Innovators share their challenges to gender inequality

Commission on the Status of women

The battle to end gender discrimination is long, hard and sometimes weary. So when a group or individual comes along with new ideas that challenge the status quo it is good to celebrate them. This is why Gender at Work, the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), BRIDGE, and the Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales (FLACSO) Argentina ran the End Gender Discrimination Now competition in 2013/2014.

On 11 March 2015, the competition winners shared their stories during a parallel event for the 59th UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW59) in New York. The three ideas: a new women’s political party, a spoof awards ceremony for sexist comments and an online platform for woman travellers. Each one beat more than 250 submissions from 63 countries to win the competition.

“We were looking for ideas or movements or initiatives of change,” said Gender At Work co-founder Aruna Rao at the event.

Gen-Change category: strategies to fight gender discrimination in organisations and communities.

Lilian Soto – Kuña Pyrenda - Una Apuesta Politica, Paraguay

Kuña Pyrenda is the first-ever women’s political movement in Paraguay. Based on socialist, feminist and ecological principles and shared leadership, in 2013 they took part in the country’s elections. Although they did not win any seats they challenged the political system and forced other political parties to talk about previously ignored issues, such as gender-based violence, abortion and the rights of domestic workers.

It was also important for Kuña Pyrenda that theyhighlighted the historical contribution of women to Paraguayan society.  

“We were bringing women to the fore and rending women’s perspectives visible, establishing the idea that women...  they are capable of being change makers,” said Soto. “We feel that there is hope for the future and we have made an impact.”

They now plan to grow the movement for regional elections in 2015 and the next general election.

Gen-novation category: innovative strategies that could be still in the incubation period

Momal MushtaqFreedom Traveller, Pakistan

Freedom Traveller is a travel service supporting woman travellers, especially in countries where their mobility is limited.

In 2013, Mushtaq, who is now 25 years old, was fired from her job in Pakistan after travelling to Canada for a ‘women in leadership’ course. She was fed up with not being listened to at work and the cultural norms and taboos which she felt restricted her. She had to travel everywhere with her brother or father and was only able to ride her bicycle inside the house for fear of harassment if she did otherwise.

“Women like me, who love travelling, they are somewhat synonymous to sluts,” she explained. “They don’t receive any marriage proposals because people are concerned that they won’t be able to raise good, respectable children.”

After her travels in Canada, Germany and the US Mushtaq said she felt a new confidence and freedom which inspired her to set up Freedom Traveller. Her latest challenge is to cycle across 10 countries in 2015.

GenTruth category: courage in shedding light on new or growing forms of gender discrimination

Ivy Josiah – Aiyoh-Wat Lah, The Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG), Malaysia

JAG, a coalition of seven human rights organisations, works to raise awareness of sexism, misogyny, homophobia, and/or transphobia, and to encourage higher standards of behaviour from public figures and institutions. After years of responding to sexist comments by those in the public eye, JAG launched an annual event to help them in this mission. “How many times can you say ‘we are deeply concerned’... or ‘we take offence’,” said Josiah. “We were seen as a feminist group that didn’t have a sense of humour.”

So three years ago JAG decided to have some fun, launching a spoof ceremony to ‘award’ men and women who say outrageous things. They made it into a show with a live audience, broadcast online and hosted by a popular comedian. There are ten categories, including ‘foot in mouth’, ‘enough already!’ and ‘least helpful to the sisterhood.’

Watch the spoof ceremony on YouTube.

Find out more about the End Gender Discrimination Now! Competition at the Gender At Work website.