Category Archives: WOMEN’S EQUALITY

A day without us’: What was the National Women’s Strike in Mexico and why did it take place?


An article by Cecilia González in (Russian television) (translation by CPNN)

Echoing the cry, ‘A day without us’, millions of Mexicans participated Monday March 9 in the National Women’s strike sparked by the wave of outrage over femicides and expanded to a long list of demands of the feminist agenda.

Video about the demonstration on International Women’s Day, Mexico City, March 8, 2020. Photo: Gustavo Graf / Reuters

Following the massive march on Sunday, in commemoration of International Women’s Day, public and private workers were called to leave offices, banks, supermarkets, restaurants, coffee shops, newspapers, shops and all kinds of work centers. The women who joined will also not perform domestic tasks to make their weight visible in the economy and society and to denounce the multiple aspects of gender violence.

A survey published last week by the newspaper El Financiero revealed that the strike had the support of 67% nationwide and that 57% of women intended to join it, demonstrating the progress of the feminist revolution that is now worldwide and that is writing a separate chapter here in Mexico.

In Mexico, 51% of the population and 52% of the voters are women. And they vote more than men. According to official data, in the 2018 presidential elections, which Andrés Manuel López Obrador won, 66.2% of the voters were women.

10 women killed every day

But inequality persists. A study by the International Observatory of Worthy Wages and the National Minimum Wages Commission estimates that Mexicans do work on a daily basis worth around 3,000 million dollars, but only one third of this is paid.

According to the Observatory of Decent Work of the organization Citizen Action Against Poverty, in the country men earn 16% more than women. The wage gap widens to 30% in the public sector.

Inequality is repeated in other areas. Data from the National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy indicate that there are more women than men in poverty: 27.3 million versus 25 million.

Reports of the Reinserta organization, meanwhile, conclude that the courts impose an average of five years imprisonment more on the Mexican women than on the men.

Violence is rampant. Last year, there were 51,146 complaints of sexual violence against women in the country, an increase of 19.1% compared to 2018. The trend continues to rise. Also in 2019, in Mexico 10 women are killed every day. Three years ago, the average was seven women killed.

That is why femicides became this year’s central theme of public conversation in Mexico and had a full impact on President López Obrador’s political agenda.

The National Women’s strike began to germinate in social networks following the shocking murders of Ingrid Escamilla, a 25-year-old girl who died stabbed and skinned, and Fatima, a seven-year-old girl who was found lying in a bag, with signs of torture.

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(Click here for the original article in Spanish or click here for a translation to French)

Questions related to this article:

Protecting women and girls against violence, Is progress being made?

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When the crimes occurred, Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero was involved in a controversy over his proposal to eliminate the classification “femicide” and replace it with “aggravated homicide.” The intention, according to him, was to improve the investigation and delivery of justice, but feminist organizations warned that this eliminated the gender component in the murder. The president rejected the initiative, but at a press conference he was upset and warned that he did not want to talk only about femicides because he also planned to promote the raffle of the presidential plane.

Critics of the López Obrador government and opportunism of the right

Mobilizations against femicides increased. The president responded with a diatribe against violence to women with inane phrases such as “protect the lives of all human beings”, “it is cowardice to attack women”, “women must be respected” and “punish to the guilty. ” He presented no specific strategies, policies or objectives. He later spoke of “a deep crisis of values,” of “decay” and that “only by being good can we be happy.” He called for “continuing moralizing, purifying public life” and blamed the femicides on neoliberalism.

With each statement he irritated the feminist groups more and more, but the president was even more surprised when he asked them to make their protests peaceful and no longer paint doors and walls of public buildings.

It was at those times that the collective Brujas del Mar reacted to the social unrest and through Twitter called for the Strike on Monday. The adhesion was immediate and massive.

In response, López Obrador denounced the opportunism of his “adversaries”, the “neoliberals”, “the conservatives” and “the right”, who supported and promoted the day only to criticize the government, as the case of the historic and right-wing Party Action National who promoted the Strike, but he continued his rejection of abortion even though it is one of the main feminist demands.

The political opposition tried to sell the idea that the strike was against López Obrador, although feminists are struggling against much more than just the government. Although the president showed some signs of understanding the women’s movement, he continued to make unfortunate responses. He announced, for example, that the presidential plane raffle would be held on March 9, that is, on the same day as the Women’s Strike. There were so many criticisms that he had to change the date.

