9 sHEROes that wowed us in 2016

December 19, 2016

2016 has been a huge year. These good women have kept us going, keeping our spirits high and showed us the true power of the global feminist movement.

Michelle Obama – a true First Lady

Photo: Ben Baker/Redux

 

Whether it’s calling out sexism in the media (and on the campaign trail), advocating for the role men must play in gender equality, or addressing the gaps in girl’s education, Michelle often outshone her husband during his eight years in office. We’ll be sad to see her go.

The media network keeping rural women safe in Fiji

Sharon Bhagwan-Rolls of FemLINKPACIFIC. Photo: Anna Carlile

 

With their Women’s Weather Watch radio program, IWDA partner FemLINKPACIFIC, led by Sharon Bhagwan-Rolls, ensured rural women received information to support preparedness, and in the wake of Cyclone Winston, ensured women in rural and remote communities were factored into the immediate assessment, not just as recipients but as resilient first responders.

The women of Standing Rock

Water Protesters at Standing Rock. Photo: Allison Herrera
Water Protesters at Standing Rock. Photo: Allison Herrera

 

We were moved this year by the wave of wonderful women and men peacefully protecting a sacred site at Standing Rock, North Dakota, to speak out against the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline. Not only have women been central to the peaceful objection, but brave women water protectors like Floris Whitebull have stood up and called attention to their ill treatment at the hands of police.

Ma Htar Htar, the woman leading a sexual revolution in Myanmar

Htar Htar, the Director of Akhaya Women. Photo: Jen Clark
Htar Htar, the Director of Akhaya Women. Photo: Jen Clark

 

In Myanmar, women are told their bodies are dirty. Periods are taboo, women’s underwear isn’t allowed to be washed with men’s…there isn’t even a word for vagina. Htar Htar of IWDA Akhaya Women is one of the first women in Myanmar to educate women about their bodies with her sexual education classes. In a country where sexual violence remains sickeningly prevalent, teaching women about bodily autonomy is revolutionary.

The women around the world marching for equal rights

Women protest in Poland. Photo: Andrzej Grygiel/EPA
Women protest in Poland. Photo: Andrzej Grygiel/EPA

 

This year millions of women had had enough. Enough of laws restricting women’s health choices, enough of violence against women, unequal pay and funding cuts to domestic violence shelters. Hundreds of thousands of women marched from Buenos Aires to Reykjavic, supported by millions online through hashtags like #NiUnaMas and #kvennafri to demand safety and equal rights.

Ilhan Omar, America’s first Somali-American Muslim woman legislator

Photo: Conrad Zbikowski
Photo: Conrad Zbikowski

 

Women may not have broken the ultimate glass ceiling in this year’s US election, but there are still definite reasons to celebrate. Ilhan Omar, a 34 year-old Somali-American woman, was elected as the first ever Muslim woman Legislator in the Minnesota House of Representatives.

The woman human rights defender appointed Village Court Magistrate

Amenda of Voice for Change. Photo: Voice for Change

 

Amenda has worked as a Women’s Human Rights Defender for IWDA partner Voice for Change for many years. And she was frustrated with a legal system they felt often failed to prioritise the safety of women survivors. Now, Amenda is working to protect women from within the system. This year she was appointed a Village Court Magistrate in Jikawa Province, Papua New Guinea – a huge achievement.

Roxane Gay and the first Marvel comic book to feature queer black women

Roxane Gay. Photo: Chris Strong
Roxane Gay. Photo: Chris Strong

 

Marvel’s latest collaboration with author Roxane Gay does something no comic has ever done before – it features two queer black women as main characters. YESSS! It’s exciting to see heroes and protagonists that reflect the many diversities of women and girls, and even more cheering to see it come from what is typically a traditionally male platform like comics.

The mobile counselling service reaching rural women survivors of violence

Lynffer Wini-Maltungtung of Family Support Centre. Photo: Sally Barber
Lynffer Wini-Maltungtung of Family Support Centre. Photo: Sally Barber

 

Despite two thirds of women aged 15-49 experiencing violence in Solomon Islands, difficulty accessing justice and rural isolation mean many women don’t speak out against abuse. By training rural volunteers to provide basic counselling and legal services, and amassing a network of support services including legal centres, police, medical services, IWDA partner Family Support Centre in Solomon Islands are ensuring rural women’s rights to safety are protected.

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