“The future is female” is a phrase often invoked by Hillary Clinton’s supporters during her campaign for president, before the Trump presidency signalled the end of days. This slogan serves to unite women and feminists who advocate for a more female everything; the ones who want female stories that are characteristically heroic, ground-breaking, ceiling-shattering to stop being the exception and start being the rule.
Gender equality is a work in progress, despite recent proclamations emerging from patriarchal quarters claiming that women are already equal. As can be expected, the patriarchy has an active voice and it is saying, “Enough! The girl child is doing well; in fact, the boy child is now neglected.” Of course this bears no relation to the day-to-day life of the majority of women. The fact that we are yet to eradicate female genital mutilation and gender-based violence; that feminine products, despite being a necessity, are still too expensive for the average woman; that sex trafficking predominantly targets girls and young women; that in some countries there are certain medical procedures (such as voluntary hysterectomy) that a woman cannot have without male consent; that gender roles basically advocate for women to be labour mules speaks to a different reality.
“For me, the past, present and future are female, and we need to hear that, because we’re told the opposite of that every day of our lives. I think this message has evolved in a very important way,” Rachel Berks, a feminist graphic designer who helped revive the powerful slogan, told Think Progress.
International Women’s Day is about celebrating progress and assessing how much further there is to go. In the year that was, these are some of our wins:
1. Women around the world said #MeToo!
The silence was broken as women and girls went public with their stories of sexual violence and harassment. One in three women globally has experienced physical or sexual violence, mostly by someone they know, UN Women says. The movement may not have gained enough traction in some countries for there to be tangible change or offender accountability, but it still sent the powerful message that all women, regardless of status or race, have the same struggles and we can only overcome them together.
2. South Africa repealed the Statute of Limitations for Sexual Offences
Until recently, South Africans faced a limit of 20 years to report sexual offences. This disempowered those people who were abused as children but only realise that what happened to them was abuse much later, in adulthood, or adults who were unable to make a case against their abuser within that timeframe for various reasons, such as the fear of reprisal from the perpetrator, the lack of support from family and community members, or dissatisfaction with the criminal justice system resulting from a bad experience with their initial complaint.
3. Some countries dismantled their ‘marry the rapist’ laws
Jordan and Lebanon repealed laws that enabled rapists to avoid severe penalties by marrying their victims, while El Salvador overturned a similar law that allowed men to marry underage girls who they had impregnated. This included girls who became pregnant as a result of rape, if the victim agreed to this. However, such laws still exist in Algeria, Iraq and Syria.
4. The release of dozens of girls kidnapped by Boko Haram
After three years as kidnapped captives of the militant group Boko Haram, dozens of Nigerian girls were released or they managed to escape.
5. Having a period became a bit easier
Scotland became the first country in the world to provide free menstrual hygiene products like pads and tampons to women and girls in low-income communities. Several countries are set to follow suit, such as South Africa and Kenya. This will hopefully happen sooner rather than later, as millions of girls in sub-Saharan Africa miss as much as 20% of the school year because of their periods.
6. A step closer to a world without child marriage
Malawi outlawed child marriage by raising its minimum age of marriage to 18. This prompted leaders of 27 African countries to commit to ending child marriage in West and Central Africa, where 42% of children are married before they turn 18. This is the highest rate of any region in the world, according to UNICEF.
The Future Is Female. pic.twitter.com/TrQFgWMdRX
— History zone (@Classicalpixs) March 8, 2018
Individual mentions go to these powerful examples of women who continue to blaze the trail:
1. Ilhan Omar made history by becoming the first Somali-American Muslim woman state representative. Omar took office in Minnesota in January 2017 and has already authored and co-authored over 190 bills.
2. Muzoon Almellehan became the youngest and first official refugee to be named a Goodwill Ambassador by UNICEF. She is 19 years old and fled Syria in 2013.
3. Lubaina Himid, a Zanzibar-born, British contemporary artist, became the first black woman, as well as the oldest; to win the 2017 Turner Prize. This is the United Kingdom’s most publicised art award.
4. Irene Nkosi is the sole African woman to be recognised on People’s 2017 list of 25 Women Changing The World. This is in recognition for her HIV/AIDS Work
5. Talent Jumo is a Zimbabwean who supports victims of revenge porn by giving them counselling and legal advice. She also fights for sexual and reproductive health rights for women in Zimbabwe. Jumo made the BBC list of 100 inspirational and innovative women in 2017.
6. Naomi Mwaura, from Kenya, is a lead organiser of the anti-harassment protest #MyDressMyChoice, which changed the law around harassment in Kenya. She also made the BBC list of 100 inspirational and innovative women in 2017.
7. Vera Songwe became the youngest and first female executive secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).
8. Sibeth Ndiaye is a 37-year-old from Senegal who is a communications advisor to French President Emmanuel Macron and is widely credited for his success.
To every woman and girl, feel honoured this day and remember that THE FUTURE IS FEMALE!