking on climate change
A 16-year-old Swedish girl, Greta Thunberg, was summoned by the United Nations, to make a public appearance and speak about ongoing climate change issues and the corporate greed that is leading to further crisis. The zealous teenager, after conducting several sit-in demonstrations in her home country, spoke out against the powerful leaders of various states and hit masculine ego right at its core. Her speech inspired many young people across the globe, including students and local activists.
2) US women’s soccer team
Braving male gaze, sexism, and patriarchal retorts, the women’s football team of the United States showed the world through an enthralling performance, what women can achieve. After winning the women’s football world cup, the US team was greeted with a thunder of applause, negating all the trolls from their patriarchal citizens as well as the political leaders of the county, including the president. Megan Rapinoe, the captain of the team, spoke out against sexism and inspired young women to take part in sports. The team also filed a lawsuit demanding equal pay. Official records say that over the past couple of years, the women’s team garnered more revenue than the men’s team, yet the players are not paid as much as the men’s team.
3) Women protestors across India
December 2019 was a critical period for Indian politics and young political leaders, due to the rise of the fascist nature of the state and the implementation of xenophobic citizenship bills. People across the country erupted in massive protests. At the centre of all these protests were the youth, especially the women. From Shaheen Bagh to Park Circus to Mansoor Ali Park to Shantibag, women laid the foundation for the consolidated movement against the unlawful citizenship bills. Apart from the public spaces, numerous universities also came under the limelight, as several students were harassed and attacked in their plight to demand justice.
4) Chilean women marching against sexual harassment
The Chilean government has been under the scanner for years, regarding its economic policies and its lack of empathy towards women who survive assaults on a regular basis. As a response, in December 2019, thousands of women hit the streets and marched in solidarity against the government, demanding justice and amendments to existing laws. The protests witnessed several clashes between the state’s police forces and the protestors, leaving many injured. However, it led to a grave impact on the image of the government. This movement resulted in the composition of the world-famous feminist song, ‘A rapist in your path’ – which has been adopted by many gender-justice groups across the world.
5) Palestinian women fighting against the Israeli military forces
It has been more than a decade since the Israeli occupation of Palestine found its place in global headlines. For years, Israeli military forces have been engaging in genocide and vandalising Palestinian homes. In 2019, there was a steep upheaval among the women of Palestine, who decided to fight back for their land. Throughout the year, there were instances in which undaunted women took to the streets and defended their properties by taking up weapons against the military forces of the dominator. Several images of Palestinian women were circulated across social media, following which women in other parts of the world gained the courage to speak up against atrocities.
6) Brazilian women marching against the far-right government
Last year, Brazil witnessed several instances of anti-government protest marches across the country, especially in the capital city. The president of the country was labelled by many as a capitalist, misogynist and racist. The country-wide protests addressed the government’s economic policies, especially the protection of the rights of indigenous people and protection of the forests that were being cleared for coal mining. The march to the capital was also joined by indigenous women. The mass demonstration was called ‘March of the Margaridas’. Such governmental policies proposed by the president were termed as ‘genocidal policies’ against indigenous people.
7) Angela Merkel crusading against anti-immigrant ideologies
Since the mass exodus of Syrian civilians, due to the Syrian civil war, European citizens have been facing a large-scale identity crisis, fuelled by the far-right organisations. Several state leaders expressed their xenophobic views and proposed racist and Islamophobic laws. As the state-sponsored attacks on migrants across Europe rose to its peak, Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, crusaded against the far-right anti-immigrant mindset. Incidentally, among all the European nations, Germany sheltered the maximum number of Syrian refugees and provided them with rehabilitative care.
8) Women protesting the shooting of Alton Sterling in Louisiana
The United States, notorious for mass shootings and police unaccountability, erupted in protest after a black man named Alton Sterling was shot down by two policemen from the Baton Rouge Police Department, in Louisiana. The arbitrary shooting of coloured people has been a constant matter of concern in the United States. The movement called ‘Black Lives Matter’ came under the vigilant eyes of the global media, over recent years, as numerous incidents of racism across the country go unpunished. The protest march against the shooting of Sterling was led by an army of women who challenged the police barricades and demanded justice. A photograph of a woman standing face-to-face with a policeman took the internet by storm, giving new hopes to women across the world.
9) Women marching against the Bolivian government
The Bolivian government underwent several structural transformations, over the past few years. In November 2019, thousands of women were seen protesting the new interim leader of the state, lashing out against her ideologies. There were numerous clashes between the military and the civilians who were in favour of Morales (who had been ousted). Hundreds of people were injured and many killed. The protestors marched with coffins of the people who were killed in the clashes, to portray the heinous nature that the state had newly developed.
10) Women lawmakers demanding gender justice in Turkey
Women have always been at the forefront of social justice movements in Turkey. Given the increase in gender-based violence across the country, in 2019, eight core lawmakers of the opposing party organised a protest demonstration in the general assembly of Turkey. The protest involved active banging of desks, singing the Chilean protest song (‘A rapist in your path’) and holding up posters of women who were victims of violence. This movement was one of the numerous vital protests against gender inequality in the country.
11) Alaa Salah leading a protest in Sudan
In April 2019, an iconic photograph of a Sudanese woman named Alaa Salah went viral on social media all over the world. She led thousands of women to actively take part in the country-wide protest against the then president, who was arrested days after the news hit the international headlines. Sudanese citizens took to the streets in large numbers, demanding positive transformations in the country’s economic conditions and laws. The movement was a historic one as women and young citizens marched in consolidated numbers, representing more than 70% of the dissenters.
12) The first African summit on child marriage and female genital mutilation
In a historic move, in 2019, Tanzania and Egypt passed a law to ban child marriage. The first African summit on child marriage was held in Senegal and a fatwa was issued on the same, by the deputy Grand Imam of al-Azhar. The fatwa on child marriage was drafted by many young activists, including the Gambian activist and UN Women’s Regional Goodwill Ambassador for Africa, Jaha Dukureh. The law specified the legal age for marriage to be 18 years and emphasised on the issue of mutual consent.
Throughout 2019, there were millions of women who rose in protests and resisted state-sponsored terrorism, across the world. However, amidst numerous movements, the protesters were treated with pellets, tear gas, air guns, and lathis (rods used to beat people, using physical force). Moreover, many women leaders and inspirational figures were publicly ridiculed and threatened for being ‘too outspoken’ or for ‘having gone over the mark’. From all these women-led movements, it is evident that the fragile masculine ego is at stake. Women taking to the streets, lashing out against rigid social institutions, has been a constant point of dilemma for the authoritarian forces.
Such movements are expected to continue, until a day arrives when patriarchy, sexism, and fascism cease to exist, at all levels. Until then, we can expect more such movements and protests that defy social norms and demand equal rights for every person. We, as a society, must come together and support the women warriors of today, in order to witness an egalitarian world.
Long live our revolution!
Featured image used for representative purpose only. Image source: New York Times