One of the most wonderful things about humanity is our ability to step up for ourselves, and for each other.
2017 was exhausting. It was frustrating. It was one step away from feeling like the whole world was ablaze and we were all arguing over who lit the fire or which fire was most threatening.
It’s easy to be overwhelmed into inaction. Yet time and again people stepped up for their fellow humans, for the environment, for our shared values and for love, kindness and tolerance.
We want to go into 2018 with a sense of momentum and unity and an understanding that while change can be painstakingly slow, it is happening and we’re driving it, bit-by-bit.
For the majority of Australians, the moment that marriage equality passed through our parliament was a beautiful, unifying example of people coming together from a place of love and compassion and making history. It certainly wasn’t without its frustration at the harm and waste that came before that point. But bipartisan support displayed in parliament in that moment was wonderful to see.
We need to celebrate more moments like that. So here are some from all over the world to have you pumping your fists and stomping your feet that change is happening and that a group of passionate, powerful, loving, talented and compassionate people are driving it – including you.
Wins of 2017
- Millions of people including women, men, children, representatives from LGBTIQ+ communities, people of colour and people with different abilities took part in over 600 rallies across 60 countries as part of the Women’s March to fight for equality and against hate and bigotry
- People all over the world mobilised behind young people in Malawi to help see child marriage outlawed. The Dominican Republic, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala also outlawed child marriage
- The president of Niger – the country with the highest rate of child marriage – also voiced his commitment to seeing the end of child marriage
- Girls in Kenya won the right to access free sanitary pads from their government to that their schooling isn’t interrupted by their period
- Jordan, Lebanon and Tunisia all abolished a ‘rape law’ that allowed abusers who married their victims to be exonerated of their crimes
- Over 1,000 girls across 64 countries took over positions of power for International Day of the Girl
- As a result of the takeovers in Timor-Leste, village chiefs committed to facilitating gender training for police and civil servants
- In Bolivia, universities implemented a new policy against sexual harassment after the takeovers
- In Nepal 20 girls became regular radio hosts after taking over the airwaves for Day of the Girl to help keep girls’ rights on the agenda
- Globally, the #metoo movement exposed just how entrenched sexism and gender inequality still is and how powerful women can be when they’re listened to.
None of these wins comes without ‘buts’. Outlawing child marriage and rape laws is different to changing cultural norms that enable them to still take place. Movements can leave behind those who are most marginalised and amplify the voices that are loudest rather than those that need to be heard. A trial by social media can set a worrying precedent. There is nuance and complexity.
But we need to start celebrating wins. We need to do so inclusively, not combatively. Because to win doesn’t have to mean someone else loses. Yes, we’re shifting power, and some people will lose their privileges. But for the vast majority of us, when that power shift changes, we all benefit. Whether it’s better relationships between partners, a happier, more productive workplace, communities where women are educated and empowered to help fight poverty or less conflict and polarisation globally. Equality is a better world, for all.
Let’s take that 2017 momentum and make 2018 the year where we work together to raise more voices, drive more discussions and hold ourselves to be more compassionate and more understanding, to embrace nuance and complexity and the opportunities they bring to listen and learn. Let’s be all that we need to be for girls, young women and marginalised people all over the world so that they can drive the change that will make the world a safer, fairer place for everyone.