…..Women around the world bear the brunt of this inequality, which has only been compounded by the rise of global leaders who engage in macho posturing, misogyny, xenophobia and homophobia to give the appearance they’re ‘tough guys’. It’s no wonder then that women have been at the forefront of the battle for human rights in 2018. In India and South Africa, thousands took to the streets to protest against the sexual violence which is rife there. In Saudi Arabia women risked arrest (and many remain behind bars) to resist the driving ban. In Argentina, Ireland and Poland, demonstrators rallied in vast numbers to demand an end to oppressive abortion laws. Thanks to this activism, the people of Ireland voted in a landslide victory to reform its abortion laws last May. In the USA, Europe and Japan, millions joined the second #MeToo-led women’s march to demand an end to misogyny and abuse. The effect of this powerful explosion of women’s voices cannot be overstated. But it is sobering to consider the structural and cultural factors which inhibit women’s rights here and around the world.

…..Throughout the world, women who experience intersecting layers of discrimination – including based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity, race or socio-economic status – face unique and additional human rights violations. Earlier in the year I travelled to Bangladesh to bear witness to the crisis befalling the Rohingya people in refugee camps. In one place, known as the “widows camp” I met Ambia Khatun, a 60-year-old widow. Her left leg was disfigured when the military beat her last August. …..She spent her life savings to pay people to help her, being carried on the shoulders of strangers as they traversed hills and crossed the Naf river that divides Bangladesh and Myanmar. She doesn’t know what happened to her husband, her children or their children. She is taking care of an eight-year-old from a nearby village who clings to her for hope.

….For most of history, women have been trapped in a cycle of discrimination driven by gender hierarchies and norms. The political participation of women is essential to tackle laws that entrench social and economic inequality. Although record numbers of women ran for public office in 2018, progress remains excruciatingly slow. Currently, only 17% of all heads of state or government, and 23% of the world’s parliamentarians, are women.

The good news is that harnessing the power of women around the world resisting violence and discrimination, we have an unprecedented opportunity for change…A popular Brazilian city councillor, who grew up in the favelas of Rio De Janeiro and stood up for the rights of women of colour, LGBTQI people and young people, Marielle was shot dead in her car, along with her driver, Anderson Pedro Gomes in March this year. Evidence suggests the murder was carried out by skilled professionals, and experts said the bullets had belonged to the Brazilian Federal Police. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/03/16/marielle-franco-38-year-old-human-rights-defender-and-city-councilor-of-rio-assassinated/]

There are success stories too which illustrate the power of activism driven by supporters of Amnesty International. Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh, a prominent Vietnamese blogger also known by her pseudonym, Mẹ Nấm (Mother Mushroom), was released from prison in Vietnam in October after being sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges of conducting propaganda” against the state. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/10/18/vietnamese-blogger-mother-mushroom-released/]