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Newsworthy & Noteworthy Top Nine International EDI Achievements of 2019

By Canadian Equality Consulting

At Canadian Equality Consulting, we have started to publish an annual Top Nine of newsworthy and noteworthy achievements in the world of equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI). This officially marks our second year – we hope you enjoy.

  1. Politics

The Canadian federal election resulted in an increase in the representation of self-identified women in the House of Commons. This federal election also featured a panel of all-female moderators in the election debate sparking conversations on gender diversity and representation and helping to advance the fact that an all-female panel can also be the right people for the job and can have the qualifications to do the job. A 25 year old Mumilaaq Qaqqaq became one of the youngest elected MP’s in Canada and she was the youngest to run in all of the three Canadian territories.

In 2019, Canada lost a female Premier and then finally elected one new female Premier, Caroline Cochrane in the North West Territories.

The U.S. Congressional election in early 2019 resulted in more women sworn into the 116th Congress than ever before. The U.K. general election in 2019 also resulted in the most gender diverse parliament yet – with 220 female MPs, 12 more than the last Parliament in the Labour Party. The Tories have increased by 20 women as well.

In Sudan in April, a photo of Alaa Salah, dressed in white and standing atop a car leading protest chants, went viral. The iconic photo was taken during the widespread protests just days before the President of Sudan was arrested. Women and youth were the driving force of the movement in Sudan, representing more than 70 per cent of the protestors. In October 2019, Salah addressed the UN Security Council, calling on the international community to ensure women’s meaningful participation in the transition process going forward.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern exemplified incredible leadership and empathy following a deadly mass shooting in two mosques in the city of Christchurch. Under international eyes, as a female leader of a country, PM Ardern has been watched carefully as a female leader and is often compared to male leaders. She exemplified compassion by shedding tears (very rare for leaders to do publicly without facing intense criticism and scorn); employed the government to cover the funeral costs of the victims; leadership in immediately condemning the violence and the killer’s anti-immigration stance; while announcing significant gun reform laws and launching an inquiry into the shooting.

2. Sports

#ShetheNorth In Canada, Bianca Andreescu made history as the first Canadian to win a Grand Slam singles title at only 19 years old and the first Canadian woman to win the Rogers Cup in 50 years.

The U.S. Women’s National Team won the 2019 World Cup. The team sued the U.S. Soccer Federation for gender discrimination for unequal conditions and pay inequality. Megan Rapinoe, the team’s co-captain is a positive role model for girls around the globe to advocate for pay equity and for women to own their accomplishments. After winning their fourth FIFA Women’s World Cup in July, the US Women’s National Team turned their attention to their off-the-field goals: Equal pay for work of equal value.

UN Women Goodwill Ambassador and Brazilian soccer superstar Marta Vieira da Silva scored her 17th World Cup goal, making her the top-scorer in tournament history for both men and women. In celebration of her record-breaking goal, Marta pointed to her cleat, where an equal sign in pink and blue signified her commitment to gender equality in sport and beyond.

3. Violence Against Women

The survivor of the Stanford sexual assault case, Chanel Miller bravely came forward and shared her story in her memoir Know My Name. The ripple effect of her memoir will continue to be seen for years to come.

A young woman from Spain was finally awarded justice after being raped in 2016 by a group of men who referred to themselves as la manada (the wolf pack). A lower court verdict had found the five men guilty of the lesser charge of sexual abuse after the trial painted the survivor as a willing participant, pointing to photos from her social media accounts that showed her enjoying herself in the months after the attack. The 2019 Spanish Supreme Court ruling found the men guilty of rape and increased their prison sentences, showing a shift away from the culture of victim-blaming.

4. Climate

Greta Thunberg inspired millions to participate in rallies and global climate strikes. This powerful young girl’s climate messages have been amplified around the world and inspired millions of people to embrace change to save the planet. She has shown that one person can make a difference and that despite being a child and a woman, she can mobilize and organize to affect real change. Thunberg’s movement started with her skipping school and camping out in front of the Swedish Parliament, demanding action to protect the planet for future generations, and grew to a global strike. In September 2019, Thunberg sailed across the Atlantic on an emissions-free boat to speak at the UN Climate Summit in New York, where she condemned world leaders for their lack of action.

5. Science

NASA finally completed the first all-female spacewalk in October 2019 when astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir replaced a power controller on the outside of the International Space Station. The spacewalk was initially supposed to be held in March but NASA realized that it didn’t have enough of the appropriately sized spacesuits to accommodate the astronauts (they only needed two).

Dr. Katie Bouman, a postdoctoral fellow at MIT led a team that created an algorithm which led to the first image of black hole.

Esther Duflo wins a Nobel Prize in Economics, becoming only the second (and youngest) woman to win the award.

6. Basic Freedoms

Saudi Arabia made changes to its guardianship law adjusting regulations on a woman’s ability to travel. This system has required women to have a male “guardian” (typically a husband, brother or male family member) who has power over her life, finances, travel and decision to marry. As of August, now Saudi women over the age of 21 are able to obtain a passport and leave the country without the permission of a male guardian. Women still have significant employment discrimination barriers and courageous Saudi women who advocated for these changes still remain in prison.

7. Legacy of #MeToo

Change is complex and not linear. A study conducted by Pew Research in 2018 concluded that 47% of American women believed that the #MeToo movement made it more difficult for men to navigate workplace relationships. In 2019, anecdotally people have shared that male leaders have refused to mentor or interact at all with female coworkers due to fear that they may be accused of sexual harassment. The majority of #metoo’s impact has been positive in shining a light and raising awareness on the prevalence of sexual violence and rape culture in our society. It has led to thoughtful discussions, heightened empathy and meaningful change. More is yet to come.

8. LGBTQ2S+ Achievements

Botswana, Brazil and Ecuador all undertook legal reforms to protect the human rights of members of the LGBTQ+ community in 2019.

After widespread campaigns and advocacy, Botswana decriminalized homosexuality. Judges called the criminalization of same-sex relationships a violation of human rights and dignity.

In Brazil, homophobia and transphobia have been criminalized. In June, the Supreme Court voted that all acts of discrimination and hate against LGBTQ+ persons are a crime, with up to a five-year jail sentence.

Ecuador’s highest court legalized same-sex marriage in June, ruling it was discriminatory and unconstitutional to prevent marriage of same-sex couples. Ecuador is one of only a handful of countries in the Latin America region to legalize same-sex marriage.

9. Hope for the Future – Finland’s New Government

In 2019, Finland formed a government of five parties all led by women, with the youngest Prime Minister in the world Sanna Marin. She is the world’s youngest Prime Minister at 34 years old. Prime Minister Marin is one of 12 Ministers that are women, out of 19 in total.

Conclusion

2020 will hopefully be an even more monumental year for women’s and human rights worldwide. 2020 will include the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action, the most progressive global agenda for women’s rights adopted by 189 countries in 1995, and five years since the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Cheers to the accomplishments in 2019 and let’s accelerate the momentum and build upon these achievements in the years to come!