We see gender inequality everywhere and there is still so much work to be done. Fortunately, there have been some wonderful achievements for women’s rights and feminism in recent years which gives us hope. We'd like to celebrate a decade of milestones for feminism by highlighting some of our favourite moments from 2012 to now.
2012: Every participating nation at the Olympics had female athletes competing
Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei didn’t allow women to compete in the games until the 2012 London Olympics when these countries finally lifted the sexist ban. For the first time ever in history, every nation had female athletes competing in the games.
“This is a major boost for gender equality." - Jacques Rogge
2014: Malala Yousafzai became the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner
Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani activist for female education. In 2012, she made a speech advocating for the right for girls to learn. In the same year, a Taliban terrorist attempted to assassinate her while she was getting onto her school bus. Malala was then transferred to England where she received medical treatment and fortunately made an exceptional recovery. This tragic incident didn’t stop her from continuing her activism for girls’ educational rights. In 2013, Malala gave an inspiring speech at the United Nations Youth Assembly. In 2014, she won the Nobel Peace Prize at age 15 making her the youngest person to ever receive this award.
“One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.” - Malala Yousafzai
2014: The books 'We Should All Be Feminists’ and ‘Bad Feminist’ were published
Two inspiring books were published by two passionate advocates for gender equality. Both books quickly became well-known and sparked discussion about feminism. Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wrote the book ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ which was adapted from her 2012 Ted Talk speech. In this book, she discusses the sexism that women face daily and specifically delves into the gender issues within Nigerian culture. Click here to read a short summary of this wonderful book and to discover other books about female empowerment. American author Roxane Gay’s book ‘Bad Feminist’ explores gender issues in a collection of essays. She draws on her experience as a black woman and the societal pressures and misconceptions of what it means to be a perfect feminist.
“Some people ask: ‘Why the word feminist? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights?’ Because that would be ... a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women.” - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
2015: Nigeria banned female genital mutilation
Nigeria passed a law which made genital mutilation illegal. Before 2015, this practice was unfortunately common in some Nigerian states.
“With such a huge population, Nigeria’s vote in favour of women and girls is hugely important” - Mary Wandia
2016: The Gambia, Zimbabwe and Tanzania outlawed child marriage
These three African countries passed a law which prohibits anyone under the age of 18 from getting married. Prior to 2016, girls as young as 14 could get married in Tanzania and The Gambia while in Zimbabwe the minimum age was 16.
“Zimbabwe has finally disentangled herself from the religious and cultural myths that perpetuated the scourge of child marriages.” - Ruth Labode
2016: Hilary Clinton became the first woman to receive a presidential nomination from a major political party in the USA
Former first lady Hilary Clinton became the first ever female nominee of a major political party in the States.
“Too many women in too many countries speak the same language — of silence.” - Hilary Clinton
2017: Lebanon, Jordan and Tunisia abolished the ‘marry your rapist’ law
Lebanon, Jordan and Tunisia repealed a law that allowed a rapist to avoid prosecution if he married his victim.
“A white dress doesn’t cover rape.” - the ABAAD (Resource Centre for Gender Equality)
2017: Iceland made it illegal to pay men more than women
Iceland passed an equal pay law which requires all companies and employers who employ more than 25 people to prove that men and women are paid equally. Here you'll find more information about the gender pay gap in other countries.
"You have to dare to take new steps, to be bold in the fight against injustice." - Thorsteinn Viglundsson
2017: The #MeToo movement took off
In 2006, activist Tara Burke created the Me Too movement to support survivors of sexual violence. She saw these two simple words as a way for victims to relate to each other and feel empowered. The term gained global recognition in 2017 when allegations of sexual harassment and assault were made against Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein. Actress Alyssa Milano encouraged people to post the hashtag #MeToo across social media if they had been sexually assaulted or harassed. She thought that this may help to highlight the severity and magnitude of this problem. Within days, #MeToo went viral online with millions of comments, reactions and posts on the topic as people around the world shared their stories.
"My hope is that in fifty years we'll have a generation that has grown up their whole lives hearing about consent and boundaries." - Tarana Burke
2017: People everywhere took part in the Women’s March
On Donald Trump’s first day of presidency in 2017, hundreds of thousands gathered in cities all over the United States to take part in the Women’s March. People came together to advocate for women’s rights and to protest Trump and all the sexist beliefs that he stood for. All over the world, many countries followed suit as sister marches advocating for social change and gender equality took place on the same day. In the USA, the Women’s March was the largest single day protest in the country’s history.
"We are mothers. We are caregivers. We are artists. We are activists. We are entrepreneurs, doctors, leaders of industry and technology. Our potential is unlimited." - Alicia Keys
2017: Ashley Graham became the first ever plus size woman to appear on the cover of Vogue magazine
Ashley Graham, a plus size model from the USA, became the first woman in history to be on the front cover of Vogue. She is an activist for body positivity who encourages women to accept and love themselves at any size.
“Too fat, too thin, too loud, too quiet - I was never going to fit the standards others created for me. Instead of complying, I protested.” - Ashley Graham
2018: Jacinda Ardern became the first elected world leader to take maternity leave
The prime minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Arden, became the second elected world leader to have a baby while in office and the first to take maternity leave. The first elected leader to give birth was Benazir Bhutto, who was the prime minister of Pakistan in 1990.
“It is a woman’s decision about when they choose to have children, and it should not predetermine whether or not they are given a job or have job opportunities.” - Jacinda Arden
2018: Saudi Arabia lifted its ban on female drivers
Women in Saudi Arabia gained more freedom and independence as the law which banned them from driving was lifted. Before this law change, women in Saudi Arabia had to rely on chauffeurs and male family members to travel anywhere by car.
“I always knew this day would come. But it came fast. Sudden. I feel free like a bird.” - Samar Al-mogren
2018: Ireland legalised abortion
Before 2018, abortion was banned in Ireland unless the woman’s life was at risk, but this changed when the country held a referendum to decide whether this law should be overturned. The results were overwhelmingly positive with almost two thirds of the population voting to legalise abortion. Read our article about abortion laws to see how Ireland compares to other countries.
“The people have spoken. The people have said that we want a modern constitution for a modern country” - Leo Varadkar
2019: Sanna Marin became the youngest elected leader in history
Sanna Marin became the youngest prime minister in the world at just 34 years old. In addition to this milestone, all five party leaders in the coalition government were women with the majority being younger than 40.
"Maybe it's not such a big deal in Finland that we have five women in power....hopefully in the future we have people from all kinds of backgrounds making the decisions in powerful places." - Sanna Marin
2020: Kamala Harris became the first black female to be elected as the vice president of the United States
Kamala Harris is the daughter of a Jamaican father and an Indian mother, both of whom are immigrants. Not only did she make headlines by being the first ever black female vice president of the US, but she also became the first South Asian American to take this position of power. You can read more about Kamala Harris in this article.
“While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last. Because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.” - Kamala Harris
2021: Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala became the first African and first woman to be the leader of the World Trade Organisation
Since the foundation of the World Trade Organisation in 1995, there has never been a female leader. This changed in 2021 when Nigerian economist Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala became the first woman to take on this leading role. In addition to this tremendous accomplishment, she is also the first African to hold this position.
“Educating our young girls is the foundation for Nigeria’s growth and development.” - Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
It’s uplifting to acknowledge these excellent achievements for feminism. However, we must remember that there is still a long way to go, as the past decade was certainly full of ups and downs. It’s important that we continue to fight for gender equality and advocate for change so that the next decade brings even more exceptional breakthroughs for feminism. What was your favourite milestone from this article? Let us know in the comments.