Fighting for a better tomorrow: This week in women’s rights
Our global weekly round-up tracking progress on gender equality and other women’s rights issues.
Fearless work defending human rights
Sweden’s Olof Palme human rights prize for 2023 has been awarded to three women from Ukraine, Iran and Turkey for their work championing women’s rights.
Ukrainian Marta Chumalo is a psychologist and co-founder of Women’s Perspectives, an NGO promoting women’s rights and combating violence against women. Marta’s particular area of focus has been raising awareness of the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war.
Narges Mohammadi is an Iranian journalist and human rights activist who helped establish the Iranian National Peace Council. She has been arrested several times and is currently detained in the notorious Evin Prison convicted of “propaganda activity against the state.”
Eren Keskin is a human rights lawyer who has spent decades defending the rights of ethnic minorities, LGBTQ people and refugees in Turkey. She is the founder of the Association of Legal Aid Against Sexual Violence, an organisation that has successfully prosecuted a number of senior authority figures over the years. Like Narges, she has also faced stints in jail as a result of her work.
Afghan journalist Zahra Nader has launched Zan Times, a women-led newsroom that covers the human rights situation in Afghanistan, focusing on women, the LGBTQ community and environmental issues. Its key goal is to tell the stories of marginalised social groups by publishing multimedia content.
Zan Times joins the ranks of Rukshana Media, a women’s media organisation that shares stories by and about Afghan women.
Women still face sexism in politics, but more are running for office
More than two thirds (69%) of women MPs have witnessed sexist behaviour in the UK Parliament, according to a new report by The Fawcett Society.
The study includes interviews with current and former MPs, who spoke about a lack of support, online abuse, sexism, racism and ableism within the UK’s political system.
It also found a culture of online abuse, with 93% of women MPs saying that this was having a negative impact on how they feel about being an MP, while 73% said they do not use social media because of an abusive online environment.
The Fawcett Society is calling for the government to better address the disproportionate levels of online abuse experienced by women, and for political parties to improve women’s representation and ensure disabled women and women from Black and minority backgrounds are selected in winnable seats.
Women are running for local office at the same rate as men in the state of California for the first time in at least 25 years.
Researchers studied over 57,000 ballot entries from 1996 to 2019, and found that women today are as or more likely than men to run for school board and citywide administrative offices. Democratic-leaning areas are more likely to feature women in offices with general jurisdictions and higher policymaking profiles.
The study’s authors believe that this could signal an increase in the number of women candidates for higher office in the future.
Sporting strides in the Middle East and Cuba
Saudi Arabia and Palestine have appointed their first female international football referees. Anoud al-Asmari is the first Saudi woman to be selected for the role by FIFA, while Heba Saadia is Palestine’s first international referee.
Heba will officiate matches at the 2023 Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. She previously refereed matches inside the Palestinian Yarmouk refugee camp, once the largest Palestinian refugee community in Syria.
Cuban women are now allowed to compete in boxing matches, following a change to the rules by the country’s government.
For years women had been unable to participate as the former Cuban president’s late wife Vilma Espin, who headed the Federation of Cuban Women, allegedly considered “Cuban’s women’s faces too beautiful and precious” to be inside the ring.
Now boxers including Joanna Rodriguez and Edamelis Moreno will be able to represent Cuba at the Central American and Caribbean Games in June.
Making towns more equitable
A suburb of Paris has changed its name to draw attention to gender inequality.
Pantin, a neighbourhood in the north of the city, has temporarily been renamed “Pantine”, to highlight issues such as the pay gap between men and women. Local mayor Bertrand Kern announced the change via video, saying that “We will add an “E” to the name of the city to challenge people. We want to bring awareness to the need for equality between women and men, which is not yet perfect even though there have been improvements in recent years.”
The Welsh town of Llantrisant has changed a 14th century rule allowing women to become “freemen” of the town for the first time.
The tradition previously only enabled men to be in charge of land and local events. Nowadays it gives those with the title special land rights and an active role in the community, by electing trustees to make decisions on town matters. The rule change means women are now allowed to enrol, alongside men, from the age of 21.
A more representative justice system
Mexico’s Supreme Court has elected its first female president. Justice Norma Lucia Pina was sworn in earlier this month to begin a four-year term.
Although she has clashed with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, she has vowed to remain independent, stating: “My main proposal is to work to build majorities, leaving aside my personal vision.”
Supporting women activists in Ukraine
Ukrainian NGO Feminist workshop is providing accommodation to women who have become homeless as a result of the war, at an apartment in Lviv nicknamed the “FemApartment”.
Women staying here are provided with essentials such as hygiene products and food, and can live at the three-room apartment for up to six months for free, in exchange for volunteering to support others who have been affected by the war.
Coordinator Katya explained: “FemApartment” is a place where women can relax, recharge psychologically and physically before returning to active work.