5 Female Activists Using Their Voice To Fight For Gender Equality
Leomie Anderson reflects on calling out inequality in the fashion industry, and introduces some young female changemakers from who are inspiring her to keep choosing to challenge this International Women’s Day...
It’s not always easy to speak up when you encounter sexism and racism – something model and entrepreneur Leomie Anderson experienced first-hand after speaking out about the mistreatment of black models backstage during fashion week.
But despite people telling her she should stay quiet, it’s so important that Leomie called out inequality.
“Understand that your voice is just as valid as anybody else’s who is in that room. It was one of the best things I have done in my career,” Leomie tells us.
That’s exactly why she’s teamed up with MTV’s Generation Change campaign and is encouraging us all to speak up for women everywhere this International Women’s Day. And if you’re having trouble finding your voice, look no further than this group of women inspiring Leomie to do just that.
Karin Watson Ferrer, Chile
It was a big step forward for women’s rights when access to safe abortions was legalised in Chile in 2017. But thanks to a huge taboo around the practice, many women still didn’t feel able to speak up about their experiences of abortion.
This was something Karin saw all around her, so together with a friend, she set out to challenge the silence around abortion. Setting up Que Se Sepa, they’ve created a safe space giving women the chance to talk freely about abortion and find support, opening up the discussion and challenging perceptions.
But being a vocal supporter of abortion hasn’t always been easy. Karin has faced opposition from religious groups and conservative organisations alike – but that isn’t going to stop her.
“Being a woman is all about challenging stereotypes, challenging a system, and challenging ourselves in a world that doesn’t want us to do so,” Karin says. “This IWD and every day, we need not only to challenge but change that system, in order to achieve gender equality!”
Oluwaseun Ayodeji Osowobi, Nigeria
It was Oluwaseun’s own experience of gender-based violence that first inspired her to take a stand for women everywhere. Now she’s helped change the law around sexual harassment in Nigeria and changed the way young people are educated about sex in schools.
But Oluwaseun has faced opposition at every turn. Schools and parents accused STER of corrupting boys by talking to them about sex, but her refusal to be silenced has helped shift the debate to acknowledge the importance of talking about consent in a trusted and controlled environment.
“As young people, we must question, challenge and uproot stereotypes and biases that limit women's rights in public and private spaces,” she says. “We must actively use our voices and platforms to demand accountability.”
Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, US
At just 17, Amani launched Muslim Girl from her bedroom as a way to challenge stereotypes about Muslim women. It’s now a major digital magazine amplifying the voices of Muslim women everywhere.
Given the political climate in the US, it’s clear her team’s work fighting racism and sexism is more important than ever. But it doesn’t end there – in 2020 she launched a historic campaign to become the first Muslim woman to run for federal office in New Jersey history.
While ultimately unsuccessful, it’s a stark reminder that we need people like Amani to break the mould and stand up for women everywhere. Her bold and progressive campaign might not have won over the people of New Jersey just yet, but we’ve never felt more inspired to speak up for our beliefs.
Sofia Scarlat, Romania
Going up against her country’s politicians and challenging the media on their portrayal of gender-based violence is all in a day’s work for Sofia. As the founder of Girl Up Romania, an organisation committed to giving communities of silenced women their voices back, it definitely hasn’t been an easy ride.
But for Sofia, it’s worth it if it means things might be different for the next generation of Romanian girls.
“I urge everyone who truly wishes to celebrate IWD as it should be celebrated to make a vow to donate, to elevate, to support, to protect, to learn from, and to join the women and girls who continue to bear the burden of inequality and of the many intersections of sexism with racism, homophobia, xenophobia, ableism, and so on,” Sofia says.
Alexandra-Marie Figueroa Miranda, Puerto Rico
It would be easy to be intimidated by Alexandra-Marie’s sheer commitment to her beliefs. She’s been a vocal activist since she was at school and has spent the past 10 years fighting for women’s rights in Puerto Rico.
One of the most important things Alexandra-Marie has learnt from this is the value of speaking up.
As she tells us: “On this journey we call life, every day is an opportunity to challenge oneself and learn something new. Seek discomfort. Grow stronger from it. Our communities will be better for it.”
So, come on – how are you choosing to challenge gender inequality this IWD? Hit us up on social using #GenChange to let us know.