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10 Inspiring Ways Women Are Fighting for Equality

Women and girls have been historically undervalued, underrepresented and oppressed in the halls of power, but they haven’t let that stop them from fighting for equality. Whether it’s on behalf of women’s rights, climate justice, disability rights, reproductive rights or other causes, women have participated in and led social movements around the world. In this article, we’ll explore 10 ways women are fighting for equality today.

#1. Malala Yousafzai
#2. Sarah and Yusra Mardini
#3. Leymah Gbowee
#4. Narges Mohammadi
#5. Nadia Murad
#6. Alice Wong
#7. Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul
#8. Greta Thunberg
#9. Say Her Name
#10. Abortion Without Borders

#1. Malala Yousafzai

Cause: Education

Malala Yousafzai was born in Mingora, Pakistan in 1997. Her father, Zaiuddin, was an education activist who ran a girls’ school. Malala was treated equally and received a good education, but in 2008, the Taliban took control of her town and banned girls from attending school. She began to speak up on the importance of education first through an anonymous blog and then using her name. As she became famous throughout the region, the Taliban viewed her as a threat. In 2012, she survived an assassination attempt. Instead of retreating from the public eye and living safely in her new home in England, Malala kept advocating for girls’ right to education. With her father, she founded the Malala Fund, which invests in education activists committed to removing barriers for girls. In 2014, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her education work at just 16 years old. Activism is not limited to adults; even teenagers can stand up for equality and influence the world.

#2. Sarah and Yusra Mardini

Cause: Refugee rights

Sisters Sarah and Yusra Mardini were born in Syria, where they trained as swimmers. In 2015, they fled the war in Syria, which meant taking a dangerous journey by boat from Turkey to Greece. Just 15 minutes into the trip, the engine died. The girls (Yusra was 17 and Sarah was 20 years old) jumped into the water and pushed the boat 3.5 hours to Greece. Yusra competed in the 2016 and 2020 Olympics on the refugee athletics team, while Sarah returned to Lesbos, Greece to work as a volunteer in a refugee camp. Both women continue to work for refugee rights, which are consistently threatened in Greece. In 2018, Sarah was imprisoned for more than three months for what the Greek government called “espionage.” Sarah, along with 24 other aid workers and volunteers, argued they were helping refugees at risk of drowning. The charges were dropped, but in May of 2023, the prosecutor appealed. At the time of writing, the future of the case is unclear. Yusra retired from swimming and now runs the Yusra Mardini Foundation, which focuses on increasing sports and education access for refugee communities.

#3. Leymah Gbowee

Cause: Peace activism

Between 1989 and 2003, Liberia endured a brutal civil war. Leymah Gbowee was 17 when the war started. She fought for peace as a social worker, trauma counselor and founding member of the Women In Peacebuilding Network of the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding. She helped build an interfaith alliance between Christian and Muslim women who engaged in public protests calling for peace. In 2003, the president resigned and went into exile, and three years later, Liberia elected its first female head of state, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. In 2011, Leymah won the Nobel Peace Prize for her peace activism. She continues to work for educational and leadership opportunities for women, girls and young people.

Interested in working for women’s rights and equality? Here’s our guide on Women’s Rights Jobs.

#4. Narges Mohammadi

Cause: Women’s rights/human rights

Narges Mohammadi was born in Iran in 1972. When the Iranian Revolution began, her uncle, who was a political activist, was imprisoned and eventually executed. Mohammadi followed in her uncle’s footsteps by engaging in political activism for human rights and women’s rights. In 2003, she joined the Defenders of Human Rights Center and worked on behalf of imprisoned activists. She was targeted for her activism, arrested and sentenced to 31 years in prison and 154 lashes. In 2023, she won a Nobel Peace Prize while imprisoned in Tehran. She’s continued to protest and speak out against injustice from prison even as her activism is used to extend her imprisonment.

#5. Nadia Murad

Cause: Yazidi rights/sexual violence and human trafficking

In 2014, ISIL began targeting the Yazidi community, who are members of a Kurdish religious minority. In late summer, Nadia Murad’s village was attacked. While many of her family members were murdered, Nadia was among the thousands of Yazidi women trafficked into sexual slavery in 2014. Later that year, Nadia escaped. In 2015, she spoke in front of the UN Security Council about human trafficking. She founded Nadia’s Initiative, which works to get governments and organizations to support survivors of sexual violence and the redevelopment of the Yazidi homeland. In 2018, she won the Nobel Peace Prize with Dr. Denis Mukwege, with whom she founded the Global Survivors Fund. She continues to advocate for survivors of sexual violence, genocide and trafficking.