The president’s reactions could explain, according to a survey published last week by the newspaper El Universal, that women’s support for his government has declined by 24.6% over the past 12 months.

One of the few achievements on the gender agenda that López Obrador can boast is that he is the only president who has appointed a cabinet with gender parity. In fact, in the midst of the political crisis unleashed by femicides, last week these ministers met together for the first time and said that the president does understand feminism and that women’s rights are a priority.

On Friday, however, López Obrador refused to define himself as a feminist. “I am a humanist,” he said.

Beyond the political disputes, the Strike managed to talk about femicides, abortion, inequitable salaries, lack of childcare, cultural pressures, generalized misogyny in the media, in social networks, in homes and harassment in the workplace..

Aggressions against women have been made more visible and discussed more than ever, but it is clear that there is still much work to be done to eradicate gender inequality and violence in the country.

Chile changing: transgender student leader lends voice to renewed protests


An article by Natalia A. Ramos Miranda from Reuters (reprinted by permission)

As the long southern hemisphere summer holiday draws to an end this month, students in Chile are returning to college – but not always to classes. Many are getting ready to head out into the streets and breathe new life into the protests that rocked the country last year.

Emilia Schneider

Organizers of marches to mark International Women’s Day on Sunday are hoping to attract large crowds. Last year, an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 attended the one in Santiago.

One of the loudest and most influential voices pressing for change is Emilia Schneider, a transgender, feminist and militant leftist who is the leader of the Student Federation of the University of Chile (Fech), the country’s oldest student union.

The Fech is known for its role in demonstrations for free education between 2011 and 2013 that brought Chile and its student leaders global attention. But it was caught on the backfoot in October last year when civil disobedience over public transport fare hikes spiralled into weeks of widespread violence and demonstrations over inequality and elitism.

The protests were Chile’s most profound unrest since the end of Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship in 1990. They cost the economy millions of dollars, at least 31 people died, more than 3,000 were injured, and 30,000 were arrested.

Now, the Fech is joining in, and has endorsed the protesters’ demands for deep societal changes.

“We are the sons and daughters of neo-liberal Chile and the shortcomings that came with it,” Schneider, a 23-year-old law student, told Reuters this week in an interview at the headquarters of the Fech.

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Question for this article

Do women have a special role to play in the peace movement?

Prospects for progress in women’s equality, what are the short and long term prospects?

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“We had seen years of protests in this country but the demands had not been heeded,” she said, citing the highly privatised provision of services such as health, education and pensions that had sparked a “sense of discomfort that built up over years.”

Schneider said she has benefited from a Gender Identity Law that allows people to legally change their name and sex and took effect in December last year. The passing of the law caused shockwaves in the historically conservative and predominantly Catholic country, where divorce was legalized just 16 years ago and abortion is allowed only in extreme situations.

She argues that her gender change was only made possible by her privileged position as a student leader and the support of her liberal family. Many like her still face job insecurity, discrimination, and patchy access to health services, she said.

Schneider has a potent link to the country’s dark past: her great-grandfather was General Rene Schneider, a well-known figure in Chile who opposed plans for a military coup in 1970 and was killed by a far-right group.

Older Chileans lived through the chilling effect of the 1973-1990 dictatorship but younger people protesting had less “fear of participating in politics,” she said.

President Sebastian Pinera has sought to address protesters’ grievances by sacking his most unpopular ministers and introducing new laws to improve salaries, pensions and healthcare. He also backed a growing clamour for a new constitution to replace the incumbent drafted during the Pinochet regime.

But many remain dubious about his ability to push the laws through a divided Congress and, if he does, how much change they will really bring.

Schneider has turned her organization’s focus to lobbying for influence over the new constitution and specifically the participation of more women in the drafting of the new text if it is approved in a referendum on April 26.

“We want a feminist constitution,” she said, “one that guarantees sexual and reproductive rights, gender equality and greater participation by women and those who do not conform to traditional genders.”

Chile may be changing, she said – but not fast enough. “We have to keep seeking new policies to generate fresh changes,” she said. “Protests alone will not get us there.”

