From a robot makers workshop for girls in Sydney, Australia, to a “peaceful and positive walk” in Mzuzu, Malawi, people around the world are celebrating International Women’s Day on March 8. Established by the United Nations in 1975, the day is meant to be a global celebration of the achievements of women. This year’s theme, #EachforEqual, spotlights how individual thoughts and actions can broaden perceptions and fight gender bias.

To celebrate International Women’s Day, we’ve rounded up 10 stories from the last year, from 10 different countries, that encapsulate that idea.

The United States

In November 2019, housing-insecure single mothers illegally entered a vacant home in Oakland, Calif., and made it theirs. Along with their children, they occupied the house and launched the Moms 4 Housing movement, which has since gained national attention. As black single mothers, the Moms are part of populations that are disproportionately experiencing homelessness. Although the problem is exacerbated in the San Francisco Bay Area, activists say it’s really an issue across the country.

Misty Cross, one of the co-founders, explains:

Moms 4 Housing “was just a name that we came up with because we’re moms actively working to try to do this. But the whole statement was to focus on housing for all.”

Australia

(Jill Gralow; Reuters)
(Jill Gralow; Reuters)

Experts estimate that more than a billion animals died in this year’s unprecedented wildfire season. As a volunteer with WIRES, Australia’s largest wildlife rescue organization, 48-year-old Tracy Burgess found herself on the front lines — caring for possums, flying foxes, wombats and other animals. She currently has 14 possums in her home.

It hasn’t been easy to see the severity of some of the animals’ injuries, she says:

“I cry every time I have to get an animal euthanized, and I cry on the way home from the vet. But I also think when I stop crying, when it stops bothering me, I’ll stop the work.”

China

(Courtesy of Sonia Ng)
(Courtesy of Sonia Ng)

Last June, an estimated 1 million protesters took to the streets in Hong Kong, igniting several-months-long demonstrations throughout the city. Those protests, led largely by young people, increasingly grew violent. University student Sonia Ng was one of those protesters — and the only woman who accused the Hong Kong police of sexual assault using her real name.

Writing in The Lily, here was Ng’s message in November:

“We all know that Hong Kong is our home, and we have to stand up bravely regardless of our gender.”

India

Cooks at the Period Feast in Delhi. Neelam Jha is on the left. (Courtesy of Amruta Byatnal)
Cooks at the Period Feast in Delhi. Neelam Jha is on the left. (Courtesy of Amruta Byatnal)

In February, 25 menstruating women held a period mahabhoj, or “period feast,” in Delhi in order to counter stigma that women in India often face. The feast stemmed from an earlier incident in which videos of a priest from a Hindu sect said that women who cook while menstruating will be reborn as dogs. At the Delhi event, there was food, music and a photobooth.

Neelam Jha, who participated in the feast, says that when she visits her in-laws’ village, she is told to sit outside the house when she’s on her period:

“I’m planning to tell my mother-in-law that I won’t be sitting outside the house during my periods anymore. It’s high time.”

Japan

(Shiho Fukada for The Lily)
(Shiho Fukada for The Lily)

Traditional gender norms remain deeply ingrained in Japan, but young women are increasingly trying to break into the male-dominated “salaryman” business culture, which is marked by long hours and drinks late into the night. These women want something denied to their older counterparts: top jobs and a fulfilling home life.

As Yuko, a 25-year-old accountant, puts it:

“The older generation doesn’t really understand what’s changed and what young women want, and it’s really pissing me off.”

Afghanistan

(Lynzy Billing for The Lily)
(Lynzy Billing for The Lily)

Under Taliban rule, women’s involvement in any political process in Afghanistan was unthinkable. But today, women are active members of Parliament, advocates, activists, entrepreneurs and mayors. Fawzia Koofi just one example. The first female member and deputy speaker of Parliament, Koofi has been involved in peace talks between the Taliban and the United States.

Speaking about those negotiations, Koofi says:

“If we don’t have women in difficult places like peace negotiations, then we limit ourselves on where we can go and what we can do.”

Mexico

Kenia Enriquez trains on the speedbag at Jackie Nava Gym. (Mallika Vora)
Kenia Enriquez trains on the speedbag at Jackie Nava Gym. (Mallika Vora)

Professional female fights were illegal in Tijuana until 1998. Around that time, Kenia Enriquez was growing up throwing punches at school. By the time she was 12, her father, a former boxer himself, started training her to fight. Now 25 and a professional boxer, Enriquez is reshaping the sport for the next generation: She created her own tournament for young women and girls so they could have the opportunity to fight before they went professional.

Enriquez says:

“The person I am now is someone who is stronger, with more character, and someone who is trying to support those who are coming behind me.”

Argentina

Tejiendo Feminismos in El Olimpo, slaughter house from the last dictatorship. (Lula Munoz for The Lily)
Tejiendo Feminismos in El Olimpo, slaughter house from the last dictatorship. (Lula Munoz for The Lily)

Last week, Argentinian President Alberto Fernández said he would send a bill to Argentina’s Congress to legalize abortion. The move would be a huge win for advocates in Latin America, where abortion is largely prohibited. It’s also a win for the feminist groups that have long been fighting to legalize abortion in the country, including Tejiendo Feminismos (Weaving Feminisms), a weaving cooperative that honors the victims of femicide in the country.

As Victoria Zapata, a Tejiendo Feminismos co-founder, puts it:

“We are knitting power. And the power we knit is feminist. It does not exclude.”

Spain

(iStock/Lily illustration)
(iStock/Lily illustration)

According to experts and reports, migrant women working in Spain’s domestic care industry face exploitation and abuse, working long hours and getting paid below the minimum wage. As the cost of living in Barcelona has increased, women who have been domestic workers for years are facing new difficulties — but they’re helping each other get through the hard times and pushing for workers’ rights.

Isabel Escobar, a 63-year-old originally from Chile, puts it like this:

“These jobs need to be recognized, because we’re taking care of people’s lives.”

Kenya

(Photos by Maggie Andresen for The Lily)
(Photos by Maggie Andresen for The Lily)

The Throttle Queens is one of 18 registered motorcycle clubs active in Nairobi, Kenya, and the group is comprised solely of women. Its members include a nutritionist, the CEO of a children’s entertainment company and the co-founder of an artist collaborative. They are embracing riding as an extension of their freedom.

Victoria Musyoki, a 32-year-old member of the Throttle Queens, says:

“Riding has given me confidence. It made me mentally tough and disciplined. I am also more fearless now than when I started riding.”

Bonus: Girlhood Around the World

In 2018, we launched our “Girlhood Around the World” series, which offered a glimpse into the lives of girls in different countries, from Sweden to Congo to a refugee camp in Jordan. Read all the installments here.

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