#6. Alice Wong

Cause: Disability rights

Alice Wong was born in 1974 with spinal muscular atrophy. As a young child, she

stopped walking and now uses a motorized wheelchair and other equipment. When she was growing up, she was typically the only Asian-American student, as well as the only student with physical disabilities. After completing graduate school, she started a career in disability research and advocacy. In 2013, Wong was appointed to the National Council on Disability, and in 2014, she launched the Disability Visibility Project, which is an online community that creates, shares and amplifies disability media and culture. Wong has received several awards for her activism, writing and editing. Her memoir, Year of the Tiger, was released in 2022.

#7. Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul

Cause: Thai rights/democracy

The people of Thailand have wanted social reform for years, but criticism of the monarchy has been harshly punished. According to a Human Rights Watch report for 2023, the government’s abuses include restricted freedom of speech and failure to protect human rights defenders. Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, known by her nickname Rung, grew up with an interest in politics. After overcoming her shyness thanks to an exchange program to America, Rung returned home ready to be politically active. She joined a student union political party at her university, helped organize the first pro-democracy flash mob in the country and read a manifesto in front of thousands. In September 2021, the 21-year-old was arrested for “sedition.” At the time of writing, the future of the case is uncertain, although Rung was quoted in a 2024 article on the dissolution of Move Forward, a popular Thai reformist party believed to be a threat to the Thai monarchy.

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#8. Greta Thunberg

Cause: Climate change

The effects of climate change are far-reaching and catastrophic. Natural disasters get worse, habitats disappear, ice melts and humans – especially women and children – suffer. Greta Thunberg first learned about climate change at just 8 years old and immediately made the issue her passion. In 2018, she skipped school to protest outside the Swedish Parliament building calling for them to address climate change. More people joined her, which led to the creation of “Fridays for Future,” where students were asked to go on strike from school on Fridays to call on authorities to address climate change. The movement spread around the world. Today, Thunberg is arguably the world’s most famous climate activist, as well as an advocate for children’s rights and gender equality. She’s spoken in front of the United Nations, at climate conventions and countless protests in Sweden and other countries.

#9. Say Her Name

Cause: Police brutality/intersectional feminism

While Black women are just 10% of the female population in the United States, they make up ⅕ of all women killed by police and almost ⅓ of unarmed women killed by police. In 2014, the African American Policy Forum and the Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies launched the #SayHerName campaign. While stories about police brutality often focus on Black men, Black girls and women are more likely to be forgotten. With the help of activists, experts, events and other advocacy, #SayHerName has expanded and developed over the years. The movement seeks to raise awareness of the gender-specific oppression and violence Black women and girls face. Say Her Name gained increased attention following the murder of Breonna Taylor, a young woman killed during a no-knock raid. Kimberlé Crenshaw, who is a civil rights advocate and scholar, is one of the movement’s most prominent figures.

#10. Abortion Without Borders

Cause: Abortion rights

Abortion Without Borders is a European initiative committed to helping people in Poland (which is home to Europe’s most restrictive abortion laws) access abortions at home or abroad. Organizations within the network include Women Help Women and the Abortion Dream Team, which is based in Poland. Between 2019 and 2022, Abortion Without Borders supported 78,000 people from Poland with safe abortions. The initiative was also able to help over 1,500 people from Ukraine access safe abortions. This activism is risky. Justyna Wydrzyńska, one of Abortion Dream Team’s co-founders, was convicted for helping people access abortions and sentenced to eight months of community service. According to Amnesty International, she is the first activist to be convicted for providing abortion help. As reproductive rights continue to be restricted in Poland and other countries, organizations like Abortion Without Borders are more important than ever.

About the author

Emmaline Soken-Huberty

Emmaline Soken-Huberty is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon. She started to become interested in human rights while attending college, eventually getting a concentration in human rights and humanitarianism. LGBTQ+ rights, women’s rights, and climate change are of special concern to her. In her spare time, she can be found reading or enjoying Oregon’s natural beauty with her husband and dog.