A crucial moment for women’s rights in Afghanistan


An article by Heather Barr in Human Rights Watch

This is a moment of both fear and hope for Afghan women — and an urgent time for the world to support their hard-won rights. The Feb. 29 deal between the US and the Taliban could pave the way for a peace that Afghans desperately seek. But there are huge risks for women’s rights in this process.

Women walk along a street in the old part of Kabul on February 29, 2020. Women across the country are nervous about losing their hard-won freedoms in the pursuit of peace.  © 2020 WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP via Getty Images

Women have suffered deeply during Afghanistan’s 40 years of war, and they desperately long for peace. They have also fought ferociously for equality in the years since the fall of the Taliban government and have made great progress. Today there are women ministers and governors and judges and police and soldiers, and Afghanistan’s parliament has a higher percentage of women than does the US Congress.

But Afghan women’s rights activists have faced resistance from the Afghan government — and lack of support from international donors — as they fought for their rightful place at the negotiating table for peace talks. This exclusion, combined with the Taliban’s relentless discrimination against women and girls, increases fears that women’s rights could easily be a casualty of this process.

The US-Taliban deal is focused on foreign troop withdrawal and preventing Taliban support for international terrorism attacks. It also triggers “intra-Afghan” talks between the Taliban, the Afghan government, and other factions, which are slated to start March 10. But women’s rights were not included in the Feb. 29 deal. Zalmay Khalilzad, the lead US envoy to the talks, repeatedly said that women’s rights — and other issues relating to human rights, political structures and power sharing — should be resolved through the subsequent intra-Afghan talks. This has been a source of frustration to activists.

The Taliban remain deeply misogynistic. Their 1996 to 2001 regime was notorious for denying women and girls access to education, employment, freedom of movement and health care, and subjecting them to violence including public lashing or execution by stoning. Taliban rhetoric and conduct has moderated somewhat in subsequent years, with some Taliban commanders permitting girls to attend primary schools, typically in response to community pressure. But the Taliban also continue to carry out violent attacks against girls’ schools and block women and girls from exercising many of their basic rights, and remain deeply opposed to gender equality.

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Question for this article

Prospects for progress in women’s equality, what are the short and long term prospects?

Is peace possible in Afghanistan?

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In February, a Taliban leader wrote, “[W]e together will find a way to build an Islamic system in which all Afghans have equal rights, where the rights of women that are granted by Islam — from the right to education to the right to work — are protected.” Skeptics noted the comma separating women from equal rights, and that from 1996 to 2001 the Taliban also argued that women were enjoying all rights “granted by Islam.”

The Afghan government has been an unreliable supporter — and sometimes even an enemy — of women’s rights. The administrations of both Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Ashraf Ghani have frequently brushed aside women’s rights. Both have mostly rebuffed activists’ demands for women to have full participation in the peace process, as provided under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325. Foreign donors have been more willing to engage in photo ops and grant agreements than to expend political capital to press for Afghan women to be in the room, at the table, during negotiations.

Lack of clarity about the intra-Afghan talks and the designated negotiators has further heightened fears about the implications for women’s rights. Political infighting following the disputed Afghan presidential election has delayed the appointment of the government negotiation team. Pressure to divvy up these roles among power brokers threatens to squeeze women out. The absence of clear information about what country will host the talks and who will facilitate them prevents women’s rights activists from lobbying for including women.

A fight over whether a release of prisoners will move ahead is muddying the waters further and calling into question the timeline for the intra-Afghan talks. Meanwhile, violence, reduced ahead of the deal’s signing, threatens to escalate again.

Several years back it was common to hear Afghan feminists argue that there should be no negotiations with the Taliban — a group that refused to recognize women’s full humanity. Today those calls are all but gone. Even the staunchest women’s rights activists have mostly accepted that there is no path to peace in Afghanistan but through negotiations with the Taliban.

But protecting women’s rights needs to be one of the key objectives of this process, and for that to happen, women need to be at the negotiating table. Governments increasingly recognize that the role of women in peace processes is not just an afterthought, but critical to sustainable and implementable peace accords. The Afghan government and all its international partners need to back Afghan women, who are in the fight of their lives.

Thousands of women march in Chile again


An article from Prensa Latina

Thousands of women marched again this Monday [March 9] in the capital , Santiago, and other cities of Chile, as part of a general strike called by the 8M Coordination and supported by social and student organizations.

