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This year marks 100 years since women in the United Kingdom were awarded the vote. But as we know, equality is not a simple issue. The Representation of the People Act 1918 did not give all women the right to vote. You had to be over 30, and you had to own property, or be married to someone who did. This meant that only two in every five women could vote, and thanks to the property clause, a lot of votes cast by women were essentially just another vote from their husbands. It was another decade before the vote was awarded to all women.
With equal pay debates making headlines and the #metoo and #timesup movements dominating social media and the red carpets, it feels like our voices are finally being heard.
So is the centenary of that first women's vote still something to celebrated? Perhaps. On International Women's Day, with equal pay debates making headlines and the #metoo and #timesup movements dominating social media and the red carpets, it feels like our voices are finally being heard.
But with funding cuts to women's services, the Irish abortion referendum taking place at the end of May, and the fact we still pay VAT on tampons, the truth is harder to ignore: we are, sadly, still a long way from true equality. We may have the vote, but vulnerable women can't stop a man from deciding what to do with her body. We're more involved in politics than ever, but we'll still get paid less than a man doing the same job. We're still in danger of not being protected when we are assaulted.
But the silver lining is that there are plenty of women who are leading the charge and fighting for true equality, and they deserve to be cheered. We may be a long way off from celebrating a victory, but we'll always celebrate incredible women who make a difference. Here are just a few who deserve your attention, donations, and time.
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You've probably heard of Laura Bates. She founded the Everyday Sexism Project in 2012, and a book followed two years later. Her latest book, "Misogynation", is out later this year. The project is simple and, thanks largely to the power of social media and a memorable hashtag, very effective. Women all over the world could contribute their experiences of sexism, and it really shifted the discussion. No longer did women feel that they were alone, or that the sexism they faced was somehow "normal" or acceptable. Bates shone a light on the sexism that's endemic in our society and paved the way for #metoo.
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Around 30,000 girls in the UK are at risk of female genetic mutilation. Aged 7, Nimko Ali, one of the founders of Daughters of Eve, was one of them. Now she fights for the rights of young girls to put an end to this barbaric practice.
Every month, so many of us take sanitary protection for granted. Unfortunately, there are thousands of women across the UK and around the world who don't have access to tampons and sanitary towels, or hot water. Gabby Edlin founded Bloody Good Period to ensure that refugees, asylum seekers, and those who can't afford menstrual supplies have access to them. You can help by donating funds, or purchasing supplies that are sent directly to the organisation for distribution to those in need.
The #askhertostand campaign seeks to address the balance of women in government by quite literally asking them to stand. Men currently outnumber women 2:1
Founder of 50:50 Parliament, Frances Scott, has a huge challenge ahead of her. The #askhertostand campaign seeks to address the balance of women in government by quite literally asking them to stand. Men currently outnumber women 2:1, and Scott and her team of volunteers are encouraging more and more women to stand, to help achieve a better gender balance at Westminster in the House of Commons and House of Lords, so women's rights finally become a priority for our government.
Sisters Uncut takes direct action for domestic violence services and sufferers. The statistic are damning: two women a week are killed by a partner or ex-partner. One in two women are turned away from refuges. Since 2010, refuge funding has been cut by a quarter. Sisters Uncut is striving for vulnerable, terrified women everywhere.
Malala Yousafzai is the youngest person ever to be made a Nobel Laureate. The Pakistani activist was just 17 when she received the award. She's an activist for female education, and after they banned girls from attending school, the Taliban shot her. In 2017, Yousafzai was accepted into Oxford University to study Philosophy and Politics.
A Word on the Suffragettes
It's easy to mark out individual Suffragettes, the ones with the most dramatic stories. Marion Wallace Dunlop, the first to go on a hunger strike. Emily Davison, who was struck by the king's horse. Emmeline Pankhurst, the leader of the British movement. Sophia Duleep Singh, the Indian Princess who lived in Hampton Court Palace. All of these women strove for equality, but their power was not individual. The Suffragette movement was collective, it was strong because it wasn't just these women fighting the cause. It was an army of mothers, sisters, and daughters.
They were in it together, as we are today.