By Laurel Jansury
Head of Operations, IWI
Despite all the negative news stories around the world, today on Human Rights Day, we at IWI want to take the time to celebrate some of the biggest women’s rights successes of 2016. Check out the stories below to see how women are overcoming insurmountable odds to gain equal rights and be the protagonists of their own lives.
Fadumo Dayib – First Female Somali Presidential Candidate
Fadumo Dayib is the first woman in the history of Somalia to announce her run for president. A refugee, having fled the civil war in 1990 with her parents, aims to create peace and prosperity in a nation plagued by violence and corruption. Soon, Dayib will face 17 other candidates, vying for a presidency that brings not only great risk but great potential for the Somali people.
Pakistani Government Closes Honour Killing Loophole
In October, the Pakistani Parliament passed a law that closed a vital loophole in honour killing cases. Prior to passing this law, a person accused of committing an honour killing could walk free if pardoned by the women’s family. This new law not only does not allow for the pardoning of anyone found guilty of honour killings, but also increases the length of sentences for those found guilty. For the hundreds of women who are victims of honour killings each year, toughening the laws against perpetrators of honour killings is a step in the right direction to holding people accountable and affording them the right to live lives free of violence.
Catherine Cortez Masto – First Latina Senator in USA
This November, the U.S. state of Nevada elected the first ever Latina woman to the U.S. Senate. She will begin her term in January 2017 and formerly served as the Attorney General of Nevada. As the Attorney General, Masto worked tirelessly for women’s rights helping to strengthen laws surrounding violence against women and human trafficking. In her bid for Senate she ran on platforms including: reducing human trafficking, and supporting women’s health and LBGTI rights. Not only does Masto stand as a beacon for the rights of the Latino community but also for women’s rights.
Zari – First Female Character on Afghan “Sesame Street”
Afghanistan introduced its female character, Zari, into the fifth season of the local version of Sesame Street in April. Zari is a 6 year old, outgoing girl, who focuses on women’s empowerment and interviewes women of various professions. Her character will serve as a role model in a country where women’s education rates are low and only 24 percent of women are literate. Through her character, Zari aims to inspire girls and boys alike to reach for the stars.
In March, the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced a unanimous guilty verdict against Jean-Pierre Bemba for “two counts of crimes against humanity (murder and rape) and three counts of war crimes (murder, rape, and pillaging)”. During his time as the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo, Bemba’s troops perpetuated the systematic rape and murder of civilians in the Central African Republic. The historic verdict delivered by the ICC marks the first time a guilty verdict has been found for rape as a tool of war. The case sets a precedent for all future ICC cases which will help victims apply for reparations and protect a women’s right to lives free from violence by establishing rape as a tool of war as a crime against humanity.
Sherin Khankan – Denmark’s First Female Imam
Born to a Syrian father and a Finnish mother, Sherin Khankan decided to establish a female-led mosque in Copenhagen “to challenge patriarchal structures within religious institutions.” She became Denmark’s first female Imam and opened the Mariam mosque in February. The mosque held its first Friday prayers in August with more than 60 women in attendance. The mosque challenges traditional Muslim interpretations of the Qur’an and builds on a movement of women-led mosques that is growing around the world. Khankan’s mosque welcomes both men and women (except during Friday prayers) and seeks to create a modern, progressive approach to Islam where everyone has the right to worship.
These are just a few of the amazing stories of women and the fight for equal rights around the world! While there is much more to be done, let’s celebrate these women’s rights triumphs this Human Rights Day and carry our success into 2017, enabling even more women to achieve their rights to a life of dignity and respect!