A group of Indigenous woman demonstrate during a march in Santiago on International Women’s Day [Martin Bernetti/AFP] 

In Santiago, the women concentrated at midday in the emblematic Plaza de la Dignidad from where they later left to demonstrate along the southern path of the Alameda on a route that ended at the Plaza Los Heroes, passing in front of the Palacio de La Moneda.

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Question for this article

Do women have a special role to play in the peace movement?

Prospects for progress in women’s equality, what are the short and long term prospects?

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Although without the massiveness of Sunday’s huge demonstration, which concentrated around one million people, the thousands of participants on this Labor Monday did clamor with equal force for social change in a macho and patriarchal society, and equal rights and opportunities.

During the march, they denounced the injustices they are victims of, since Chilean women receive more than 20 percent less salary than men for equal work, as well as lower pensions, and instead must pay more to access bank loans, health insurance and pension insurance, just to cite a few examples.

Closely guarded by a strong police contingent with armored water and gas throwers, the protesters also chanted slogans demanding the resignation of President Sebastian Piñera and in favor of the option to approve a new constitution in the plebiscite called for April.

Many also expressed in posters and slogans the need to extend gender parity to other areas of the country’s institutions and not only to the constituent convention that will draft the new constitution in case the Apruebo option wins.

Protests and celebrations mark Women’s Day, despite threats


An article by Adam Geller in PBS

From the streets of Manila to a school in East London, people around the world marked International Women’s Day on Sunday with calls to end exploitation and increase equality.

Women chant slogans as they protest during the International Women’s Day in Baghdad, Iraq, March 8, 2020. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani – RC2PFF9MY13Z

But tensions marred some celebrations, with police arresting demonstrators at a rally in Kyrgyzstan and separatists detonating a bomb during a ceremony in Cameroon. No one was hurt in the attack.

“In many different ways or forms, women are being exploited and taken advantage of,” Arlene Brosas, the representative of a Filipino advocacy group said during a rally that drew hundreds to the area near the presidential palace. Protesters called for higher pay and job security, and demanded that President Rodrigo Duterte respect women’s rights.

In Pakistan, women rallied in cities across the country, despite petitions filed in court seeking to stop them. The opposition was stirred in part by controversy over a slogan used in last year’s march: “My Body, My Choice.”

Women of General Confederation of Labour (CGT) attend a protest demanding equality on International Women’s Day in Paris, France, March 8, 2020. Photo by Pascal Rossignol/Reuters.

Some conservative groups had threatened to stop this year’s marches by force. But Pakistani officials pledged to protest the marchers. The rallies are notable in a conservative country where women often do not feel safe in public places because of open harassment. The main Islamic political party, Jamaat-e-Islami, organized its own rallies to counter the march.

One of the largest demonstrations occurred in Chile, where crowds thousands flooded the streets of the capital with dancing, music and angry demands for gender equality and an end to violence against women.

“They kill us, they rape us and nobody does anything,” some chanted.

National police estimated 125,000 took part in the capital and nearly 35,000 in other cities, but organizers said the crowds were far larger.

Many demanded that a proposed new constitution strengthen rights for women and thousands wore green scarves in a show of support for activists in neighboring Argentina, which is considering a proposal to legalize elective abortion.

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Question for this article

Prospects for progress in women’s equality, what are the short and long term prospects?

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Women demonstrators chant slogans and gesture during a march on International Women’s Day in Algiers, Algeria March 8, 2020. Photo by Ramzi Boudina/Reuters.

Thousands of women also marched in Madrid and other Spanish cities, despite concern over the spread of the new coronavirus.

A massive banner reading, “With rights, without barriers. Feminists without frontiers” in Spanish was carried at the front of the march in the capital.

Spanish health authorities said did not put any restrictions on the march, but recommended that anyone with symptoms similar to those of the coronavirus stay home.

At a school in East London, meanwhile, the duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, joined students in listening to speeches about women labor activists, and urged both girls and boys to respect the contributions of women every day of the year.

“For young men … you have your mothers, sisters, girlfriends, friends in your life — protect them. Make sure they are feeling valued and safe,” she told the students.

But safety was in short supply at some events to mark the day.

