This week in women’s rights: Lessons in leadership

This week in women’s rights: Lessons in leadership

Our global weekly round-up tracking progress on gender equality and other women’s rights issues. 

New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern resigned

Jacinda Ardern, one of the world’s most popular leaders, is resigning as New Zealand’s Prime Minister. She announced the unexpected move after five and a half years in the role, saying she “had no more in the tank”. 

Since her statement there has been much speculation over the cause of her resignation, including the misogynistic abuse she has faced during her time as PM. Others have noted it as yet another example of her compassionate style of leadership and a symbol of a truly democratic process – by putting the responsibility of the role first, and not clinging on to power (a refreshing antidote to the recent larks of Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro). 

In her resignation speech Ardern concluded: “I want to finish with a simple thank you to New Zealanders for giving me this opportunity to serve and to take on what has and will always be the greatest role of my life. I hope in return I leave behind a belief that you can be kind but strong, empathetic, but decisive, optimistic but focused, that you can be your own kind of leader – one that knows when it’s time to go.” 

Legislative changes: compensation and recognition 

Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir, a former football player for Olympique Lyonnais, has won a landmark maternity pay case against the club. Under rules approved by FIFA in 2021, players must be given 14 weeks of paid maternity leave, however the club failed to comply. It will now pay the footballer more than €82,000 in back payments plus interest. 

Children in England and Wales who are born as a result of rape will be recognised as victims under new legislation. Daisy’s Law, named after a campaigner born as a result of a rape in the 1970s who successfully pursued a criminal case against her birth father, will acknowledge as victims bereaved families and children who have witnessed domestic abuse, as well as people born of rape. 

Up until now if a person conceived by rape tried to report a suspect to the police it wouldn’t usually be investigated. The aim of the new law is to provide better access to support from the police and the courts.

Read more: UN calls for justice as countries still fail rape survivors 

Protecting the safety of Ukrainian refugees

Online searches for sexual content related to Ukrainian women and girls have increased by 600% since the Russian invasion began. The OSCE Office of the Special Representative and Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, has found that  “Ukraine refugee porn” is a trending online search. 

The OSCE, which operates in eastern Europe and central Asia, is campaigning to make Ukrainian refugees aware of the dangers posed by traffickers. To do this it has launched a website with information about potential risks and a telephone hotline. 

It is advising that people fleeing Ukraine upload identification documents to the Ukrainian government’s official app, do not go anywhere with strangers, inform others of their travel plans, and arrange a code word with relatives for particularly dangerous situations.

refugees, women, ukraine
Source: OSCE Survey on the Safety and Security of Women Refugees from Ukraine

The first female Sikh judge in the US

Manpreet Monica Singh is the first Sikh woman to be appointed as a judge in the US, after being sworn in for Harris County in Texas. 

Born and raised in Houston, Singh has worked as a trial lawyer for more than 20 years, winning a number of awards throughout an illustrious career including the Texas Diversity Champion Award in 2018.

In an interview with Hindustan Times, Singh said: “It is an honour to be able to represent our community. I hope I have the blessing of all Sikhs around the world.” 

Brit Awards are male-dominated after abolishing gender categories

The UK’s biggest music awards ceremony has failed to nominate a single female for artist of the year. 

In 2022 the Brit awards did away with gendered award categories with the aim of becoming “more inclusive, recognising exceptional work rather than how artists identify”, however all the nominees for 2023’s best artist award are men. Meanwhile four out of the five nominations for album of the year are also men. 

The news prompted a public backlash, with a number of people on social media saying that it was entirely predictable there would be a lack of women nominated if the awards got rid of gendered categories. 

London’s Met police force fails again 

London Metropolitan police officer David Carrick has pleaded guilty to 49 offences including 24 charges of rape. Carrick had worked as an armed police officer in the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection since 2009, and despite numerous complaints and investigations over domestic violence in 2002 he was allowed to continue working in the force. 

Between 2003 and 2020 Carrick abused and raped women after meeting them on dating apps, using his position as an armed officer to gain their trust. He regularly used physical violence and other forms of degradation including urinating on his victims and controlling what they could eat or sleep. 

Following Sarah Everard’s murder at the hands of a police officer in 2021, revelations of Carrick’s brutal actions have prompted more questions over the UK police’s failure to protect women. 

Read more: How UK police are failing to protect women

Protecting women’s reproductive rights 

Spain’s conservative Partido Popular (PP) has stopped anti-abortion plans from being enacted in the Castilla Y Leon region. The far right party Vox, which governs Castilla y León in coalition with PP, had proposed that doctors try to dissuade women from having a termination by giving them a psychological consultation and a chance to listen to the foetal heartbeat. 

In a statement to the media, Minister of the Presidency and Court Relations Félix Bolaños, said they would “immediately cease any setback of women’s rights” and that the plans were a “violation of the rights and freedoms of women”.

Read more: “This is how change happens” – Activists use social media for reproductive justice in Morocco

Women in Amsterdam will be able to request that a “buddy” accompanies them to abortion clinics from autumn this year. The buddies programme is being launched to assist women who are worried about getting past anti-abortion protesters, and who want a companion if they haven’t told family or friends. The buddy scheme is already running in the Dutch cities of Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht.

Handicrafts by India’s Dangaria women get official recognition

Women of the Dangaria tribe in the Indian state of Odisha are to receive the geographical indication (GI) tag for their handcrafted shawls and paintings. 

The GI label means that the government will help to promote the items both nationally and abroad. Additionally the government intends to buy 2,000 Dangaria shawls each year, which will support tribal women in the region financially. 

The shawls in particular have great cultural significance, as they are typically weaved by unmarried women using traditional thread and then gifted to male family members.

Read more: Women must stop feeling sorry for speaking up

Leila Hawkins


Featured image: Jacinda Ardern, 2019. Photo: Nevada Halbert / CC BY 2.0

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