Fighting for Rights:

Stories from Women Activists on the Frontlines of Change

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Women’s rights are under attack across the globe. As right-wing populist leaders have emerged in Brazil, Hungary, the Philippines, the US, and elsewhere, there has been an alarming rise in sexist political discourse and an attempted roll back of women’s social and legal gains. Buoyed by political rhetoric that has celebrated women in traditional roles and glorified sexual assault, these leaders have catalyzed a backlash to the progress women have made towards equality in recent years. The erosion of women’s rights is alarming: Poland is threatening to roll back abortion protections; India has weakened protections for domestic violence; Libya overturned a law banning polygamy; and in the US, funding and support for reproductive rights has been drastically slashed since the beginning of the Trump administration. Sexual harassment and gender based violence is also more visible and widespread than ever.

Of course, there are signs of hope amidst this backsliding, much of which can be found on the frontlines of social movements demanding social change. From the global success of the #MeToo movement and the Women’s March, to the spread of the Ni Una Menos campaign against femicide throughout Latin America, to the 3.5+ million woman strong chain demanding women’s rights in India, women are taking to the streets to demand change in numbers never seen before. Through the voices of the individual women at the helm of these movements, this book captures the commitment, bravery, and organizing discipline of the women who may offer our best chance to defend democracy, human rights, and women’s equality around the world.

The book draws from interviews with women activists from campaigns spanning the globe—including #NiUnaMenos in Argentina, the campaign for abortion rights in Ireland, the FEMEN movement against authoritarianism and patriarchy in the Ukraine, and the Women Wage Peace movement in Israel-Palestine. These women took to the streets to challenge gender oppression, economic dislocation, and inequality; their struggles are both focused on the particular campaign at hand but not limited to it. Despite the profound differences between the countries these women hail from and the causes they are fighting for, their stories reveal a shared struggle of a fight for women’s rights in the face of great personal and political difficulty.

Project team:

Marie Berry, Assistant Professor, Josef Korbel School of International Studies

Jill Schmieder Hereau, Executive Director of the Sié Chéou-Kang Center for International Security & Diplomacy

Research assistants:

Isabella Picón, Activist, Venezuela

Sophie Schor, PhD student, Josef Korbel School of International Studies

Micaela Iveson, Sié Fellow, Josef Korbel School of International Studies

We are grateful to the Compton Foundation for their support of this book project.