The detonation of explosives triggered panic at a ceremony in Bamenda, an English-speaking town in the northwest of Cameroon. Suspicions focused on separatists who had vowed to disrupt the events. No one was killed or wounded.

Police in Bishek, the capital city of Kyrgyzstan, detained about 60 people after a group of unidentified men broke up what authorities called an unauthorized rally.

Demonstrators had gathered in the city’s main square to express support for women’s and children’s rights. But unidentified men barged into the gathering. Police said people from both sides were detained, but news reports said they were primarily women. They were released several hours later, after about 10 had been charged with resisting police, the Akipress news agency reported, citing an attorney.

(Editor’s note): Photos are available on the Internet from countries around the world, including:

Indonesia, Pakistan, Iraq, Australia, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey, Spain, Philippines, Switzerland, Thailand, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru and Bangladesh, in Al Jazeera;

Brazil, Spain, Chile, Syria, Belarus, United Kingdom, Russia, France, Pakistan, Iraq, Indonesia, Turkey, Bangladesh, Philippines, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Mexico, Peru, Switzerland and Australia in The Guardian;

Italy, France, Chile, Serbia, Spain, Belgium, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Philippines, United Kingdom and Malaysia in the Irish Times

International Women’s Day 2020


An article from UN Women

Women’s rights and gender equality are taking centre stage in 2020.

Twenty-five years since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action—a progressive roadmap for gender equality—it’s time to take stock of progress and bridge the gaps that remain through bold, decisive actions.

Video: We are #GenerationEquality

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day (8 March) is, “I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights“.

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(Click here for a French version of this article or here for a Spanish version.)

Questions for this article

Does the UN advance equality for women?

Prospects for progress in women’s equality, what are the short and long term prospects?

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The Generation Equality campaign  is bringing together people of every gender, age, ethnicity, race, religion and country, to drive actions that will create the gender-equal world we all deserve.

Together, we want to mobilize to end gender-based violence; we are calling for economic justice and rights for all; bodily autonomy, sexual and reproductive health and rights; and feminist action for climate justice. We want technology and innovation for gender equality; and feminist leadership.

Small actions can have big impacts in making this vision a reality. On International Women’s Day, join #GenerationEquality and become part of the movement.

Statement for International Women’s Day by Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. 
In her statement for International Women’s Day (8 March), UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka highlights 2020 as the year for gender equality and calls on everyone to tackle the persistent barriers against gender equality.

Angola promotes the role of African women in government


An article from Prensa Latina

Angola will continue to promote the empowerment of women and their participation in the government, said the Minister of State for the Social Area, Carolina Cerqueira, at a meeting of the Pan-African Women’s Organization (PAWO) held today [Feb 28] in Windhoek, Namibia.

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(Click here for the original Spanish version)

Question for this article

Can the women of Africa lead the continent to peace?

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As the vice president of the PAWO, she also stressed that Angola encourages the role of women in promoting the culture of peace in the region, whether through institutional or civil society initiatives, as well as the creation of mechanisms to guarantee financial resources for the empowerment of the female sector.

According to the source, she also confirmed the solidarity and friendship that unite Angola and Namibia; a relationship, she said, of close ties throughout the history of the struggle for independence and economic and social development.

Angola’s presence in this congress, with a delegation composed of women from different sectors, including the diaspora, reflects the appreciation of Namibia and the importance that the country attaches to the PAWO, she said.

The meeting was attended by representatives of the five regions of the African continent and was attended by the Deputy Prime Minister of Namibia, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah.

Nobel Women’s Initiative: A strategic approach to climate action


A strategic paper by the Nobel Women’s Initiative

Canada can be the global leader in promoting environmental and climate change action and gender equality. By taking a more integrated, feminist approach, the results of these related efforts can be amplified. This strategic approach has the potential to become a key pillar in addressing gender, climate and environmental priorities:

• There is a clear link between women’s rights and how women experience climate change. When women lack full and equal rights, they suffer disproportionately from negative climate change impacts. In turn, climate change negatively impacts women and their rights.

• Often, climate change policies and programs treat women as either victims or environmental saviours, rather than potent agents of change. This approach reinforces gender inequality by disregarding women’s agency or adding to their already heavy workloads.

