Freedom from discrimination is a human right. But all around the world, gender discrimination prevents women and girls from being treated with equal respect. In this post, we’re celebrating everyone who champions the rights of women and girls – with some wise words from a few of our favourite people taking a stand in the fight for gender equality.
“I am focusing on women’s rights and girls’ education because they are suffering the most… now it’s time to speak up.”
As a young girl, Malala loved learning. But her hometown in Pakistan fell into the control of the Taliban, a fundamentalist group which disapproved of girls over age 10 attending school. Malala stood up for girls’ rights to education. In October 2012, Malala was shot by the Taliban. She survived, and since then she has been promoting girls’ education worldwide. In October 2014, Malala became the youngest person ever to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Malala addresses the United Nations: Youtube / United Nations
“Why is my daughter so strong? Because I didn’t clip her wings.”
Ziauddin is Malala’s father. He has also been speaking up for women’s and girls’ rights. In a TED Talk, Ziauddin explains how, in some societies, the birth of a girl is commiserated rather than celebrated. As they grow into teenagers, girls become subject to a ‘code of honour’, and, if they break this code, they can be killed. He celebrates Malala’s courage in standing up for girls’ rights.
Zaiuddin Youzafzai: Youtube / TED
“Gender equality is not only a women’s issue but a human rights issue.”
Emma Watson is best known for her acting career, starting with Harry Potter, but she has become a powerful force for gender equality. She is an Ambassador for United Nations Women. She recently started a book club to share novels which focus on empowering women. In 2014, she launched the HeForShe campaign, a solidarity movement encouraging men and boys to advocate gender equality.
Emma Watson, HeForShe Campaign: Youtube / United Nations
“Girls [are] having their bodies mutilated or being married off to grown men as teenagers… [We would never] accept this for our own daughters… so why would we accept it for any girl on our planet?”
As First Lady of the United States of America, Michelle Obama launched the Let Girls Learn campaign in 2015. The campaign hopes to address poverty, shaming and other issues which keep girls out of school. Michelle is urging countries to invest in girls’ education and challenge practices that silence, demean, and brutalise women.
Michelle Obama, Let Girls Learn: Youtube / The Obama White House
“We need to stop buying into the myth about gender equality. It isn’t a reality yet… Equality will be achieved when men and women are granted equal pay and equal respect.”
Beyoncé’s music focuses on female empowerment and self-reliance. The message flows from classics like Independent Women and Survivor through to Run the World (Girls). She wants her music to provoke debate about ‘double standards’ in the gender divide. In 2013, Beyoncé founded Chime for Change, a global campaign promoting female empowerment.
Beyoncé, Chime for Change: Youtube / Beyoncé
“Your gender doesn’t have to define who you are.”
Actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt has given interviews explaining why he is proud to be a male feminist. He highlights the fact that there is a long history of women suffering abuse, injustice and not having the same opportunities as men. He says that giving women a fair chance would benefit society as a whole.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt: Youtube / hitREcord
‘We deserve to know about the women who show us what can be done and how to do it.’
Caroline Criado-Perez is a journalist and women’s rights activist. She campaigns for women to receive greater representation in the media. Caroline called for women to be portrayed on banknotes after Elizabeth Fry was replaced by Winston Churchill on the £5 note. As a result of her campaigning, the Bank of England announced in 2013 that Jane Austin will appear on the £10 note in 2017. For her achievements, Caroline was named as Liberty’s human rights campaigner of the year.
Caroline Criado-Perez: Youtube / TEDx Talks
“She doesn’t need to be rescued. She is the hero of her story. And no one better forget it.”
John Marcotte is the founder of Heroic Girls, an organisation dedicated to empowering girls by advocating for strong female role models in the media, especially in comic books. John has two young daughters who love to dress up as their favourite superheroes, and he encourages them to do so. @HeroicGirls shares fantastic female superhero role models on Twitter.
John Marcotte: Youtube / Tedx Talks
“[The Court of Appeal’s] judgment… means that more women affected by violence will have access to advice and representation in the family courts.”
Emma Scott directed Rights of Women, a charity which aims to increase women’s access to justice. Rights of Women led a campaign arguing that it was unlawful to impose strict evidence requirements on victims of domestic violence seeking legal aid. In February 2016, the Court of Appeal agreed with them. This ruling means that many who have endured rape and beating at the hands of their partners will not have to face their abusers in court without legal representation.
Want to know more?
- Read our equality and education rights resources.
- Take a look at how great human rights speeches changed the world.
- Learn about how we can fight prejudice with poetry.