• Local-level, women-led initiatives are having significant positive impacts on climate change action, and gender equality. Yet, global climate finance flows are being directed elsewhere. Even when donors fund local-level climate change projects, they rarely take gender equality issues into account. Funding that targets women’s rights and gender equality, meanwhile, tends to overlook women’s climate change adaptation efforts.

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Questions for this article

Do women have a special role to play in the peace movement?

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• Canada can bolster its leadership in environmental and climate action and gender equality, by strengthening its feminist approach. Canada should:


Increase the proportion of climate change funding directed to projects led by women’s organizations. Prioritize partnerships with local women’s rights actors in calls for proposals for climate change projects. Provide core funding for women’s rights organizations and movements that address climate change impacts. Establish a dedicated Women’s Fund for Climate Adaptation.


Facilitate, fund and support the participation of grassroots women’s organizations in climate policy and finance discussions. Advocate at international climate fora for the meaningful inclusion of women who are directly affected by climate change.


Strengthen the capacity of grassroots women leaders and their organizations to participate substantively in climate change fora and negotiations. Invest in movement-building of women’s rights actors on climate change. Fund consortiums that build the collective power of women’s rights and environmental justice movements.


Advocate for a deeper understanding of climate change as a critical human rights issue at international fora. Socialize the importance of taking a feminist approach to tackling climate change with other governments and stakeholders. Use Canada’s influence to advocate for a more inclusive Green Climate Fund1.

(Thank you to Janet Hudgins, the CPNN reporter for this article.)

Devoted to discovery: seven women scientists who have shaped our world


An article from UN Women

On International Day of Women and Girls in STEM [February 11], here are just seven women scientists you need to know and celebrate.

Left to right: Tu Youyou, Maryam Mirzakhani and Segenet Kelemu.

For centuries, women have made significant contributions to the field of science. They’ve discovered life-saving remedies, devised world-altering inventions, and produced far-reaching research, but in many cases their invaluable advances are minimized or neglected.

For too long, the STEM fields [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics] have been shaped by gender biases that exclude women and girls, past, present, and future.

Unequal access to education, technologies, and leadership positions have steered countless bright female minds away from STEM careers and stalled their progress.

Despite the setbacks,creative and tenacious women and girls are pushing the boundaries of scientific knowledge and seeking solutions to complex global challenges every day. Their work has changed the way we see our world, and their stories deserve to be told, and retold.

The scientific breakthroughs we get reflect those who make them. The gender gap in science, technology and innovation translates to missed talent, untapped discoveries and biased solutions.

Tu Youyou

Tu Youyou is a pharmaceutical chemist whose visionary research on malaria treatment is rooted in ancient Chinese medicine. Her discovery of artemisinin, a compound that quickly reduces the number of plasmodium parasites in the blood of patients with malaria, has saved millions of lives.

As a pharmacology student, Youyou learned to classify medicinal plants, extract active ingredients, and determine their chemical structures. Early in her career she spent years in the rainforests of South China, studying the devastating consequences of malaria and ancient medical texts about traditional Chinese treatments for the disease.

After years of research, Youyou and her team finally found a reference to sweet wormwood, which had been used in China around 400 AD to treat intermittent fevers, a symptom of malaria.
They extracted the active compound artemisinin, tested it, and published their findings. Today the World Health Organization recommends artemisinin combination therapy as the first line of defense against malaria.

‘“Every scientist dreams of doing something that can help the world,” says Youyou.

In 2015 she and two colleagues were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, making her the first Chinese Nobel laureate of this category and the first Chinese woman to receive a Nobel Prize in any category.

Youyou’s discovery continues to save lives every day. Click here to learn more about her extraordinary work.

Kiara Nirghin

“Ever since I was young, I was interested in asking questions about how the world worked,” says 19 year-old Kiara Nirghin, winner of 2016 Google Science Fair for creating a super absorbent polymer that can retain over 100 times its mass—potentially revolutionizing water conservation and sustaining crops through periods of drought. Best yet: it’s low-cost and biodegradable, made of orange peels and avocado skins.

Nirghin’s interest in water conservation stems from her experience of the 2015 drought in her home country of South Africa. She was struck to see water dams, once full to the brim, run dry, and she felt frustrated by the lack of solutions to the problem. “I always knew that I had to do something to solve the drought because nobody else was doing anything,” she said at the United Nations Observance of International Women’s Day 2019.

Nirghin’s discovery has the potential to reach far beyond her hometown; applied to agricultural fields, her super absorbent polymer could increase food security around the globe.

Nirghin continues her research and studies at the University of Stanford and advocates for young girls to pursue their STEM interests: “Getting girls involved in science should be on everyone’s agenda. I think that every idea fundamentally has the power to change our world.”

Lending her voice to UN Women’s I am Generation Equality campaign, Nirghin said: “We can encourage more women and girls to pursue STEM careers by showcasing more positive role models and other women’s success stories. Role models are so important because they are proof to young girls and aspiring scientists that they too can achieve their dreams.”

Learn more about Nirghin’s discovery and experience as a girl in STEM in an Instagram live interview alongside 2015 Google Science Fair winner Olivia Anne Hallisey.

Katherine Johnson

Katherine Johnson is a mathematician whose calculations have been essential to U.S. space exploration. As a NASA scientist, Johnson calculated trajectories, launch windows, and emergency return paths that flew the first U.S. astronauts into space and Earth’s orbit.

“I found myself very inquisitive. I wanted to know what was going on and why. It was important to me to learn why,” Johnson says of her drive to push the boundaries of possibility

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Question for this article

Does the UN advance equality for women?

Prospects for progress in women’s equality, what are the short and long term prospects?

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She was the first African-American woman to attend her graduate school and was one of few African-American women to work on the NASA space program. She faced discrimination because of her race and gender, but she knew she belonged on the team.
“They got used to me asking questions and being the only woman there,” she shares.

Today, at 101 years old, Johnson is a steadfast proponent of women and girls in STEM. “Girls are capable of doing everything men are capable of doing,” she says.

She encourages those inspired by her pioneering career to pursue their own interests: “Find out what your dream is, and then work at it. Because if you like what you’re doing you will do well.”

Marie Curie

Marie Curie was a physicist and chemist whose radioactivity research laid the foundation for modern nuclear science, from X-rays to radiotherapy for treating cancer. She was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize, and the first person to win two Nobel Prizes in different sciences.

Curie attended university in her native Poland and received her Doctorate degree from the University of Paris. She and her husband Pierre discovered two radioactive elements, polonium and radium, she founded a medical research institute in Warsaw, and she invented mobile X-ray units that helped more than one million wounded soldiers in World War I.

Curie was unaware of the risks her research posed. She eventually died of a radiation-related illness, but her discoveries continue to save lives today.

Encouraging us all to pursue our passions with curiosity and courage, Curie said, “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” Her legacy continues to inspire women and girls in STEM today.

Marcia Barbosa

Marcia Barbosa is a Brazilian physicist known for her research on the complex structures of the water molecule. “Water is weird,” says Barbosa, who thinks the anomalies of the molecule could help address freshwater shortage problems.

Barbosa has developed a series of models of water’s properties that may improve our understanding on a wide variety of topics, such as: how earthquakes occur, proteins fold, cleaner energy is generated, and diseases are treated. In 2013, she was awarded the L’Oréal-UNESCO Awards for Women in Science.

In addition to her remarkable research, Barbosa is committed to leveling the playing field for women and girls in STEM. She has organized a number of conferences on women in physics, authored papers on geographic and gender diversity inscience, and taught seminars that examined the lack of women in the field.

Be inspired by Barbosa’s activism and share you support for women and girls’ equal access to education and opportunity by using #WomenInScience.

Segenet Kelemu

Segenet Kelemu is a molecular plant pathologist whose cutting-edge research is dedicated to helping the world’s smallholder farmers grow more food and rise out of poverty.

“The drive of my life is to make a difference in people’s lives and to improve agriculture in Africa,” she shares.

Kelemu grew up in a poor farming family in Ethiopia and was the first woman from her region to get a college degree. “In my village, girls were married off at a very young age, but luckily I was too rebellious for anyone to arrange a marriage for me,” she laughs. “I was really determined to go to university.”

After years of studying and working abroad, Kelemu returned to Africa to lead a new generation of scientists. “I think investment in African agriculture, investment in African research is actually investment for mankind as a whole,” she says.

Kelemu was awarded a L’Oréal-UNESCO Award for Women in Science in 2014, named one of the 100 most influential African women by Forbes Africa, and elected as a Fellow of The World Academy of Sciences in 2015.

A woman of many firsts and a hero in her field, Kelemu inspires us to work with purpose and dedication for the causes we care about.

Maryam Mirzakhani

As a girl growing up in Tehran, Iran, Maryam Mirzakhani dreamed of becoming a writer. It wasn’t until her high school years that she discovered her talent for mathematics—the subject that captured her creativity and intellect for the rest of her life.

In 1994, Mirzakhani became the first female Iranian student to win the gold medal in the International Mathematical Olympiad, scoring 41 out of 42 points, and in 2015 she returned to win with a perfect score.

She earned her PhD from Harvard University and was a leading scholar on the dynamics and geometry of complex surfaces. In 2014, she became the first female winner of the Fields Medal, the most prestigious award in mathematics.

“The more I spent time on mathematics, the more excited I became,” Mirzakhani said of her research. She recalls loving “the excitement of discovery and enjoyment of understanding something new, the feeling of being on top of a hill, and having a clear view.”

Although Mirzakhani passed away in 2017, her invaluable contributions to the field of mathematics endure, and her trailblazing career has paved the way forward for many women mathematicians to come.

UNWomen: In lead up to Generation Equality Forum, Action Coalition themes announced


An article from UN Women

Today, UN Women, together with feminists across the world, and the Governments of Mexico and France, announced the  Action Coalition  themes for the Generation Equality Forum  to be held in Mexico City and Paris this year.

UN Women staff during Generation Equality Private Sector discussions in Kenya. Photo: UN Women/Kennedy Okoth

The Action Coalitions are global, innovative partnerships with governments, civil society, international organizations, and the private sector, to catalyze collective action, drive increased public and private investment, and deliver game-changing results for women and girls everywhere.

The Generation Equality Forum, a civil society-led global gathering convened by UN Women and co-hosted by the Governments of Mexico and France, taking place in Mexico City from 7 to 8 May, and in Paris from 7 to 10 July 2020, will launch the following six catalytic Action Coalitions:

1. Gender-Based Violence
2. Economic justice and rights
3. Bodily autonomy and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR)
4. Feminist action for climate justice
5. Technology and innovation for gender equality
6. Feminist movements and leadership

The six themes were based on data-driven analysis and selected in consultation with international feminist groups, grassroots activist organizations, governments and other partners.

The Generation Equality Forum is taking place in the context of the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the most comprehensive blueprint for achieving gender equality and women’s rights, adopted by 189 countries in 1995.

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Question for this article

Does the UN advance equality for women?

Prospects for progress in women’s equality, what are the short and long term prospects?

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Despite some progress, real change has been slow, and no country has achieved gender equality.As the world faces unprecedented challenges, including climate crisis, rising inequality and threat to multilateralism, progress on girls’ and women’s rights is at risk.

The Action Coalitions, backed with financing and impactful partnerships, aim to make accelerated and irreversible progress to advance gender equality.
Each Action Coalition will be led by a group of partners, including: Member States, women’s movements and civil society organizations and the private sector, as well as UN agencies, other international organizations and youth leaders. 
Adolescent girls and young women are at the heart of Generation Equality, lifting up those who have been silenced, stigmatized and shamed far too long, and ensuring that no one is left behind. One of the concrete actions in each Action Coalition theme will specifically target the unique needs of adolescent girls and young women. 

Each Coalition will develop and implement targeted solutions that advance the rights of adolescent girls and young women during the UN Decade of Action  (2020 – 2030) to fulfill the Sustainable Development Goals.

In the coming months, the formation of Action Coalition leadership and membership will be advanced, as well as the development of “Blueprints” accompanying each Action Coalition, which will detail the expected goals, results, budget, a catalogue of commitments and the accountability framework.The upcoming UN Commission on the Status of Women  (9 – 20 March) and the Generation Equality Forum in Mexico (7-8 May) will provide opportunities for partners to come together and further elaborate upon the Action Coalition Blueprints.

The Action Coalitions will be officially launched during the Generation Equality Forum from 7 to10 July in Paris, and further amplified at the UN General Assembly in September 2020. 

For more information on Generation Equality Forum and the Action Coalitions, click here. Get involved and join the global campaign, #GenerationEquality  to make gender equality a reality within our lifetimes.